Bjorn Wins Playoff Back in Winners Circle

By Sports NetworkMay 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
European TourWARWICKSHIRE, England -- Thomas Bjorn parred the second playoff hole Sunday to win the Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters. Bjorn closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 6-under-par 282. He was joined there by David Howell and Brian Davis, who each carded final-round 69s.
 
Bjorn two-putted for par on the first extra hole, No. 18, while Howell got up and down for par from left of the green. Davis fell out of the extra session after just one hole as he was unable to save par.
 
Bjorn and Howell returned to the 18th tee for the second playoff hole. Howell missed the green right in a bunker. Bjorn, meanwhile, dropped his tee ball within 20 feet of the cup.
 
Howell, who also lost in a playoff here to Thomas Levet in 2001, blasted out of the bunker to 12 feet. Bjorn left his birdie putt short, left of the cup and kicked in his short par putt. Howell then missed his par putt giving Bjorn his eighth victory on the European Tour.
 
'It's been a long time coming,' said Bjorn, whose last win came at the 2002 BMW International Open. 'I kept perfectly cool over the whole weekend and in the end it paid off. I don't think I've been as relaxed as I was over those two playoff holes.
 
'I actually try to come out and have a laugh and enjoy myself and try to take the good with the bad. I am just happy playing the game the way I am.'
 
Overnight leader Michael Campbell was unable to recover from a double-bogey on the 13th. He posted a 1-over 73 to end at 5-under-par 283. Soren Hansen and Simon Khan each shot rounds of 5-under 67 to share fifth place. They were joined at minus-4 by Steve Webster, who carded a 71 on Sunday.
 
Bjorn trailed the leaders nearly the entire round. He opened with a birdie on the fourth to get to 3 under. However, the Dane tripped to a bogey on the par-4 sixth on the Arden Course at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club.
 
The 34-year-old caught fire from there. Bjorn drained a birdie try on the eighth. He made it two straight as his birdie attempt at the ninth found the bottom of the cup.
 
Bjorn moved to 5 under as he birdied the 10th to make it three in a row. He slid back to minus-4 with a bogey on the 13th. Bjorn jumped into the lead with an eagle on the par-5 17th, a hole he played at minus-5 for the week. He then parred the last to end at 6 under.
 
Coming to the 18th tee in regulation, the tournament was in Howell's hands. He played the first 14 holes at even-par with one birdie and one bogey. The Englishman birdied the 15th and 16th to get within one stroke of Bjorn.
 
Howell, like Bjorn, eagled the 17th to jump into the lead at minus-7. However, Howell missed the green right in a sand trap at the last and was unable to save par.
 
'All the stuff I have been working on with my swing just didn't stand up to the pressure there at the end,' said Howell. 'Simple as that. I got lucky there at the 17th. I made a poor swing with my second shot, but managed to chip it in. I just needed one good swing on the last and just couldn't do it.'
 
Davis parred the first six holes before an eagle on No. 7 got him within one stroke of Campbell. Davis tied Campbell in the lead at minus-6 with a birdie on the ninth.
 
However, the Englishman stumbled to back-to-back bogeys from the 10th to fall back to minus-4. Davis recovered those lost strokes with birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. He slid back to minus-5 with a bogey on the 15th.
 
Davis, playing alongside Howell, birdied the 17th to get to 6 under and got into the playoff thanks to Howell's bogey at the last.
 
'It was a real struggle today,' said Davis. 'The swing was all over the place. I didn't have the speed on my putter all day and it was a real battle. I hung in there. But I had my chances today and just didn't get the job done.'
 
Darren Clarke fired a 5-under 67 Sunday that included a double-eagle on the par-5 third. He ended the tournament at 3-under-par 285 and was joined in a tie for eighth by Maarten Lafeber and Robert-Jan Derksen.
 
Barry Lane, the 2004 champion, finished in a tie for 11th at minus-1 after a closing 68.
 
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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.