Clarke Cruises to Title

By Sports NetworkAugust 24, 2003, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- Darren Clarke posted a 3-under 67 on Sunday to cruise to a four-shot win at the WGC-NEC Invitational. Clarke finished the tournament at 12-under-par 268 for his 10th career victory on the European Tour.
Jonathan Kaye carded an even-par 70 to finish alone in second place at 8-under-par 272 while Davis Love III came in at 7-under-par 273. Tiger Woods, who has won this event three times at Firestone Country Club, finished alongside Chris Riley in a tie for fourth at 6-under-par 274.
Clarke left little in doubt on Sunday in running away with his second WGC title. The Ulsterman, who won the 2000 Match Play Championship over Woods, never gave his competitors a chance to work themselves back into the tournament.
'Match play is different,' said Clarke, who pocketed $1,050,000 for the win. 'It's one on one. It's always been one of my goals to win a stroke play tournament in America.'
Clarke got his round going with a bang and sent his second shot to 10 feet at the par-5 second. He drained the putt for an early eagle and knocked his approach inside six feet for a birdie at the par-4 fourth.
He found trouble with a bogey at the fifth but landed his second shot within 10 feet at the par-4 ninth to set up birdie. Clarke added a birdie at the 11th to open a five-shot lead over the field and converted a long birdie putt at the 13th to move to 14-under.
'I was very calm today,' said Clarke. 'It is great to see progress in my swing, my short game, my mental side, everything.'
Clarke faltered with back-to-back bogeys from the 15th but the tournament had already been sealed. The 35-year-old rolled in a short par putt at the last to lock up his first win in over a year.
'It's fantastic to win another World Golf Championships event,' said Clarke. 'To be only the second player to win two of these behind Tiger is pretty good. Any time you follow anything Tiger has done is pretty good, so I'm delighted.'
Woods, who completed a career slam of the WGC events with a victory at the Match Play Championship earlier this year, was three shots back to start the day and provided the most pressure Clarke would experience all day.
The 27-year-old converted a 15-foot putt for a birdie at the first and picked up another birdie at the seventh.
At the par-4 eighth, Woods dropped his approach inside five feet and converted the birdie putt to make the turn at 9 under.
The top player in the game had a shaky back nine, however, and his challenge fizzled with three bogeys down the stretch.
Kaye, who earned his first PGA Tour victory this season at the Buick Classic, had a rocky start with three bogeys and two birdies.
The 33-year-old tallied two birdies and a bogey on the inward half to finish solo second.
Vijay Singh, Robert Allenby and Jim Furyk shot matching rounds of 69 to share sixth place at 5-under-par 275.
Trevor Immelman and Brad Faxon were one shot further back at 4-under-par 276.
Bernhard Langer, Dan Forsman and Steve Flesch finished in a tie for 11th at 3-under-par 277.
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational
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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.