Gutschewski Gets First Win

By Sports NetworkOctober 5, 2003, 4:00 pm
Nationwide TourSEASIDE, Calif. -- Scott Gutschewski posted an even-par 72 Sunday to coast to his first career Nationwide Tour victory at the Monterey Peninsula Classic. He completed the event at with a tournament-record score of 12-under-par 276.
Michael Allen fired a 5-under 67 to climb into second place. He was joined at 8-under-par 280 by Rich Barcelo and Zach Johnson, at two-time winner this season.
Gutschewski set all sorts of scoring records en route to the title. He established new 54- and 72-hole scoring marks and became the first player in the four-year history of the event to reach double figures under par.
'I thought I could win out here,' said Gutschewski. 'You always think you can win and know you can win, but doing it is a whole different animal. There are no tricks to this golf course. It's right there in front of you. I don't know what it was, but me and the course got along pretty good this week.'
Gutschewski opened the day with a four-stroke lead and quickly extended that. He birdied each of the first two holes at the Seaside Resort & Spa's Bayonet Golf Course to climb to 14 under.
Prior to this year's tournament, no player had climbed higher than 8 under par. Kyle Thompson had reached 9 under on Friday, but dropped three shots over his next two holes and never was a factor the rest of the tournament.
Gutschewski meanwhile, settled down and actually began to look human. Leading by eight strokes, he bogeyed the fourth and fifth to drop back to minus-12.
He responded in fine fashion though as he birdied Nos. 6 and 7 to get back to 14 under. He reeled off six straight pars around the turn. He dropped a shot at the 14th and another at the 16th dropping his final margin to four strokes.
'I was looking at the board all day so I knew where I stood,' said Gutschewski, who with the victory earns a berth into the 2004 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am championship. 'You just never know what's going to happen. Every hole is a double bogey waiting to happen and you don't have to hit that bad a golf shot to do it.'
Gutschewski has used a sponsor's invitation to the Omaha Classic in early August as a catalyst for his outstanding play. He ran off five consecutive top-25 finishes, which gave him a spot in the following weeks' field. He has made seven of eight cuts. He also earned a special temporary membership on the Nationwide Tour with his strong play.
He climbed to 65th on the tour money list entering this event. Thanks to the $81,000 first place check, Gutschewski leaps to 23rd on the money list, nearly guaranteeing him his PGA Tour card for the 2004 season which goes to the top 20 finishers on the money list.
'The pressure wasn't as much today,' Gutschewski said. 'For five weeks in a row, every putt I hit was big. If I lip out one putt in those weeks that went in, I'm not event here today.'
Barcelo, playing in the final group with Gutschewski and Joe Ogilvie, mixed two bogeys and a birdie over his opening nine holes. Around the turn, he carded two birdies and a bogey to cap an even-par round of 72.
Allen ran off three straight birdies to open his round. He dropped a shot at the seventh, but came back around the turn to eagle the par-5 10th. He bogeyed the 12th, but closed with birdies on the 14th and 18th for a round of 5-under 67, one of just six rounds in the 60s during the final round.
Johnson, who won the Rheem Classic and the Envirocare Utah Classic earlier this season, birdied four holes on the front nine to get to 8 under. On the back nine, he posted a bogey and a birdie for a round of 4-under 68 and a share of second place.
Roland Thatcher, who was looking to become the first Nationwide Tour player to ever win the same event in back-to-back years, was never a factor. He finished at 5-over-par 293.
Related Links:
  • Monterey Peninsula Classic Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Monterey Peninsula Classic
  • Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.