The Mighty Thorpe

By Mercer BaggsApril 28, 2002, 4:00 pm
Jim Thorpe outlasted good friend John Jacobs to become the second African-American to win a Senior PGA Tour major Sunday by capturing The Countrywide Tradition in a playoff.
Thorpe, who holed a bunker shot for eagle on the final hole Saturday, birdied the par-5 18th to force sudden death, and repeated the performance on the first extra hole to end the tournament.
'That hole was very kind to me,' Thorpe said. 'They should put my name someplace out there.'

Thorpe shot 2-under 70 on the Prospector Course in Superstition Mountain, Ariz., to collect his fifth career Senior victory to go along with $300,000. Jacobs shot 71.
'I'm not going to lie to you. I love craps. Tonight I'll be playing craps in Vegas,' Thorpe said. 'Next week in Alabama I'll be at the dog track. But I do the right thing, too. I give 10 percent to the church.'

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Charlie Sifford, in 1975 at the Senior PGA Championship, was the first African-American to win a Senior major, though he did so before the tour was officially formed in 1980.
The two players ended regulation tied at 11-under-par 277. Jacobs led by one entering the par-5 18th, but an errant tee shot led to an awkward stance for his second shot. Standing in the left fairway bunker, with his ball waist-high on the right cusp, Jacobs side-slapped his ball into the adjacent rough. He eventually made a clutch 12-footer for par, while Thorpe, following a stellar approach, made a nervous two-footer for birdie.
They went back to the 18th. Thorpe found the right rough off the tee, while Jacobs once again snap-hooked his driver, this time avoiding the bunker. Thorpe laid up perfectly in the fairway on his second shot; Jacobs pushed a metal-wood into the right gallery.
As he did 25 minutes prior, Thorpe struck a beautiful third shot to inside five feet; Jacobs, scrambling again, pitched from the trampled-down rough to nearly half that distance. Thorpe made his birdie, Jacobs lipped out his.
'I misread it,' Jacobs said. 'I certainly didn't miss it because I was nervous. If I'd been nervous, I would have missed the first one.'
Said Thorpe: 'It was a wonderful finish. If this doesn't help the golf ratings, I don't know what will.'
Jacobs started the day leading Thorpe by a shot. Thorpe tied for the top spot with a birdie at the sixth, but fell back to 9-under when he couldnt get up and down from the greenside bunker at the par-3 eighth.
Jacobs returned the favor by bogeying the par-4 ninth after missing the green.
The back nine proved early to be a series of missed opportunities on the part of Thorpe, and crucial saves for Jacobs.
The big-bombing Jacobs ' hes won more than 100 Long Drive Championships worldwide ' showed a deft touch in saving par from four feet at the 10th, from six feet at the 11th and from 10 feet at the 12th.
Meanwhile, Thorpe missed a six-footer for birdie at No. 10, an eight-footer at No. 11 and a 12-footer at the par-5 13th.
As the two remained stagnate at 9-under, the rest of the field moved into attack mode. Bob Gilder birdied the 14th to go to 9-under, as did Bruce Summerhays at the 15th. But, finally, Thorpe coxed in a 20-foot birdie from the fringe at No. 14 to take the outright lead at 10-under.
For the first time in the final round, Jacobs found himself looking up on the leaderboard. It didnt last long enough for him to get a crick in his neck, however. Jacobs hit a short pitch approach shot to four feet at the par-4 15th and converted the birdie to tie Thorpe at 10-under. He then moved one clear after running his approach shot from the left rough to within five feet of the hole at the par-4 16th.
After a routine two-putt par at the 17th, Jacobs carried a one-shot lead over Thorpe, Gilder and Summerhays into the par-5 18th. Both Gilder and Summerhays birdied 17.
Playing in the penultimate group, Summerhays had a six-foot birdie putt to tie Jacobs at 11-under, but missed on the low side to set the clubhouse target at minus-10. Gilder, playing alongside Jacobs and Thorpe, also went on to two-putt and finish at 10-under.
Jacobs found trouble off the tee at 18, toe-hooking his drive into the rough buffering the fairway and the left-hand bunker. With his ball resting outside the bunker he contemplated hitting his second shot left-handed, but instead dug down into the sand ' with the ball waist-high ' choked down on his iron and punched his ball into the deep right rough. He laid up in the fairway with his third shot.
Thorpes tee shot, meantime, landed in the left-hand bunker, from where he laid up into the middle of the fairway. He then stuck his third shot within two feet of the cup.
Jacobs approach into the green finished 12 feet right of the hole ' leaving him that for par and a probable playoff. And as he had done for most of the day, he converted the save.
Full-field scores from The Countrywide Tradition

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.