What we learned: Zurich Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 29, 2012, 11:53 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week we saw the rise of one young player and the fall of a two-time major champion.


It pains me, but I fear that I've learned Ernie Els will never win another tournament on the PGA Tour. Some may believe he will because he continues to put himself in contention. I take the other side which says, at 42, he only has limited opportunities left. He's not as mentally strong as he once was and that putting stroke is anything but steady. With each passing blow – like Transitions and Zurich – it's less likely that the Big Easy will win again. And it would be a shame. Hope I'm wrong. Think I'm not. – Jay Coffin


I learned that outward displays of little emotion are pretty cool, too – literally. For too long, Jason Dufner has been knocked for being Retief Goosen 2.0, which is to say a robotic personality on the course. And it’s true – look at the guy and you can’t tell whether he’s just made eagle or double-bogey. Don’t mistake that demeanor for indifference, though. Dufner has long grinded to achieve this first PGA Tour victory and it means just as much to him as the guy who dances a jig on the final green. Consider this one also a win for those of us who prefer to carry passionate yet unemotional comportment into our golf games. Just because you won a skin off your buddies, that’s not always reason for reenacting the Chi Chi Rodriguez sword dance. Thanks to Dufner, keeping cool just became a little cooler. – Jason Sobel


I learned that I could have given my wife a way better pre-marriage present. Jason Dufner will get married next week to his fiancée Amanda Boyd, but the couple had a tremendous week before the nuptials in a city and at a tournament they both love. 

It just so turned out that Dufner managed to pull out his first PGA Tour win in the process, helping to more than offset the outlay for the ceremony in Auburn, Ala.

'It helps paying for the wedding, which is more expensive than I thought. It's a bit of a gift for her and a bit of a gift for me,' he said.

I would say a PGA Tour win and $1.152 million is more than a bit of money. – Ryan Ballengee


I learned the future of American women’s golf looks a lot brighter in the glow of a Sunday fireworks show staged by Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson.

With her victory Sunday at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, Lewis becomes the third American to win this year. That’s one more than won all of last year. Of course, last year was the low mark for Americans in the history of the LPGA, with Brittany Lincicome (2 wins) and Lewis (1 win) the only Americans to win all year.

Thompson’s bold charge from five shots back in the final round at Mobile adds to American hopefulness. After a sluggish start to her rookie season, the 17-year-old is off and running in a big way. She started the weekend tied for 35th and shot 66-65 to nearly win her second LPGA title in seven months, her third worldwide title in the same time span. She put tremendous pressure on Lewis, coming up a shot short.

Lewis, 26, and Thompson give the Americans two feisty competitors to help lead USA’s fight back to international respectability. – Randall Mell


I learned that the Official World Golf Ranking may have this one right and Augusta National may have missed an opportunity. Luke Donald overtook Rory McIlroy atop the ranking with his third-place finish in New Orleans, proving that solid play can explain away all the confusing math, while Ernie Els' playoff miss was another indication that the South African probably deserved an invitation to this year's Masters. – Rex Hoggard



John Hancock Pivotal Moments


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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.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.