Kuchar Wins in Three-Hole Playoff

By Sports NetworkMay 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Henrico County OpenGLEN ALLEN, Va. -- Matt Kuchar two-putted for birdie on the third playoff hole Sunday to defeat Paul Claxton and win the Henrico County Open.
 
Kuchar closed with an even-par 72, while Claxton fired a 3-under 69 to end at 9-under-par 279.
 
'I didn't pay attention to where I stood, but boy this was exciting,' said Kuchar, who collected $81,000 for the win. 'It was great to be back in this position. It's been a while and it feels sweet again. It's bittersweet to beat a friend, but a win's a win. Paul played great.'
 
The pair returned to the par-5 18th for the first extra hole. Kuchar and Claxton both two-putted for birdie from over 65 feet out.
 
They moved to the tough par-3 ninth for the second playoff hole. Kuchar, who birdied the hole in regulation, dropped his tee ball 12 feet from the cup. Claxton's tee shot came to rest 2 feet closer to the hole.
 
Kuchar missed his birdie putt on the low side and tapped in for par. Claxton's birdie effort slid over the left edge and it was back to the 18th at The Dominion Club.
 
Both players found the right rough off the tee at the par-5. Claxton knocked his second just over the back edge of the green. Kuchar's approach just cleared the water fronting the green and came to rest within 12 feet of the hole.
 
With the pressure on, Claxton hit his chip thin and ran it through the green. He pitched his fourth to 2 feet.
 
Kuchar closed things out. He rolled his eagle effort just right of the cup, but calmly kicked in the birdie try for his first tour win. Kuchar also owns one victory on the PGA TOUR.
 
'It was a cut 7-iron off the bank and it rolled right around the cup. Just like I planned it,' joked Kuchar of his approach on the third extra hole.
 
Jason Caron closed with a 2-under 70 to end in third place at 8-under- par 280.
 
Third-round leader Jeff Burns struggled to a 6-over 78 to share fourth at minus-6. He ended alongside Steve Wheatcroft (72), Charlie Wi (72), Erik Compton (76), Bradley Hughes (69) and Andrew Pratt (72).
 
Kuchar birdied the second to get to 10 under, but gave that stroke right back with a bogey on three. He dropped another stroke on eight.
 
The 27-year-old atoned for that error with a 5-foot birdie putt on the ninth to get back to minus-9. He shared the lead at that point with Peter Tomasulo.
 
Kuchar bogeyed the 17th after missing the green, but drained a 25-footer for birdie on 18 to join Claxton at minus-9.
 
Claxton moved to 8 under with birdies on two and six. He gave a stroke back to par with a bogey at the eighth. The 2001 Louisiana Open winner birdied the 13th to move to minus-8 and closed with a birdie on 18 to end at 9 under.
 
Tomasulo was at 9 under through eight holes after two bogeys and one birdie in that span. However, he carded a birdie, two bogeys and two double-bogeys the rest of the way to tumble down the leaderboard.
 
Burns, who was looking for his first tour win, posted three bogeys on each nine to fall to minus-5.
 
Tomasulo, Steve Marino and Fran Quinn shared 10th at 4-under-par 284.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Henrico County Open
  • Full Coverage - Henrico County Open
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • 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.