Olazabal Sprints to Victory in Hong Kong

By Sports NetworkDecember 2, 2001, 5:00 pm
Jos Maria Olazbal birdied the final three holes Sunday to win the Omega Hong Kong Open by one stroke over third-round leader Henrik Bjornstad. Olazbal, a two-time Masters winner, captured the 20th title of his European Tour career.
 
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
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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.