Championship Performances

By Mercer BaggsDecember 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
Briny Baird had just completed perhaps the most rigorous tournament in all of golf, and he just wanted to go home. So much so, that he wasnt about to stick around and see whether or not his final score was good enough to earn his PGA Tour card for next season.
 
Headed to my car, he said. Got a two-, two-and-a-half hour drive ahead of me.
 
Baird was quite congenial considering the situation. He had just made a 10-foot birdie on the 108th and final hole of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament to post 10 under. But, having finished a few hours ahead of the final group, he knew that wasnt likely good enough.
 
Bill Haas
Bill Haas' birdie-birdie finish will make him a rookie on the 2006 PGA Tour.
When asked how he felt about his position, Baird responded: Not good. About as good as I felt about finishing 126.
 
Baird was referencing his finish on this years tour money list. The south Florida native missed holding onto his card by $2,545.
 
And, just as he thought, he missed regaining it this week by one stroke.
 
Bairds birdie at the last was clutch considering that he needed to make it just to have any chance of finishing inside the top 30 this week. But thanks to three bogeys on his back nine, his overall performance cannot be considered Championship.
 
A friend of mine likes to use this word, Championship, to describe a quality competitive performance. Championship is not based on merit; its based on the result produced.
 
By his definition, doing what is needed to be done in the throws of competition is considered Championship. It could relate to a kicker making a 45-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl or it could relate to guy chugging a beer faster than everyone else at the bar.
 
Championship would best describe the performance of many at this weeks Q-school, including Bill Haas.
 
Haas, the son of nine-time tour winner Jay, had been in this precarious position before, on the cusp of earning his card.
 
The 2003-04 NCAA Player of the Year, Haas was primed to make it through the qualifying tournament a year ago, but could only manage a closing 71. He missed the cut by two strokes.
 
That relegated him to the Nationwide Tour -- where he definitely did not want to be, and where he entered this years Tour Championship on the money bubble. That bubble burst and he ultimately finished 23rd in earnings.
 
That sent him back to school.
 
It appeared that history would again repeat itself this Monday. The 23-year-old Wake Forest All-American made the turn on the Panther Lake course at Orange County National at 12 under for the tournament, a stroke inside the cut line. He then proceeded to bogey 10, 11 and 15.
 
This Deacon was seeing demons.
 
I thought I was going the wrong way. I thought I was going to be doing it again next year, talking about how close I had come, he said.
 
Instead, with the support of his father in the gallery, Haas made a tough 6-foot par save on 16 ' one that he called the biggest putt of his round, and then a slick 8-foot birdie putt at 17.
 
That put him back to 10 under, which he thought would be good enough to get his card. That also put the pressure back on his shoulders.
 
I was definitely nervous on the last hole. (On) 17 I felt good; I had nothing to lose. I had to make birdie. And then once I made the birdie I had something to lose, he said.
 
Thats the same time when the nerves woke up inside Papa Haas.
 
It wasnt that bad until the last hole, the elder Haas said. It was gut-wrenching.
 
This from a guy who knows well the rigors of the Ryder Cup.
 
Haas ultimately made birdie at the last, surviving an extended wait in the fairway and a 45-foot downhill, two-tiered putt after reaching the green in two.
 
To birdie those last two holes will definitely make the drive back to Greensville (S.C.) pretty sweet, he said.
 
Much sweeter than Bairds drive down to Jupiter after getting confirmation of his finish.
 
Haas par-birdie-birdie finish to capture his card on the number definitely qualifies as Championship.
 
So, too, does Danny Ellis eagle chip-in at the last to earn his card on the number; and Brian Batemans 50-foot eagle putt on 18 to seal a return to the tour; and Michael Connells birdie on the final hole to secure his first trip to the big leagues; and Alex Aragons closing 65 to make it by one.
 
Not everyones performance, however, could be classified as Championship.
 
Certainly not Scott Hends. He started the day tied for sixth place, shot 78, and finished two off the cut line at 9 under.
 
And not Joseph Alfieris. He also shot 78 and fell from a tie for 10th into a tie for 54th.
 
And not Tommy Tolles. After a run of six birdies in nine holes, he was dead on the number heading to the last hole. And then he hit it dead in the water off the tee and finished with a dreadful double bogey.
 
Tolles was left to make the lonely walk back to his SUV, his hands clasped together atop his head. His caddie followed behind him, his head hung low. Dead silence.
 
Of all the clutch performances Monday, none was more Championship than that of John Engler.
 
It took the former Clemson All-American four years to make it to the PGA Tour. But even time doesnt tell how long that road really was.
 
Engler was in a March 2003 car crash that killed two passengers in the colliding vehicle. Englers leg was badly broken. It required six surgeries, and doctors feared he would forever walk with a limp.
 
Dont ever give up, was Englers message to any and everyone faced with adversity. Whatever cards youre dealt, keep your head up.
 
Englers next card will be dealt to him by the PGA Tour.
 
Fully recovered, the 27-year-old Augusta, Ga., native closed in 67-68 to finish tied for 13th.
 
Now thats Championship.
 
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Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”