Gainey upsets Love, Furyk for McGladrey win

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2012, 11:16 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – A stone-faced crowd filed off property with all the excitement of a University of Georgia fan following a particularly painful Bulldog loss, or an American gallery after a Ryder Cup defeat. Pick a Ryder Cup, any one will do considering the red, white and blue have only one victory this century.

As Davis Love III has joked many times this week, “Blame it on the captain.”

In fairness, Love will shoulder the blame for America’s loss last month at Medinah. He has to, it’s a leadership deal. But that is little more than misdirected anger. This, however, was something else. This was Love’s to win, or Jim Furyk depending on which reclamation project tugged enough on the heart strings.

Video: Gainey wins 'Big Break VII: Reunion

The duo began the day two strokes clear of the field. Seventy-one players survived a secondary cut on Saturday, but Sunday was a two-man race, or so one could have been forgiven for thinking.

But things haven’t gone to plan for either player this season. After the month Love and Furyk have had, the only thing missing on Sunday at Sea Island Resort was a hot-putting German and echoes of “Ole, Ole, Ole.”

Instead, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey – who set out on Sunday 2 hours, 25 minutes before and seven strokes adrift of the leaders – played the role of Martin Kaymer, scorching the Seaside Course with a 10-under 60 that included a missed 15 footer at the last for 59. And then he waited.

He waited as the winds along the Brunswick River came up. He waited as Furyk and Love squandered birdie opportunities. He waited as David Toms slowly ran out of holes. He waited 104 Tour starts to notch his first victory, however surreal and subdued it may be.

The Sea Island crowds wanted a victory for Love, the tournament host and island staple. Those with a sense of cosmic justice were likely leaning toward Furyk, who led the U.S. Open through 69 holes, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational through 71 holes, and his pivotal Sunday singles match against Sergio Garcia through 16 holes only to drop all three decisions.

But as day turned to dusk on a clear fall day Gainey’s wait became more interesting.

Love three-putted the 14th hole to drop to 13 under, three behind Gainey, and pulled his drive into the hazard at No. 16 for a double bogey-6 to end the Cinderella scenario.

For Furyk the end came more slowly, missing a 20 footer for birdie at the 16th to remain one back, and the greens at Nos. 16 and 17. As the late Seve Ballesteros may have opined, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I lose.”

“What I’m most disappointed about is when it came down the stretch,” said Furyk, who closed with a 69 to finish alone in third place a stroke behind Toms (63) and two behind Gainey. “Hitting the ball pretty much as good as I can I made really, really poor swings at 17 and 18 with a 7-iron and 8-iron.”

Gainey is familiar with disappointment. The quintessential journeyman began plying the mini-tours in 1995, was forced back into the game after being laid off from AO Smith, where he installed insulation on water heaters, and missed more cuts in 2011 (17) than some Tour types play in a season.

The largest comeback on Tour this year was Kyle Stanley’s eight-stroke rally in Phoenix, but somehow Gainey’s come-from-behind finish from a touchdown back seemed more compelling.

Maybe it was his attempt to become the sixth Tour player to post 59 in an official event, a thought he said that never crossed his mind, or the cast of characters that spent an excruciatingly long afternoon chasing him.

“I was nervous,” said Gainey, who spent most of the two hours after he finished his round answering text messages and watching the telecast. “When you’ve got Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and David Toms coming at you, you may want to pay attention.

“You’ve got Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers chasing me . . . chasing me . . . I’m Tommy Gainey . . . Two Gloves.”

On this one maybe karma got it right. Sure Love and Furyk could have used a post-Ryder Cup boost, but for Gainey, who had earned more than half his money this year on Tour in one week (Crowne Plaza Invitational where he finished third), the McGladrey victory, his first on Tour, is a life changer.

The mini-tour legend turned folk hero was still digesting that reality when Love, who finished tied for fourth after a closing 71, approached him before the trophy presentation.

Prior to this week, Gainey’s best Tour finish was a runner-up showing to Love at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic when the rookie charged in with a closing 64.

“In ’08 that was (Love’s) 20th win and I’m playing well and he hit a tee shot at the 17th like he did today at the 16th, just a rope hook,” Gainey recalled. “But back then the ball stayed out of the hazard and he got up and down out of a bunker for par to beat me by one. He mentioned that to me and how odd it was that he was giving me the trophy.”

An odd ending indeed, for a tournament and a season.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

Getty Images

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he 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.