Els Does It Again in Defense

By Sports NetworkFebruary 2, 2003, 5:00 pm
VICTORIA, Australia -- Ernie Els fired a final round 7-under 65 Sunday to claim a one shot victory, and successfully defend his title, at the Heineken Classic. Els, who finished at 15-under 273, gained the win as Peter Lonard faltered on the final hole.
 
After dueling throughout the round, the tournament came down to the final hole and the final pairing. Lonard was tied with Els at minus-15 and overnight leader Nick Faldo was one stoke behind as he and Lonard teed off the final hole.
 
Lonard, who shot a 4-under 68, was unable to convert a 10-foot par putt at the last thus dropping him into a share of second place. Faldo, who had been tied for the lead through 12 holes, parred the final eight holes of the tournament to join Lonard in second place at 14-under 274.
 
The exciting final round dual included as many as six different players within one stroke of the lead during the round, after beginning the day with 16 golfers within four shots of the lead.
 
Els, who joins Michael Campbell as the only two men to win back-to-back Heineken Classic titles, began the day three shots behind Faldo. The two-time U.S. Open champion got off to a hot start with birdies on four of his first five holes to climb to 12-under. Els faltered at the sixth, his lone bogey of the day, to drop two shots off the pace.
 
The second-ranked player in the world parred his next two holes before back-to-back birdies beginning at the ninth got him to minus-13. Els was tied for second, one shot behind Faldo heading to the 13th after parring Nos. 11 and 12.
 
Els ran in a birdie putt at 13 to join Faldo and Lonard atop the leaderboard at 14-under.
 
'I think the shot that really made me believe I had a real chance to win was on the 13th,' said Els. 'It's a pretty tough par four and the flag was back left. I wasn't putting all that well and when I made the putt down the hill there, it gave me a bit of momentum going into that tough stretch of holes.'
 
Els notched his final birdie of the day at the 14th and took over first place by himself for the time being.
 
'I birdied 14, hitting a nice shot in there, and after that I could see I was in the lead,' Els said.
 
The 33-year-old parred in, including sinking a miraculous putt on 16, to finish at 15-under. Els also made a strong up-and-down from a bunker at the final hole to preserve his score.
 
Els, who seemed to be tiring after four tournaments in three different countries over the past four weeks, posted his third victory of the season. He previously won two PGA Tour events, the Mercedes Championship and the Sony Open in Hawaii. He also finished second last week at the Caltex Masters in Singapore.
 
'I guess it all started at the World Match Play in October,' said Els, who has won four of the last five tournaments in which he has played. 'I remember my very first match there I shot 60. That was quite nice. Then I kept it going. I had a good schedule, nice, easy schedule to the end of the year.'
 
Lonard started his day one shot behind Faldo. He posted birdies at Nos. 2, 4 and 5 to get to 12-under. He was still one behind Faldo at that point. However, the 1997 Ericsson Masters champion took the lead with a birdie on eight. Lonard followed that with another birdie at nine to make the turn at minus-14, one stroke ahead of Faldo and Els.
 
The 2001 ANZ Championship winner parred 10 and 11 to remain at 14-under, as Els and Faldo tied him for the lead. Lonard stretched his string of pars to four straight with pars at Nos. 12 and 13. At this point, Lonard had fallen one behind Els.
 
Lonard birdied 14 to move back into a share of the lead with Els. Lonard then parred 15 through 17. He faltered, with just his third bogey of the tournament, on the final hole to drop back to second place after finding the same bunker as Els did.
 
Faldo, who closed with a 3-under 69, started quickly with birdies on his first two holes, including his fourth birdie of the tournament at the par-5 second, to move to minus-13. He maintained a one stroke lead with pars on the next three holes.
 
The six-time major winner dropped into a share of the lead with a bogey at six. Faldo later fell one behind Lonard, when Lonard birdied the eighth.
 
Faldo climbed back into a tie for the lead with consecutive birdies beginning at the ninth. Faldo remained at 14-under as he parred the last eight holes he played, dropping as low as third place before finishing tied with Lonard in second.
 
Needing a birdie to tie the lead on the final hole, Faldo hit his second shot over the green and could only manage to get up-and-down for par.
 
Paul Casey (70), Stephen Gallacher (65) and Soren Kjeldsen (67), who were all within a shot of the lead at different points during the final round, finished tied for fourth at 12-under 276. They were joined there by Gary Evans (66) and David Lynn (69).
 
Peter Fowler and Bob Friend tied for ninth two shots further back at minus-10. Stephen Allan, John Bickerton and David Bransdon shared 11th place at 9-under.
 
Related Links
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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.