US Overtakes ROW for Lead

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 UBS CupKIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- The U.S. turned a one-point deficit into a one-point advantage after winning four of the available six points in Saturdays four-ball (better ball) session in the UBS Cup.
 
The Americans won three matches and halved two others to take a slight lead into the final day of competition.
 
The home team, who now leads 6 -5 , needs to win 5 of the 12 singles points on offer Sunday to retain possession of the Cup. The Rest of the World team must get seven of those points to win the competition for the first time in four tries.
 
With the greens softened by some rain and very little wind blowing in off the neighboring Atlantic Ocean, players scorched the Cassique Course with a combined 83 birdies and three eagles, compared to just three bogeys.
 
Match 3 ' the first match to conclude Saturday ' was the only contest that was never really in doubt. Course designer Tom Watson atoned for his Day 1 loss by making seven birdies in 16 holes, as he and Hal Sutton defeated Australians Peter Senior and Rodger Davis, 4 and 2.
 
Sutton remains undefeated in UBS competition, upping his record to 5-0-0.
 
That victory tied the overall match score, which started the day at 3 -2 in favor of the ROW team, at 3 points apiece.
 
For the second straight day, U.S. captain Arnold Palmer teamed with Jay Haas and ROW captain Gary Player partnered with Mark McNulty. And for the second straight day, the two teams played to a draw.
 
The highlight of this match came on the par-4 ninth, when Player popped his drive so far that he actually confused his ball with McNultys. Both men played the others ball on their approach shots and conceded the hole to the American side.
 
McNulty explained that after scuffing his ball on the eighth hole his caddie gave him a Callaway No. 4 ball -- the same brand and number as that of Player's -- in replacement. McNulty had been using a Callaway No. 1, but ran out and his caddie did not inform anyone of the numerical switch.
 
'When we got down to the balls (in the fairway), there was one six yards ahead of the other, and seeing that Gary had been slightly behind me most of the day, I presumed that the (forward) ball was mine,' McNulty said.
 
'I looked at the back ball and it was a No. 4 and I just said, 'he didn't out-drive it,' and that was that. He went ahead and hit a fantastic shot. And it was my call, and it was only when I got to the green that I realized that it was the wrong ball.'
 
Said Player: 'I just hit my best iron shot of the day. I said, 'you'd better talk to my lawyer.''
 
In what proved to be the days most compelling match, Tom Kite and Craig Stadler earned a well-fought half Sam Torrance and Barry Lane.
 
The two teams each broke the tournament record for low score in the four-ball format, shooting a pair of 10-under-par 62s.
 
While Stadler and Kite provided a balanced attack, Lane carried his Scottish sidekick. The Englishman was credited with eight 3s in a nine-hole stretch, and played holes 6-12 in 6 under.
 
Stadler had a chance to win the match at the last, but missed a 6-footer for birdie.
 
It was a fantastic match, said Kite. All four of us were playing very, very well, making a lot of birdies, even some eagles out there. It was fitting it ended in a tie'
 
The overall match, too, was still a tie. But that changed quickly ' in the Americans favor.
 
Fred Couples and Raymond Floyd revived their 1991 Ryder Cup pairing, defeating Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle, 4 and 2. The two Americans would have broken the scoring record set in the Kite/Stadler-Torrance/Lane match had they gone the distance. They were 11 under in the 16 holes they completed.
 
Most of the damage was done by Couples, who was 9 under on his on ball.
 
I had a good plan today, said Floyd. Just get back out of the way and let Freddie play.
 
The U.S. moved two points clear when Curtis Strange made a 30-foot birdie ' his only one of the day ' at the par-4 17th to give him and Scott Hoch and 2-and-1 victory over Carl Mason and John Chillas.
 
Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie stopped the international bleeding when they defeated Hale Irwin and Fred Funk, 2 and 1. All square through 14, Montgomerie matched Funks birdie at the par-5 15th and then added another birdie at the par-3 16th to go 1-up. Langer then made a 20-foot birdie putt on 17 to clinch the match.
 
It wasnt looking good for us at 6 -4 . We needed that extra point, said Montgomerie. So now were back in, with a chance tomorrow.
 
Langer and Montgomerie are now 9-1-1 as a team in the Ryder Cup and UBS Cup.
 
Sunday's singles matches will feature Palmer vs. Player in the first match out. Former Ryder Cup captains Strange and Torrance will face off for the second time(Strange won, 4 and 3, in 2002). The most recent Ryder Cup captains, Langer and Sutton, will also square off.
 
Related Links:
  • Day 3 Singles Matches
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - UBS Cup
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.