Wittenberg Earns Card at Canadian Q-School
Casey Wittenberg of Memphis, Tenn., who owns the distinction of being the only player besides Tiger Woods to be ranked the top amateur in the United States prior to beginning college, nailed down Canadian Tour playing privileges Friday by posting a final-round 2-under 70 at Black Bear GC. The 20-year-old finished the four-day event at 5-under 283 and was one of four players that tied for third, six shots behind medallist Chris Cureton of McKinney, Tex.
Taking a one-shot cushion into the final round, Cureton closed out with a 3-under 69 and wound up two shots clear of runner-up Scott McNeil of Calgary.
McNeil was one of three Canadians to earn a Tour card Friday. Glenn Collins of Winnipeg grabbed the final exempt spot by finishing at minus-4, while Edmontons Danny Sahl (-2) took one of the seven non-exempt cards handed out.
The Canadian Tour now moves west for next weeks second Q-School, which gets underway Tuesday at Los Serranos G&CC in Chino Hills, Calif.
The 20-year-old Wittenberg had a magical Sunday afternoon at The Masters last April. Wittenberg fired a back-nine 31 in the final round, the lowest inbound nine total by an amateur in history, en route to a 13-th place finish at Augusta National. Playing with the top players on the planet, the former U.S. Walker and Palmer Cup team member was the only player in the starting field to improve on his score each day (76-72-71-67). The 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up also had strong showings at the U.S. Open (36th) and Bell Canadian Open (24th) last summer.
I was able to accomplish what I came here for, said Wittenberg, who began the day in fourth spot. I just tried to go out there and get the job done. There is no holding back at any level. I was in pretty good shape, so I just wanted to take it one shot at a time.
On Friday, he earned his first professional Tour card and is chomping at the bit as the Canadian Tour gets set to lift the curtain on the 2005 season two weeks from now in Austin, Tex.
Its going to be a learning process, but I am excited about the opportunity, he added. Ive played some good golf up in Canada, I love the country, and everyone knows there are a lot of doors that can open on this Tour. This is almost like a gateway to the big Tour (PGA), and I cant wait to get started.
For McNeil, gaining his Tour card Friday wiped out the memory of failing in his first attempt in Whitby, Ont. last September, just days after he turned pro. McNeil, who played amateur golf with Sahl, birdied his first hole and was 3-under as he turned for home.
I pretty much went into today wanting to play the golf course the same way I have all week, said the 23-year-old. I really didnt want to think about what the others were doing. I knew I was in pretty decent position.
This was a big week for me. Now I will get to experience the life of a professional. There have been a lot of great players to come off this Tour, and I know I am going to learn a lot.
Cureton had an early bogey on his third hole of the day but righted the ship from there on, knocking in a pair of birdie putts just before the turn. On the back nine, the only question left to answer was whether or not he would capture medallist honours.
I didnt have my great golf swing today, but it was a good week, admitted Cureton. I was trying to stay focused, but I didnt want to press it. I just wanted to play as smart as possible, although I started pushing a bit over the final few holes. I wanted to win this thing.
If Cureton was playing without any pressure Friday, the opposite held true for the 37-year-old Collins. In a seemingly comfortable third-place position as he stepped up to the first tee, Collins reeled off three bogeys in a row beginning on the seventh hole and was in danger of letting a Tour card slip from his grasp.
He found his touch just when he needed to.
On the 213-yard, par-3 11th, Collins dumped his tee shot into a bunker before blasting out to within three feet to save par. He followed that up with clutch birdie putts on 13 and 16 and ended up earning the final exempt card by one shot.
For Collins, Friday marked the end of a long road back to the pro ranks. He returned to the game a year and a half ago after a seven-year hiatus, mostly due to an arm injury that required surgery in 1996.
Man, oh man, I cant believe it, said a relieved Collins. That was an unbelievable day. At one point, I didnt know what to do. That bunker shot on 11 changed everything.
The hard work has paid off. Its been a long journey, but the real work is just starting.'
