Vegas back from shoulder surgery, rehabbing confidence at Honda

By Randall MellMarch 1, 2014, 11:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – His surgically repaired left shoulder is almost completely healed.

Now Johnattan Vegas is stepping up rehab on his confidence.

The shoulder is feeling stronger, and there would be no better therapy for rebuilding his confidence than making a run Sunday at winning the Honda Classic.

That’s how it works. When you have an injury like Vegas tried to play through the last couple years, a torn tendon that won’t allow you to play to your strengths, your confidence can’t help but need some repairing, too.

With a 4-under-par 66 Saturday, Vegas moved into position to win his second PGA Tour title, to add to his breakthrough victory at the Bob Hope Classic three years ago. He likes the work he has done to give himself this chance.

“I feel confident, I feel ready,” Vegas said after signing his scorecard.

Vegas, 29, sits in fourth place, four shots behind Rory McIlroy. A bogey at the last Saturday disappointed him, but he liked the way he felt getting into contention again.

“It felt phenomenal,” Vegas said. “The adrenaline was rushing, and it was fun. It's fun feeling this way. That’s why I'm here.”

A rookie from Venezuela via the University of Texas and the Nationwide Tour, Vegas broke through to win the Bob Hope Classic in 2011. He beat Bill Haas and Gary Woodland in a playoff in his second start his rookie season.

Honda Classic: Articles, videos and photos

A second PGA Tour title has proved elusive, especially with his left shoulder beginning to ache and doctors unable to detect the cause.

Vegas began feeling pain in his left shoulder not far into his second PGA Tour season.

“It just kept getting worse and worse, the more I played,” Vegas said.

There was frustration the deeper he got into 2012, in going from doctor to doctor looking for a cause and getting no answers.

“It was hard to find,” said Bobby Kreusler, Vegas’ agent. “The way the tear was, when they laid him down to do an MRI, with his shoulder at his side, the tear flapped back in place, and you couldn’t see it.”

Vegas couldn’t understand why the source of the pain wasn’t showing up.

“It took them a long, long time,” Vegas said. “That’s kind of when I was frustrated.”

After those three missed cuts starting last year, Vegas flew to see Richard Hawkins, an orthopedic surgeon in Greenville, S.C. Hawkins discovered the exact problem and Vegas put away his clubs. Hawkins performed the surgery almost exactly one year ago. Vegas went four months without touching a club.

Late last summer, when he was finally back to hitting full shots, Vegas couldn’t contain his excitement and called his caddie, Louis Sira.

“I’m hitting the ball like I never have before,” Vegas told Sira. “I’m pain free. I haven’t felt this good in a very long time.”

Sira could feel what Vegas was feeling.

“He was relieved,” Sira said.

Vegas teed it up last fall in the 2013-14 PGA Tour season opener with a major medical extension. He was granted 21 starts to make $595,483 and keep his tour card. Though he missed the cut in that first start at the Frys.Com Open, he hasn’t missed a cut since, making seven straight now. He has made $107,543 so far and will be looking to pad that on Sunday at PGA National.

His confidence started coming back making all those cuts.

“Tomorrow is going to be part of that,” Vegas said. “It was playing good on Thursday and Friday, then playing good on a Saturday. It's a whole different game playing good on Sunday.”

But Vegas knows what that's like closing out his first PGA Tour win in dramatic style in a sudden-death playoff.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.