Again Again and Again

By April 27, 2009, 4:00 pm
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LET'S PLAY TWO, TIGER: Tiger Woods announced that he will be competing in this week's Quail Hollow Championship as well as next week's Players Championship. It will be the first time he's played back-to-back PGA Tour since March, 2008.
 
Backspin This will also be the first time we've seen Tiger since he tied for sixth at the Masters. Except for his press conference last Monday to promote his AT&T National, and his meeting that same day with President Obama, and his court-side appearance at an Orlando Magic playoff game. As wonderful as it is to be at home with the kids, it's nice to get out of the house every now and again. But instead of a Friday night out with the wife at Chili's, Tiger hangs out at the White House with the President.
 

 
CAN'T BE STARED DOWN: Lorena Ochoa successfully defended her title at the Corona Championship, in her native Mexico, by beating Suzann Pettersen by one. A year ago, Ochoa won the tournament by 11 strokes.
 
Backspin Ochoa's performance was further proof why she's the best in the women's game. She played the final 36 holes with a game Pettersen, who is ranked fifth in the world ' after playing the first two rounds alongside No. 4 Paula Creamer. She opened in 65-65 (on the par-73 course) to dust Creamer (72-67) and then shot 69-69 over the weekend to edge Pettersen (67-68).
 

 
FLU SEASON: The LPGA carried on with their tournament despite an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, particularly in the capital of Mexico City, less than 200 miles from the tournament site in Morelia.
 
Backspin With word as early as Friday that this particular strain could reach 'pandemic potential,' according to the World Health Organization, I would have promptly signed an incorrect scorecard and headed home to see my local physician.
 

 
TO THE VICTOR, THE SPOILS: But hopefully not spoiled oysters ... Jerry Kelly won on the PGA Tour for the first time in seven years, first blowing an overnight three-stroke lead and then rallying to capture the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
 
Backspin Kelly is one of those guys who is easy to like ... even if he doesn't always seem to like himself. Admittedly, Kelly has been too hard on himself over the years, which is one reason he went 200 Tour events without a title. He almost had to endure another disappointment, but did just enough to come away with the victory. Of course, he did have a little help down the stretch ...
 

 
BUSTED: Charles Howell III birdied six of his first 11 holes Sunday and led by two shots midway through the back nine at the Zurich. He then bogeyed two of his final four holes and parred the par-5 18th to finish runner-up to Kelly.
 
Backspin In nine seasons on the PGA Tour, Howell has two victories, one top-10 in a major and no Ryder Cup appearances. In honor of this past week's NFL draft those numbers would have to label him as a bust. Howell was a very accomplished amateur and highly thought of coming out of college. Were he a football player, given his potential, he might have been a No. 1 pick back in 2000, when he turned professional. But he has not lived up to the hype. Fortunately, he plays golf instead of football, and while he turns 30 this June, there is plenty of time to alter people's opinion regarding his career.
 

 
ON THE REBOUND: Kenny Perry, competing in his first event since blowing a two-shot lead with two to play at the Masters, tied for 59th in New Orleans.
 
Backspin Perry was in a tie for 21st place after three rounds, but closed in 78. Hard to blame him. Perry said competing this past week, following his heart-breaking playoff loss at Augusta, was the toughest thing he's ever had to do on a golf course. It's hard to imagine he'll be able to shake that memory any time soon ' if ever.
 

 
NO NEED TO WORRY: Danny Lee, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, missed the cut in his professional debut at the Zurich Classic. The 18-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander shot 76-75 to tie for 145th among the 156 competitors.
 
Backspin Lee has seven sponsor's exemptions to earn the equivalent of 125th on this year's money list to avoid Q-School. He may not have made anything this past week, but thanks to his victory earlier in the year on the European Tour, he has a spot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where there is no cut. He also has multi-million dollar deals with IMG and Callaway, as well as a two-year exemption in Europe. We don't think he'll dwell on his missed cut in New Orleans.
 


 
HALL OPENS DOORS ... WIDE: Lanny Wadkins was announced as the newest member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Wadkins won 21 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 PGA Championship at Pebble Beach. He was also a member of eight Ryder Cup teams.
 
Backspin Wadkins waited a long time to be awarded this honor. And he should have had to wait longer. He received 61 percent of the vote, when 65 is needed for election. However, Wadkins got in under a provision that if no one receives the minimum vote, the player with the highest percentage (provided it is over 50 percent) gets elected. Simply put: that's ridiculous. It's how Vijay Singh made the Hall a few years back. Like Singh, Wadkins is Hall worthy. But if 65 is the requisite number, and you don't reach it, you shouldn't be allowed in. It's nothing against them; it's a flawed system.
 

 
JUMP FOR JOY ... AND VICTORY: Tom Lehman, competing in his first event on the Champions Tour, teamed with good friend Bernhard Langer to win the Liberty Mututal Legends of Golf. Langer made a 45-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole as the two ultimately defeated Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler on the second extra hole.
 
Backspin Good news for the senior circuit, as Lehman said he plans to split time between their tour and the regular tour this year and then concentrate on the 50-and-over set in 2010. In order for this tour to remain relevant in the slightest, it needs popular PGA Tour players like Lehman to play full time once they crack the half-century mark.
 

 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Thongchai Jaidee won the European Tour's Ballantine's Championship. ... Defending Zurich champion Andres Romero was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard. ... Zurich Financial signed on to continue their sponsorship of the PGA Tour's New Orleans stop through 2014. ... Meanwhile, the LPGA said the Corning Classic will end after this year's event in May.
 
Backspin This is Jaidee's second win of the season. He's currently eighth on the tour's Race to Dubai standing. ... Romero would have easily missed the cut anyway. ... If Zurich didn't step up, I would have ' assuming the Tour takes government cheese as payment for a sponsor's fee. ... It's a shame to lose that LPGA stop. The 31-year-old event is the longest running tournament on the LPGA with the same sponsor at the same venue.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Zurich Classic
  • Full Coverage ' Corona Championship
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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    John Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge, and moved to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means:

    This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff. Rahm had missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18, his birdie bid found the cup.. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest:

    A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt slid by on the right side of the hole. This is his best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day:Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day:

    "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on
    Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.