Decade after Phoenix win, Kaye looking ahead instead of behind

By Jason SobelJanuary 31, 2014, 5:36 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – This week marks the 10-year anniversary of Jonathan Kaye's second and last PGA Tour victory, a two-stroke triumph here in his adopted hometown that to him doesn’t seem so long ago.

“I knew it was 10 years,” he says. “I was just like, ‘Man, that sure went fast.’ That’s about all I needed to know about it.”

Kaye won’t get much more sentimental than that, despite being far removed from a career that not only included those two wins, but 10 other top-three finishes and more than $10 million in earnings. He hasn’t teed it up since withdrawing after a first-round 75 at the Puerto Rico Open three years ago, the result of surgery on his right shoulder and a cartilage problem in his right foot.

Or as he puts it, “I’m just old.”

He’s really not, though. At 43, he is the same age as the likes of Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, each of whom is still successfully plying his trade in the big leagues. That remains a goal for Kaye, who plans to compete in the Tour’s Panama Claro Championship in two months.

Not that he’s overly optimistic about his chances.

“I’m super rusty,” he admits. “I haven’t competed in almost three years. It takes a little while to get it back, you know? It’s a bit frustrating at times. You show some progress and suddenly you go backwards. It’s like learning how to play again.”

All of which stands to reason why the Colorado native and longtime Phoenix resident didn’t even bother to try and Monday qualify for this year’s edition of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, known a decade ago as the FBR Open when his name was engraved on the trophy.

In fact, Kaye doesn’t even identify himself as a professional golfer, choosing another vocation when asked what he does with his time.

“Dude, I’m a full-time dad,” he says of being there with his wife, Jennifer, for daughters Breeze, 8, and Ryelie, 6. “We’re up at 6 making breakfast, getting them cleaned up, getting them situated, then it’s on with my day. Then I’ve got to pick them up from school at 2:40, take them to tennis, violin, gymnastics, swimming, playdates. There are a lot of activities.”

It’s all a complete 180 from his playing days, when Kaye had a reputation as the PGA Tour’s bad boy.

He never fit into the cookie-cutter mold of professional golfer, the type who says and does all the right things so as to never ruffle any feathers. Even his Wikipedia page is largely devoted to a 2001 incident during which a tournament security guard wouldn’t allow him access without his identification badge, so he returned with it clipped to the zipper of his pants, resulting in what was reportedly a lengthy suspension.

Ask him whether that label was justified and Kaye professes neutrality.

“Frankly, I don’t care what anybody thinks of me,” he maintains. “Anytime you’re a little bit different, you stand out. People take notice of that. I don’t know if I was good or bad, but I always respected everybody I played with.”

Even with that incident on his permanent record, along with several other figurative scrapes and dustups on the course, Kaye contends that he only has one regret.

“My regret would be not working on my putting more,” he explains. "That prolongs your career. If I make putts, I’m out there. I mean, every guy who plays on Tour, if they putt well, they’re going to do well.”

There’s still time. Despite only playing “two, three, four times a week – wherever my buddies want to play or wherever the game is,” Kaye has some additional motivation.

He wants to show the two little girls he drops off at school and picks up in the afternoon and takes to all of those various activities that he has another job, too.

“My youngest doesn’t really remember me playing, but my oldest does,” he says. “It would be nice to make an impression, make a move in my game so they can remember it. We’ll see how it goes this year.”

Kaye is looking ahead instead of behind. He doesn’t think much about that victorious week here 10 years ago, a week when he topped a leaderboard consisting of recent major champions Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Mike Weir, plus Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. He recalls putting well during those rounds of 65-68-66-67, but that’s about it, really.

So don’t expect any sentimental gestures from him this week. Don’t assume he’ll spend any time reliving the glory days or reveling in nostalgia.

After all, it doesn’t seem like so long ago anyway. Not until he actually gives it some thought.

“Time just keeps on moving, man” he says. “Doesn’t it?”

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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.