Few and Far Between

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
These opportunities dont come around very often. At least not for the average player. Or the good player. Or even the very good player.
For many, the opportunity to win a professional golf tournament is like the out-of-state grandmother visit ' from the one you like: it only comes around once or twice a year.
Amy and Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco gets a hug from his wife/caddie after his first win in four years.
It doesnt matter on which tour you compete, be it the PGA, European, LPGA or A.G. Spanos; most players dont get very many legitimate chances to win on an annual basis.
Of course, this doesnt include the Superstar player, i.e. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Theres a reason that they rank 1, 2 and 3 in the world, and its because they not only win multiple tournaments each season, but they constantly put themselves in position to do so. They give themselves more opportunities to win than everyone else.
And they convert on quite a few of those occasions.
Since the start of the 2004 season, at least one of those three players has been present in 75 tour events. And theyve combined to win 26 times. That means when Woods, Singh or Mickelson is in the field, then the fields odds of winning are reduced to about 65 percent.
As if these three dont make it hard enough on everyone else to try and get a victory, the depth of talent from tour-to-tour is so deep that the average player ' or the good, or very good ' must really be on his game in order to put himself into prime position.
And we all know that golf is as fickle as the Scottish winds; a players game can come and go without warning, staying for an all-too-short amount of time and leaving for an indomitable period.
Players have to take advantage of those opportunities when they blow their way; not blow those opportunities. Chris DiMarco has done plenty of the latter; Sunday, he finally did the former.
Its easy to think of DiMarco as an unfortunate golfing soul over the last few years, what with his zero victories and his 11 top-3s since the 2002 Phoenix Open. But its actually just the opposite: hes been one of the lucky ones.
DiMarco has had more chances to win over the last four years than just about everyone not named Tiger, Vijay or Phil.
Over the last two years alone, hes four times held at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. And, of course, hes had the success rate of Dan Quayle in the National Spelling Bee. Hes also been within three of the lead entering the final round three times during that stretch and has come up empty as well.
Now, he finally has something to take home with him other than a hefty consolation check.
DiMarco was once again in the pole possession at the European Tours Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. And instead of shooting something in the 70s and walking off the 18th with that Peyton Manning This-cant-be-happening-to-me-again look, he went out, carded a 67 and took home his first individual title anywhere in a long, long time.
Not that he was counting or anything.
This is four years to the month that I have not been in the winner's circle, said DiMarco, who credited his Presidents Cup performance a year ago with helping him finally come through in the clutch.
It just feels like a weight has been lifted off my back.
The monkey is gone ' but not yet dead and buried. John Daly broke a six-year winless drought when he captured the 2001 BMW International Open in Germany. But it took three more years before he would win again on the PGA Tour.
Mark OMeara won the 2004 Dubai Desert Classic for his first official victory since 98. He hasnt since won.
You would think that this wouldnt happen to DiMarco. You would think that he would certainly ride this momentum to at least one PGA Tour victory this season, perhaps before they even swing on over to Florida.
Hell likely have three or four good chances to win a PGA Tour event this season, which is actually really good for a guy who plays about 25 times.
If you still dont think that thats a healthy amount of opportunities to win on tour just ask somebody like David Toms. Toms is one of the 10 best players in the world. And when hes clicking, hes capable of beating everyone else ranked ahead of him, as he showed at the Sony Open.
Yet, hes seen his chances of winning dwindle with each passing season.
Four times in both 2002 and 2003 he either led or was within three strokes of the lead entering the final round. That number fell to three in 2004. And it was just one in 2005; though, he did make it to the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he routed who else but DiMarco.
So in essence, one of the 10 best players in the entire world had but two very good opportunities to win a tour event all of last season.
Hes already had one such opportunity this year and made the most of it in Honolulu. Hell being doing very well just to have a couple of more of them over the next 10 months.

That being the case, think about what it must be like for those guys outside the top 10 in the world rankings, outside the top 20, outside the top 50. Many of the players on the PGA Tour have to be thrilled just to have one shot at a title each season.
Chad Campbell was enthused to have had the chance to win the Sony Open a couple of weeks ago. And after getting dusted by fellow 54-hole co-leader Toms that Sunday in Hawaii, he was even more ecstatic to have a shot at redemption seven days later at the Bob Hope.
Prior to the Sony, it had been since the 2004 Bank of America Colonial that he held at least a share of the lead entering the final round in a tour event. Last year, his best final-round starting position was five strokes back at the Chrysler Championship. He did lose in a playoff to Adam Scott at the Nissan Open, but that tournament was weather-reduced to just 36 holes.
Now, he was in contention to win a tournament for the second straight week ' this time as the outright leader heading to Sunday.
And this time things fell in his favor. Despite a shaky start to his back nine, Campbell composed himself to shoot 1-under 71 and win his third career tour event, and his first in nearly two years.
Good thing, too, because, at best, hes looking at only one or two more solid chances to win over the remainder of the year.
These things are few and far between. You dont have to tell that to Scott Verplank, who started the final round at the Hope one back of Campbell and finished three in arrears, in a tie for second with Jesper Parnevik, thanks to a closing 1-over 73
Its been nearly five years since Verplank cashed in a winning ticket on tour. Since his triumph in the 2001 Bell Canadian Open, he has now nine times led or been within three of the lead entering the final round. That includes two times in 2003, two times in 2004 and two times in 2005.
Two times a year. Thats all a player like Verplank, a guy consistently ranked inside the top 40 in the world, gets a year to have a quality chance at winning a PGA Tour event.
Two times. Thats it. And, unfortunately for him, hes already wasted one of them.
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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.