Twenty-One Legal on PGA Tour

By Sports NetworkOctober 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Nationwide Tour ChampionshipPRATTVILLE, Ala. -- David Branshaw eagled the 17th hole on Sunday to move past Eric Axley and capture the Nationwide Tour Championship. Branshaw shot a final-round, 1-under 71 and finished at 12-under-par 276 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill.
 
The win was Branshaw's second on the Nationwide Tour after taking the Gila River Classic at Wild Horse Pass Resort in 2002. His win on Sunday meant more than adding another trophy to the mantle. The $117,000 first-place check vaulted him up the money list and into the top-21 on the final Nationwide Tour money list. That got him his 2006 PGA Tour card.
 
Troy Matteson
Troy Matteson talks with The Golf Channel's Jerry Foltz after setting the single season money record on the Nationwide Tour.
'It hasn't sunk in yet. It's nice,' acknowledged Branshaw. 'I felt like I got a little better this past year. I want to learn what I did wrong, and try and make myself better for the next go around up there.'
 
The week was not a total loss for Axley. His final-round, 3-under 69 gave him second place by himself at 10-under-par 278 and that check moves him into the top-21.
 
'I don't know what it means, but I know we're going to have fun next year,' said Axley, who opened with a 77 on Thursday and was tied for 55th in the 60-player field. 'It's hard to put it into words right now.'
 
Jerry Smith posted a 3-under 69 and came in third at minus-8. Peter Tomasulo carded a 2-under 70 for a solo fourth at 7-under-par 281.
 
Branshaw rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt at the 10th to move four ahead. From there, it was a combination of Branshaw mistakes and solid play from Axley that nearly swung the tournament.
 
Branshaw three-putted the 12th for a bogey, then drained a 15-footer to save par at 13. Branshaw landed in the left rough off the tee at 14 and never recovered. He bogeyed the hole and Axley birdied the same to cut the lead to two.
 
At the 15th, Branshaw missed a 7-foot par save and Axley sank a 6-footer for birdie. In the span of two holes, the pair was knotted in the lead at 10 under par.
 
Both players had great looks at birdie on 16, but only Branshaw missed his from 5 feet. Axley made his from the same distance and now, with two to play, Axley was one ahead.
 
The par-5 17th became the critical hole. Axley's second barely got over water and settled in the rough short of the green. Branshaw knocked his second inside 2 feet to all but guarantee an eagle. Axley hit a terrible chip that almost went sideways. His fourth rolled to 10 feet, but Axley missed the putt for a bogey. Branshaw kicked in his short eagle putt to complete a three-shot swing and take a two-shot lead.
 
Branshaw holed a 6-footer at the last to win the event by two.
 
'Eric birdied three in a row and I had three three-putts in a row,' said Branshaw. 'I hit the shot of my life on 17 and he got a really bad break there.'
 
Steven Bowditch only managed a 1-over 73 on Sunday, but took fifth place at minus-6. Mathew Goggin posted a 3-under 69 and came in sixth at 5-under-par 283.
 
Charley Hoffman began the week in the difficult 20th spot on the money list, but protected it through the tournament. He shot a 2-under 70 to tie for seventh with Bubba Dickerson (73) and Ryan Armour (74) at 2-under-par 286.
 
Troy Matteson broke Zach Johnson's two-year record for most money earned in a single season. He finished the year with $495,009, which broke the mark by $127.
 
Matteson headlines the group of 21 that will move on the PGA Tour in 2006.
 
Jason Gore, who already made the PGA Tour thanks to his three wins this year on the Nationwide Tour, finished second on the money list. Following were: Chris Couch, Bowditch, Jon Mills, Smith, Branshaw, Shane Bertsch, Goggin, Kris Cox, David McKenzie, Roger Tambellini, Camilo Villegas, Greg Chalmers, Jason Schultz, Axley, Vance Veazey, Nathan Green, Hoffman, Jeff Gove and Bubba Watson.
 
Related Links:
  • Final Money List
  • Leaderboard - Nationwide Tour Championship
  • Full Coverage - Nationwide Tour Championship
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.