Sahl, a Canadian Tour member back in 2002, was the first-round leader but slipped off the tracks Thursday with four three-putts on his way to a 5-over 77. He rebounded Friday with a 2-under 70 to play his way back on Tour.
Im back on the circuit, and that is what I came here to do, he said. My goal was to get status back out here. I had a rough third round and caught some bad breaks. When that happens, you start to grind your way around the course. Ive just got to go out, play well in the first event and Ill be fine (getting into tournaments) the rest of the way.
Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers had his struggles all week long at Black Bear, closing out with a final-round 77. The fourth-round pick of the New York Rangers ended up at 24-over (78-79-78-77).
Six months ago, Cureton travelled to Whitby for the Tours Fall Q-School, only to see it end before it began when he missed his morning wake up call and was disqualified before the opening round.
He was not about to let it happen again.
That wasnt going to be a problem today, he laughed. We woke up about three hours early.
Scores Friday after the final round of the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School held at the 7,000-yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (A-denotes amateur):
1. Cureton, Chris McKinney, TX 72 67 69 69 277
2. McNeil, Scott Calgary, AB 71 68 70 70 279
3. Davis, Brien Las Vegas, NV 72 73 69 69 283
3. Heinen, Eddie Las Vegas, NV 70 71 73 69 283
3. Humphries, John Baton Rouge, LA 70 70 74 69 283
3. Wittenberg, Casey Memphis, TN 73 66 74 70 283
7. Collins, Glenn Winnipeg, MB 70 68 74 72 284
8. Horowitz, Joe Long Beach, N.Y. 70 75 72 69 286
8. Lydiatt, Chad Omaha, NE 73 71 72 70 286
8. Sahl, Danny Twinsburg, OH 69 70 77 70 286
8. Seki, Jim Palo Alto, CA 74 68 72 72 286
12. Smith, Jesse Barrington, NH 74 67 75 71 287
13. Mulder, Brock Dallas, TX 72 71 74 71 288
14. Snelling, Justin Boise, ID 71 72 75 71 289
15. Ferlic, Gavin South Bend, IN 73 72 76 69 290
15. Meierling, Jan Germany 72 71 74 73 290
17. McLeod, Mac Winnipeg, MB 73 72 76 71 292
18. Kings, Ryan Kitchener, ON 72 73 73 75 293
18. Zihala, Billy Little Rock, AR 70 71 77 75 293
20. Hibler, Jesse Boise, ID 75 68 78 73 294
21. Makino, Yuji Japan 76 70 75 74 295
22. Guetz, Bret Scottsdale, AZ 81 71 72 72 296
22. Kennedy, Robert Phoenix, AZ 78 73 76 69 296
22. Peterson, Brett Mesa, AZ 79 69 78 70 296
25. Hospodar, Michael Brantford, ON 76 72 71 78 297
25. Kilduff, Lynn Dallas, TX 75 73 80 69 297
27. Parker, Adrian Jupiter, FL 77 74 74 73 298
28. Brown, Michael Cheltenham, PA 81 74 70 74 299
28. Yopchick, Scott Chicago, IL 79 77 70 73 299
30. Martin, Greg Austin, TX 72 77 78 73 300
31. Hoenig, Ron Hobe Sound, FL 78 76 77 70 301
32. Dickenson, Billy Haines City, FL 74 77 76 76 303
33. Noble, Scott Cartersville, GA 77 76 81 72 306
34. Cook, Dan Charleston, SC 79 74 77 78 308
34. Johnstone, Evan Orinda, CA 78 76 77 77 308
34. Sherriff, Justin London, ON 75 79 73 81 308
34. Williams, JJ Palm Beach Gardens, FL 75 75 77 81 308
38. Deschaine, Matt Bay Minette, AL 74 74 82 79 309
39. Savard, Marc (A) Peterborough, ON 78 79 78 77 312
39. Sitterley, Rob Orlando, FL 78 78 75 81 312
41. Ryan, Jeffery Key West, FL 76 84 77 77 314
42. Petrie, Michael Inverary, ON 78 79 79 86 322
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry