Points wins SHO thanks to mother's putter

By Jason SobelApril 1, 2013, 2:30 am

HUMBLE, Texas – I tore up the paper with my predictions after the first round. I watched favorites stumble and no-name underdogs make title runs. I sat shaking my head in disbelief, even though every tournament seems about as unpredictable as the Powerball numbers.

Just another wild week on the PGA Tour.

What, you thought I was talking college hoops?

Welcome to the “other” March Madness, as craziness and capriciousness reigned – along with the rain – at the Shell Houston Open. But the similarities didn’t stop with the fickle nature of these coinciding events.

There were bracket busters. The top-ranked player in the field, Rory McIlroy, survived and advanced, but never contended. Phil Mickelson seriously contended for only a few minutes early Sunday afternoon before getting bounced from title consideration.

There were Cinderella stories. Four players in the eventual top nine on the leaderboard have never won. And that doesn’t even include Steve Wheatcroft, whose status is so negligible that he didn’t even get off the alternate list at last week’s Web.com Tour event before Monday qualifying this week. He was such a dark horse that he made Florida Gulf Coast University look like John Wooden’s UCLA teams of the early 1970s.

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Highlights: Points takes second PGA Tour victory at Shell

There was mind-bending bracketology. At one point in the final round, there were 18 players within two strokes of the lead. By day’s end, nine players had led or shared that lead, a revolving door of names big and small, top seeds and upset specials.

There was a major call in an important situation by the officials. This one was a delay of game, as play was stopped because of dangerous weather conditions at 3:52 p.m. local time Sunday afternoon, with heavy rains soon enveloping the area. At one point, it appeared the Tour was doomed to a second straight Monday finish, but play continued two hours and 38 minutes later with the remaining half-dozen twosomes finishing before dark.

And in the end, there was a buzzer beater to clinch the title.

It came off the stolen putter of Mary Jo Points, whose precocious son Darren Andrew – called D.A. from the time he was born – took the Ping Anser model out of her bag back in 1987, when he was 11 years old, and had it sitting in his garage when he took it out prior to this week and put it into play.

Leading by one coming to the final hole, Points hit 3-wood to the middle of the fairway on the difficult par-4 closer, then fanned a hybrid short and right of the green. It hung precariously on the edge of a slope and from there he hit a chip to 13½ feet, with the impending putt the only thing standing between him and a second career victory.

Having struggled lately with the flat stick – any flat stick – Points sought the help of instructor Brian White on Wednesday morning based on the suggestion of fellow pro Chris Stroud. For the nominal cost of taking care of White’s change fee to catch a later flight out of town, Points received a few pointers that proved key to his week.

“He gave me a couple things, changed the putter – boom – felt great,” he reported. “The ball started rolling real tight. My hit got a little more consistent. I stopped missing putts to the left and, I mean, when I hit good putts this week, the line on my ball rolled so tight, it just looked like it was going to dive in the hole.”

Points may not have been an underdog of FGCU proportions, but he could have been analogous to Wichita State, right down to the mid-major status and “Shockers” nickname. In nine previous starts this season, he had made the cut just twice, with a best finish of T-63 at the Humana Challenge. That’s akin to a tournament team riding a big-time losing streak going into the Big Dance.

Even with little form and less momentum, Points never saw this tournament as anything but an opportunity to change that.

“I never count myself out,” he explained. “I never just chalk it up, like, oh, this year is over with. I've never, ever felt like that. I was just grinding, just trying to wait and try to find that one thing that was like – boom – there it is and there I go.”

That “one thing” was standing in front of him on the final hole, just 13½ feet for par and an unlikely victory – even if he didn’t view it that way. Downgrain and with a slight right-to-left break, Points employed the same stroke he’d been using since that lesson with White on Wednesday morning. The ball started right at the cup and never left its line, dropping in for the dramatic buzzer beater.

It was the culmination of a week that can only be described as crazier and more capricious than anything we’ve seen recently on the hardwood.

From bracket busters to Cinderella stories, from a logjam of title contenders to the lone figure of D.A. Points left standing with his mother’s stolen putter in his hands, this tournament was more unpredictable than that other tournament referred to as March Madness.

And even better: This one actually finished in March.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.