English tops Mickelson, Stallings in Memphis

By Associated PressJune 10, 2013, 12:16 am

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The support of a handful of old high school buddies, the calming influence of a veteran caddie and timely putting were exactly what Harris English needed to pull out his first PGA Tour victory.

English won the St. Jude Classic on Sunday, birdieing two of the final three holes to hold off Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings by two strokes.

''I had probably 10 high school friends out there today,'' English said. ''And I know that if I make a birdie or a bogey, they're probably going to be the same and they're rooting me on. I was just really relaxed out there today. Bogeyed eight and nine, which was tough. But I knew if I kept it together on the back nine, I could make a run at the thing.''


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The 23-year-old former Georgia star in his second year on Tour survived a final round where he had six birdies and five bogeys. He finished with a 1-under 69 for a 12-under 268 total to get the victory in the same state where he helped Baylor in Chattanooga win four Tennessee high school golf titles.

English said caddie Brian Smith also helped him refocus as he made the turn.

''I really didn't think I'd be in this seat right here coming off nine,'' English said. ''I thought I kind of made some really dumb bogeys on eight, nine and kind of shot myself out of the tournament. But Smitty was saying, 'Hey let's go beat this back nine. Let's get back under par for the tournament for the day, and let's get after it.' So it was almost pedal to the metal.''

English got four of his birdies on the back nine and saw on No. 14 that he was near the lead at 10 under. He made a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to tie Stallings for the lead, but Stallings bogeyed No. 18 to give English the lead to himself. English made a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 17, and overcame shaking hands as he two-putted No. 18 to pick up the winner's check of $1,026,000.

''It's quite an unbelievable feeling,'' English said.

Mickelson shot a 67, and Stallings had a 68. Mickelson said English finished strong and has been playing some great golf, but the four-time major winner got most of what he wanted after not playing the previous three weeks as he tuned up for the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

''I'm really encouraged with the way I hit my irons,'' Mickelson said. ''Got to get the 3-wood in play a little bit more, although next week at Merion distance won't be as critical as TPC Southwind. I'll be able to hit higher and softer shots.''

English became the fourth player to win the event in his first start since the tournament moved to TPC Southwind in 1989 and the second straight after Dustin Johnson a year ago.

The final round returned to normal Memphis weather with the temperature reaching the high 80s along with the wind blowing from the south at 10-15 mph as it usually does at Southwind.

English won the Southern Amateur in 2011 and was an amateur when he won on the Web.com Tour at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in July 2011. He moved to the PGA Tour in 2012 and finished 79th on the money list. Now he has his fourth top 10 this year and a precious invitation to the Masters for the Georgia native.

It looked as if Stallings, a two-time winner on Tour, would add his third win in three years when he took advantage of consecutive bogeys by English on Nos. 8 and 9 to go up by three strokes. Stallings was 12 under at the turn with four birdies on the front side. But he finished with a double bogey, a birdie and a bogey in his final four holes.

''You have to learn from the experiences that you have like this today and hopefully I'll get a little bit better break next time,'' Stallings said.

Shawn Stefani, a 31-year-old rookie from Texas, went into the final round with a one-stroke lead, but had a 76 to drop into a tie for seventh at 6 under.

English, playing with Stefani in the final group, rallied after his consecutive bogeys.

He birdied No. 10, rolling in a 14-footer from the fringe, and hit his tee shot within 5 feet on the par-3 11th for his second straight birdie and fourth of the round. His fifth bogey of the day, at No. 12, moved him back to 10 under.

Stallings went to 11 under with a birdie on the par-5 16th but missed his own birdie attempt from the same distance a couple feet away on the green, which cost him when English birdied No. 16 a few minutes later to tie him again atop the leaderboard. English then birdied No. 17 when he was just trying to get close.

''It went in dead center and gave me a lot of momentum going into 18,'' English said.

On No. 18, Stallings hit his tee shot way right between the fairway bunkers and the cart path and put his approach into the right rough 83 feet away. His chip just reached the edge of the green, leaving him nearly 40 feet to the hole. He ran it 5 feet past the hole for a bogey.

''Harris has played great coming down the stretch,'' Stallings said.

Mickelson birdied Nos. 13 and 16, but he just missed a 13-footer for birdie on the par-4 17th. He then went right at the hole on No. 18 from 151 yards and just missed, leaving a 2-foot birdie putt to tie Stallings at 10 under.

English then finished off the win and celebrated with a simple fist pump.

Notes: The others to win in their first trip to this event at TPC Southwind were Lee Westwood (2010) and Dicky Pride (1994). ... English is the 11th American to win this event since 2000 and the seventh to come from behind in the last eight years here. ... English is the eighth player in his 20s to win this year compared with 15 last year. ... Brad Fritsch finished the tournament in style, holing out from the 18th fairway from 177 yards out. That put him at even par and tied for 56th.

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes: