AskLav: Too early to look ahead?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 18, 2012, 6:00 pm

No mailbag questions this week about PGA Tour Q-School. That makes sense, I guess. Most golf fans tune into the event only on the final day of the final stage, when players have the greatest chance of self-immolating. Reality TV at its finest.

This week is first stage, though, and there is no shortage of great stories.

Here’s a short one. The 2012 Adams Golf Pro Tour Player of the Year is Brian Rowell, from Lafayette, La. He earned $47,030 this season.

His first Q-School was back in 1997, in Jackson, Miss., and the weather was dreary and miserable, which just about sums up the entire experience.

Now, he’s 39. This is his 10th Q-School. Most years, his entry fee has been $4,500. That adds up. He hates math, for that very reason.

“Each year, I’m like, (expletive), I don’t want to have to send this check in again!” he told me. “That’s, like, 50 grand I’ve had to send them! I’ve made about 50 grand on Tour. So I guess we’re about even then, right?”

Well, no, not quite. Rowell is still ahead. The way I see it, after 10 years, after countless disappointments, he’s still chasing his dream. Pretty cool.

Here are this week’s mailbag questions:


 #AskLav - with Jonas Blixt winning this past week, who do you think should be rookie of the year?

Blixt’s win last week at the Frys.com Open – and his solo third at the Fall Series opener – made the conversation more interesting, no doubt, but John Huh is still the favorite to take home the award. He won the Mayakoba Classic, tied for second in San Antonio and played well enough throughout the year to advance to the Tour Championship. Incredible regular season for a 22-year-old . . . which kind of makes Rory McIlroy’s achievements, at 23, seem all the more remarkable, no?


 @RyanLavnerGC u know what's silly about the silly-season: the PGA Tour thinkin' they have a monopoly on all 52 weeks of the year #AskLav

Shame on the PGA Tour for trying to protect its investment! No, seriously, beginning next fall, the silly season will be virtually extinct. The 2013 PGA Tour season will end in late September, and then the 2013-14 season is slated to begin the very next morning, or so it seems. Those events are now part of the FedEx Cup schedule and should feature stellar fields . . . unless, of course, those players decide instead to spend their fall competing in the European Tour’s lucrative run-up to the $8 million Tour Championship in Dubai, which many of the world’s best – maybe even Tiger! – seem likely to do. A monopoly, it is not.


Normally, I say predictions are for fortune-tellers, not sportswriters. But since you asked . . . it’s hard not to be impressed with what we saw from Bud Cauley in 2012. In his first full year out of school, the kid had six top 10s (including four top 4s) and earned more than $1.7 million. Expect to see a ‘W’ out of him next year. And it’ll also be interesting to see the transition of upcoming Web.com Tour grads such as Luke List, Luke Guthrie, Paul Haley, Russell Henley and Ben Kohles, all of whom are 27 or younger.


 @RyanLavnerGC Based on the venues they're being held at, which major are you most looking forward to in 2013? #asklav

Merion intrigues because it’s the first time in 32 years that the famed course has hosted a U.S. Open. For years, it’s been thought to be too short and claustrophobic for today’s modern game. But Muirfield is one of the best on the Open rota, and the weather there can be just dastardly. (Remember the 2002 British there? Tiger does.) It will be a great test. And then, personally, I’m looking forward to the PGA at Oak Hill, located about 30 minutes north of where I grew up, in Canandaigua, N.Y. (Google it: It’s one of the Finger Lakes.)


What are the common injuries plaguing the recreational golfer and what can be done to mitigate them? #AskLav

An unscientific, highly fictionalized poll suggested these three injuries were the most common among golfers: Separated shoulders, from taking a turn too quickly and rolling the cart; sore knees, from bending down to read putts from every angle and thereby contributing to the slow-play epidemic; and migraine headaches, from playing golf in the first place. Remedies include Advil, Icy Hot and more Bud Light.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.''