Olazabal Sprints to Victory in Hong Kong
The 35-year-old Spaniard set up his triumph with the shot of the week at Hong Kong Golf Club. After driving into the right rough at the 410-yard, par-4 18th hole, Olazbal knocked his 5-iron approach onto the front of the green and his ball rolled to within inches of the cup for a closing birdie.
'I didn't expect that last shot and you always need a bit of good luck,' said Olazbal, who posted his second straight 64 to finish atop the leaderboard at 22-under-par 262. 'I don't think I've won with three closing birdies and it was excellent. This is very special and it was fantastic to win as it was a tight finish.'
Norway's Bjornstad, 22, who fired a course-record 61 Saturday to take over the top spot, had a chance to force extra holes but missed a 20-foot birdie try at the last. He carded a 4-under 67 for 21-under and second place, the best finish of his career.
Playing in the final group with Olazbal and Bjornstad was 21-year-old Australian Adam Scott, who led after the first round and for much of the day Sunday. Scott was part of a three-way tie for the lead heading into the 72nd hole but his bunkered tee shot resulted in a bogey that left him alone in third at minus 20.
Bjornstad and Scott were tied at 21-under, two shots ahead of Olazbal, heading into the last three holes. But Olazbal, who may have won the tournament in a runaway had he putted better the first three days, drew alongside the leaders by draining birdies from 15 and 18 feet at the 16th and 17th, respectively.
Meanwhile, Bjornstad left his two long birdie attempts short and Scott just missed a pair of 30-footers.
Bjornstad seemed to have the advantage at 18 when he placed his drive in the middle of the fairway. Olazbal's tee shot cleared the right fairway bunker but stopped in the rough and Scott found the sand with his drive.
Scott then attempted to cut his ball around the water fronting the final green but his shot stayed left and finished in the rough just off the putting surface.
Olazbal went next and pulled off the shot perfectly.
'I had to punch it and didn't have much green to work with, but I had a good slice of luck,' he said. 'I executed the shot the way that I wanted. But I always say you need a bit of luck ... if it had pitched three feet more, that ball would have landed well past the pin.'
Bjornstad, whose approach to 18 left him two putts away from a closing par, later gave credit to the heroics Olazbal produced over the final few holes.
'Ollie finished great to win the tournament,' said the young Norwegian. 'He just came from behind and took it away from us.'
Scott, still searching for his second win after several near-misses since breaking through at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in January, agreed.
'When Ollie finishes three, three, three, there is nothing much you can do,' said Scott, who shot a final-round 67. 'He hit a great shot at the last.'
Olazbal was two shots off the pace at the start of the round and never led until his winning birdie. He matched birdies with Scott at the second and third holes to stay one behind the Aussie, but a bogey at the fifth dropped Olazbal two strokes back at 16-under.
Although birdies at the eighth, ninth and 12th lifted Olazbal to 19-under, Scott added three birdies of his own and Bjornstad came to life with five birdies over a six-hole stretch to share the lead at 21-under-par.
But while it turned out the young guns were done making birdies, the sage Spaniard was just warming up.
Olazbal earned the first prize of $113,000 to remain second behind Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden on the new season money list. He finished runner-up to Sandelin at last week's BMW Asian Open in Taiwan, the first event to count toward the 2002 European Tour Order of Merit.
England's Mark Foster, No. 1 in the 2001 Challenge Tour rankings, finished solo fourth at 19-under, one stroke ahead of Sweden's Carl Pettersson, who recorded his second top-five finish in as many weeks.
Swede Anders Forsbrand, Andrew Marshall of England and Welshman Mark Pilkington tied for sixth place at 17-under. Sandelin rounded out the top 10 at 16-under with second-round leader Yeh Wei-Tze of Taiwan and Englishmen Brian Davis and Simon Dyson. Dyson was the defending champion.
Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who finished second with Olazbal last week, claimed the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit crown after tying for 13th Sunday with England's Gary Evans and New Zealand's Michael Campbell.
The Hong Kong Open, which was co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Davidoff (Asian PGA) Tour for the first time, was the season-ending tournament on the 2001 Davidoff Tour.
Full-field scores from the Omega Hong Kong Open
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry