Clarke Birdies 18 to Win in China

By Sports NetworkApril 27, 2008, 4:00 pm
European TourSHANGHAI, China -- Darren Clarke made a 40-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole on Sunday to win the Asian Open by a shot, claiming his first European Tour victory in nearly five years.
 
The five-time Ryder Cup star from Northern Ireland closed with a 1-over 73 at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club to hold off the Netherlands' Robert Jan Derksen.
 
Clarke's 18th hole heroics came after he made three late bogeys to erase a two-shot lead. He finished at 8-under 280 for his first title since the 2003 WGC-NEC Invitational.
 
Since that victory almost five years ago, it has been Clarke's personal life that has garnered headlines.
 
His wife, Heather, died in 2006 following a lengthy and well-publicized bout with breast cancer that forced Clarke to frequently withdraw from tournaments to be with his family, which includes two sons.
 
Clarke committed to play in the Ryder Cup just one month later and guided the Europeans to an emotional landslide victory.
 
His win on Sunday was a relief.
 
'With everything that has gone on these past few years, to spiral down the world rankings and keep working and people writing me off, it's just nice to come back and play the way I know I can,' said Clarke.
 
Derksen, after trailing Clarke by a stroke overnight and playing against him in the final pairing, also shot a 73 Sunday to end at 7-under 281. He was tied for the lead heading to the 18th hole, but managed only a par.
 
'I can't be negative after today,' said Derksen, who was seeking his third European Tour win and first in three years. 'I thought it was a great battle.'
 
Clarke's bogey at the 14th hole -- coupled with a Derksen double-bogey -- left the Ulsterman holding a two-stroke advantage. But Clarke went on to make bogey at the 16th and 17th holes to erase that seemingly comfortable lead.
 
'Unfortunately, I got ahead of myself with about five holes to play and was thinking about things that have happened in the past with Heather and the boys and I just lost my concentration,' said Clarke.
 
The lapse led to some 'silly mistakes,' Clarke said, but those errors were erased with one long putt at the 18th -- which helped him finally get rid of a pesky Derksen.
 
'To hole a putt from that length -- there's always a huge amount of luck involved as well,' said Clarke. 'When they go in like that sometimes it's a bit of destiny.'
 
Clarke's 280 total tied for the second-highest winning score this season on the European Tour international schedule. Only James Kingston's 284 at the South African Airways Open in December was worse. Trevor Immelman shot a 280 to win the Masters two weeks ago.
 
'Sometimes things are meant to happen, sometimes not,' said Clarke. 'I guess today was my day.'
 
Italy's Francesco Molinari (69), Chinese Taipei's Lin Wen-Tang (72) and England's Robert Dinwiddie (74) tied for third place at five-under 283.
 
World No. 13 Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the highest-ranked player in the field, closed with a solid four-under 68 to take sixth place at 4-under 284.
 
Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen (73) finished at 1-under 287, while former world No. 1 and two-time British Open champion Greg Norman (71) ended at even-par 288 in a rare start.
 
Liang Wen-Chong was China's top finisher at even-par.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.