Cureton Takes Control at Q-School

By Marty HenwoodFebruary 24, 2005, 5:00 pm
Canadian Tour-LargeEUSTIS, Fla. -- Its probably a safe bet that Texan Chris Cureton remembered to bring an alarm clock with him this week to the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School. After what happened to him last September, the 25-year-old is probably afraid to fall asleep.
Cureton carded a third-round 69 in windy conditions Thursday and is the overall leader at Black Bear GC with a 54-hole total of 8-under 208. Calgarian Scott McNeil came in with a 70 and is just one shot back.
Glenn Collins is alone in third at minus-4 while U.S. amateur standout Casey Wittenberg sits three shots in the red.
Danny Sahl of Edmonton, who began the day just one stroke off the lead, struggled to a 77 Thursday and is at even-par 216.
Marc Savard, an Ottawa native and a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, struggled for the third day in a row. The fourth-round draft pick of the NY Rangers in 1995, who has a 1.2 handicap and practices regularly with PGA Tour champion Stewart Cink, carded a third-round 78 and has a three-day score of 19-over (78-79-78).
Once Fridays final round has been completed, the Canadian Tour will award exempt playing cards for the 2005 season to the low seven finishers with an additional seven players, plus ties, earning non-exempt status.
Wittenberg, the only player in history besides Tiger Woods to be ranked the number-one amateur in the United States prior to starting college, posted a third-round 2-over 74 Thursday but is still in an ideal spot with just one day remaining before the Canadian Tour dishes out playing cards for 2005.
It would seem that Curetons second brush with Canada will be more memorable than his first.
Last September, the former University of Oklahoma starter travelled to Whitby, Ont., attempting to qualify during the Tours annual Fall Q-School at Royal Ashburn Golf Club.
The attempt didnt last long.
Cureton missed his morning wake-up call before the opening round or, he stresses, one did not come. Either way, with just six minutes before his tee time and a twenty-minute trek to Royal Ashburn ahead of him, Cureton was disqualified before even taking a swing in Canada.
That wasnt one of my finer moments, he says. I loved it up there and it was a great course, but it didnt end the way I had hoped.
He is making up for it this time around.
Playing out of Stonebridge CC in McKinney, Tex., Cureton has spent a lot of time practicing with reigning British Open champion Todd Hamilton, a former Canadian Tour member, and has been working out much of this past winter with Adam Short of Vineland, Ont.
Paired with Wittenberg Thursday, Cureton was all over the map early in the third round. After getting up and down for par on his opening hole, the 25-year-old followed that up with a bogey before making back-to-back par putts from ten and fifteen feet, respectively, on his next two holes.
I could have been 3 or 4-over right away, so it was key for me to make those par saves early, said Cureton, who credits legendary Texas coach Ben Parks for much of his improvement. It was great playing with Casey today, he is a heck of a player and just a good guy. But I needed to focus on my own game. I told myself two things before I teed off: Ive played a lot of golf with a guy that just won the British Open, and you know, Im a pretty good player myself.
All week long, Wittenberg has proved the media scrutiny and accolades are warranted. Less than a year after a 13th-place finish at The Masters, the best result by an amateur at Augusta in more than four decades, the 20-year-old is showing maturity and composure well beyond his years as he looks to lock up playing status on a professional circuit for the first time. Despite a double-bogey, bogey finish in the opening round that tested that composure for a few brief moments, Wittenberg has lingered near the top of the leaderboard all week, following up his 73 Tuesday with a 6-under 66 in the second round, the low round of the day.
With just one day to go before he nails down membership on the Canadian Tour, Cureton has no intention of slipping into cruise control for the final 18 holes.
I cant think of a better place to be, added Cureton. but you cant go out there and gimp it around the golf course (in the final round). Things can go sour in a hurry.
There may be a little extra pressure on Cureton this week. Three months after he tied the knot, his new bride Jenny is asking Cureton to take a more serious approach on the course.
Cureton may want to heed her advice. Jennys father, who also moonlights on the side as Curetons part-time caddy, is a Dallas police officer.
She told me I had better get serious about this, he laughs. It was time to start playing for real, or get a real job.
Scores Thursday after the third round of the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School being held at the 7,000 yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (a-denotes amateur):

1. Cureton, Chris McKinney, TX 72 67 69 208
2. McNeil, Scott Calgary, AB 71 68 70 209
3. Collins, Glenn Winnipeg, MB 70 68 74 212
4. Wittenberg, Casey Memphis, TN 73 66 74 213
5. Davis, Brien Las Vegas, NV 72 73 69 214
5. Heinen, Eddie Las Vegas, NV 70 71 73 214
5. Humphries, John Baton Rouge, LA 70 70 74 214
5. Seki, Jim Palo Alto, CA 74 68 72 214
9. Lydiatt, Chad Omaha, NE 73 71 72 216
9. Sahl, Danny Twinsburg, OH 69 70 77 216
9. Smith, Jesse Barrington, NH 74 67 75 216
12. Horowitz, Joe Long Beach, N.Y. 70 75 72 217
12. Meierling, Jan Germany 72 71 74 217
12. Mulder, Brock Dallas, TX 72 71 74 217
15. Kings, Ryan Kitchener, ON 72 73 73 218
15. McNally. Michael Billings, MT 70 77 71 218
15. Snelling, Justin Boise, ID 71 72 75 218
15. Zihala, Billy Little Rock, AR 70 71 77 218
19. Hospodar, Michael Brantford, ON 76 72 71 219
20. Ferlic, Gavin South Bend, IN 73 72 76 221
20. Hibler, Jesse Boise, ID 75 68 78 221
20. Makino, Yuji Japan 76 70 75 221
20. McLeod, Mac Winnipeg, MB 73 72 76 221
20. Park, Pedro New Zealand 74 77 70 221
25. Guetz, Bret Scottsdale, AZ 81 71 72 224
26. Brown, Michael Cheltenham, PA 81 74 70 225
26. Parker, Adrian Jupiter, FL 77 74 74 225
28. Peterson, Brett Mesa, AZ 79 69 78 226
28. Yopchick, Scott Chicago, IL 79 77 70 226
30. Dickenson, Billy Haines City, FL 74 77 76 227
30. Kennedy, Robert Phoenix, AZ 78 73 76 227
30. Martin, Greg Austin, TX 72 77 78 227
30. Sherriff, Justin London, ON 75 79 73 227
30. Williams, JJ Palm Beach Gardens, FL 75 75 77 227
35. Kilduff, Lynn Dallas, TX 75 73 80 228
36. Cook, Dan Charleston, SC 79 74 77 230
36. Deschaine, Matt Bay Minette, AL 74 74 82 230
38. Berger, Kelly Wausau, WI 78 75 78 231
38. Hoenig, Ron Hobe Sound, FL 78 76 77 231
38. Johnstone, Evan Orinda, CA 78 76 77 231
38. Sitterley, Rob Orlando, FL 78 78 75 231
42. Heinz, Jerry Poway, CA 81 74 77 232
43. Ibarreche, Juan Pablo Mexico 78 75 80 233
43. Tripp, Shane Orlando, FL 84 74 75 233
45. Noble, Scott Cartersville, GA 77 76 81 234
46. Savard, Marc (A) Peterborough, ON 78 79 78 235
47. Petrie, Michael Inverary, ON 78 79 79 236
48. Ryan, Jeffery Key West, FL 76 84 77 237
49. Yarvi, Matt (A) Orlando, FL 85 74 79 238
50. Hogg, Ian St. Davids, ON 76 79 88 243
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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.