Am Tour: National Champions crowned in Senior Championship, Snead flights

By Jason DeeganOctober 1, 2013, 11:16 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. - In one swing, the five-shot lead Bob Brooks had worked so hard to build was melting away.

Brooks’ approach shot to the ninth green of the Palmer Private course at PGA West found the water, leading to a triple bogey seven in Tuesday’s final round of the Senior Championship Flight at the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships.

Brooks, 56, of Bella Vista, Ark., took his time heading to the 10th tee to regain composure. A critical birdie on the 10th hole got him back on track. Even his bogey at no. 15 and a double bogey at no. 16 didn’t matter. His final-round two-over-par 74 added up to a nine-over-par total of 297 for the tournament, two strokes clear of Ron Quick of Los Angeles.

“Being able to come back with that birdie at 10 showed me that if I just kept my game at the pace I was playing, the guys I was playing with would really have to shoot well to catch me,” he said.

Brooks, in his first year on the Am Tour, certainly made his mark this season. He won his flight in two Am Tour events earlier this summer and finished second in two others. He was steady all week in the Coachella Valley, although he admitted being a little too nervous during a third-round 78.

He spent two hours a day for two weeks practicing his short game to prepare for nationals. He dialed in his wedge shots from 30 to 80 yards.

“I actually cut my playing schedule down,” he said. “I needed to practice specific things. It paid dividends this week.

“If you miss it on these courses (at PGA West), you get in some unusual ball positions in the rough and fairway. There are a lot of elevated greens and moguls. The ability to hit it within 10 feet is a real plus if you want to make par or a birdie on a par-5.”

Brooks didn’t take up the game until age 30 after a broken leg during a rugby match. He didn’t want to sit around waiting to heal, so he began walking nine holes of golf with a cast on his leg.

“I was a little sweaty and sore, but it really benefitted me to learn that way,” he recalled. “It taught me a lot about balance in the swing.”

Am Tour: Allard's Sr. Snead title just his latest golf adventure

Allard

Jim Allard turned his trip to the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships into a golfer’s dream – a month-long cross-country golf bonanza.

It took Allard 13 days – and 12 rounds of golf - to drive more than 3,000 miles from his home in Dover, N.H., to PGA West in the Coachella Valley. His reward was a national championship in the Senior Snead Flight (for handicaps higher than 20).

Allard shot the best round of his life, an 83 in the third round, to set up Tuesday’s final-round 94 at the Stadium Course. His four-round total of 367 was four shots better than Nimal Gunasinghe of St. Louis, Mo.

He’s thrilled with the victory but not the promotion to the Jones flight that comes with it.

“I’ll go from the top to the bottom of the standings,” he joked.

Allard, 65, took up golf in 2002 after a heart attack derailed his career as an underwater photographer. Allard, who works in the Information Technology industry, started playing the Am Tour in 2006. This was his fifth national championship appearance.

He admitted it was tough to focus after so much golf and such a long trip. He lost seven balls during his first round at the Palmer Private course, which was more than the 12 courses he played prior the tournament combined.

There’s no rest in sight, either. He’s driving a northern route home, playing another dozen or so rounds before he gets home sometime around Oct. 15. He has dreams of playing golf in every state. He’s at 36 currently, 11 alone on the trip out to California.

“If all goes as planned, I’ll only have Alaska, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana left,” he said.

Funny thing is, he never plans anything. He doesn’t know what courses he’ll play or where he will sleep going home. He sleeps on a mattress in the back of his van, parking for the night at truck stops whenever he gets tired.

“I do not operate on a schedule,” he said. “I just get in and drive. I don’t know where I’ll be in an hour and a half.”

He sets a goal each year of playing at least 50 new courses. His favorites on the way out west were We-Ko-Pa Golf Club near Scottsdale, Ariz.; the Old Kinderhook Golf Club in Missouri and an out-of-the-way visit to the North course at Torrey Pines in southern California.

“I’m an adventurer,” he said.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.