Els No 1 in Ireland No 2 in the World

By Sports NetworkOctober 3, 2004, 4:00 pm
KILKENNY, Ireland -- Ernie Els overcame horrible weather conditions and a hard charge from Thomas Bjorn on Sunday to win the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, his first individual win in the series.
 
Els, who held both the second and third-round leads, posted a 3-under 69 to finish the tournament at 18-under-par 270. He defeated Bjorn, who shot a 68 on Sunday, by a single stroke at Mount Juliet Conrad.
 
This was Els' first victory on either the PGA Tour or European Tour, where he put a stranglehold on the top spot in the Order of Merit, since the Memorial in May.
 
He came so close in this season's major championships. Phil Mickelson holed the 18-footer to beat Els by a shot at the Masters, and then the South African lost a playoff to Todd Hamilton at the British Open. Els was two back on Sunday at the U.S. Open, but imploded with a final-round 80. Quietly, Els missed the playoff at the PGA Championship by one stroke.
 
Els may not have captured a major this season, but this World Golf Championships event boasts one of the strongest fields all year. The win moved Els past Tiger Woods into second on the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
'It's been a good summer but a tough summer, and this really caps it off for me,' said Els, who pocketed $1.2 million for the win. 'I've been chasing Tiger for the last five, six years, and now it seems like I've got to chase Vijay. I think the game is on, well and truly. Vijay has won eight times, I've won four times. So it's kind of interesting.'
 
Els picked up his third PGA Tour win this season and his 15th all time. On the European Tour, this was the Big Easy's second win in 2004 and the 17th of his career.
 
David Howell, who played in Sunday's final group with Els and Bjorn, only managed a 1-under 71, but took a solo third at 13-under-par 275.
 
Woods, the two-time defending champion, who also won in 1999, fought through serious back pain all week and netted a top-finish. He shot his third consecutive 2-under 70 to came in ninth at minus-10, but fell to third in the rankings for the first time in five years.
 
Woods has not won a stroke-play tournament since this event last year. He captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season, but now has gone a calendar year without a traditional win.
 
'So be it. Then I'll go into the next year,' said Woods, who skirted rumors he is getting married this week in Barbados. 'It was a long week. I'm happy to actually have played all four rounds. Somehow, I don't know how I did it, but I got a top-10 out of it.'
 
Light rain fell consistently on Sunday, the wind was up and temperatures fell. There was talk of a possible Monday finish because the forecast was so bad, but play was completed, albeit under difficult conditions.
 
Els, who held a two-shot lead heading into the final round, and Bjorn did their best from the first hole to make this a two-man race. Bjorn nearly holed his approach at the first and was assured a tap-in birdie. Els ran home a 20-foot birdie putt of his own and after Bjorn's formality, Els remained two ahead.
 
At the par-3 third, both players had 15 feet on opposite sides of the flag, and both made birdie. Bjorn, who served as one of European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer's assistant captains two weeks ago at Oakland Hills, birdied the fifth to get within one.
 
Els extended the margin back to two with a birdie at the par-5 10th, but Bjorn rebounded with a birdie at the par-3 11th. Bjorn dropped a shot at 14, but reclaimed the lost stroke with a birdie at 15 to hang one shot back.
 
At the par-5 17th, Bjorn reached the green in two, although 65 feet from the hole. His eagle putt ran 10 feet past the hole and he missed the birdie try. Els came up short with his second, but pitched to 6 feet for his third and rolled in the birdie putt to back up by two.
 
Els' approach landed in a greenside bunker at the difficult closing hole at Mount Juliet, but blasted out to 15 feet. Bjorn had a 40-foot look at birdie to keep the pressure on Els, but when he missed, Els two-putted for bogey and the win.
 
'Thomas kept me on my toes right to the last shot,' said Els. 'It was a very tough day, but right now I'm so happy.'
 
Despite not making it to the winner's circle, Bjorn has to be happy as well. He walked off the course the last time he played in Ireland, the European Open, in disgust about the status of his game.
 
'I'm disappointed, but obviously proud of what I've done this week,' said Bjorn. 'Thinking back on the last six or seven months, I mean, this is a massive improvement. I'm just happy with being in this situation.'
 
Darren Clarke holed out for eagle on the first hole en route to a 4-under 68. He shared fourth place with his Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia, who carded a 2-under 70 on Sunday. The duo finished at 12-under-par 276.
 
Local favorite Padraig Harrington posted a disappointing 1-over 73 in the final round, but tied for sixth with some good company. Reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (72) and this year's British Open winner Todd Hamilton (73) joined Harrington at minus-11.
 
Woods came in at minus-10, followed by Zach Johnson, who shot a final-round 71 to take 10th at 9-under-par 279.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - WGC-American Express Championship
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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.