Hoey holds off McIlroy to win Dunhill Links

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2011, 4:37 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey resisted the challenge of illustrious compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to win the Dunhill Links Championship by two shots Sunday, continuing his country’s recent success story in world golf.

Hoey, ranked No. 271, saw his three-shot overnight lead vanish within six holes of the final round but regrouped well, birdieing three of the last four holes to close with a 4-under 68. His 22-under total broke the tournament record, set by Lee Westwood eight years ago, by one shot.

The third-ranked McIlroy’s closing 65 gave him second place – two shots clear of McDowell (69) and Scotland’s George Murray (67), who finished tied for third.

A third career title earned Hoey a winner’s check of $800,000, but it was the way he held off the advances of his fellow Ulstermen – the U.S. Open champions present and past – that pleased him most.

“They are major champions … they have been my inspirations,” said Hoey, who has struggled to fulfill his potential after winning the British Amateur title in 2001.

“It’s taken me a long time to kick on. My belief has been high and low but I got my consistency back this week … Winning the Dunhill Links, it doesn’t get much better.”

Hoey led, or held a share of the lead, after every round of this week’s prestigious pro-am played over three of Scotland’s best courses – St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

“My short game’s been the best it’s ever been this week,” said Hoey, who shot 66s in his first three rounds.

Hoey became the latest Northern Irishman to capture a big title, with McIlroy, McDowell and current British Open champion Darren Clarke having won majors over the last 15 months. This was the first-ever Northern Irish 1-2-3 at a European Tour event.

McIlroy, seeking a fourth career win and first since the U.S. Open in June, started the day five shots adrift of Hoey but holing a wedge for an eagle at the par-4 No. 3 helped him eat into his countryman’s advantage as the morning rain finally relented.

After six holes, McIlroy, McDowell and Hoey were all level on 18 under under overcast skies and McIlroy pulled a shot clear after making birdies at Nos. 7, 9 and 11.

By that stage, he was closing in on the course record of 63 he set at the British Open last year. But the 22-year-old McIlroy failed to pick up a shot in his final seven holes and was reeled back in by Hoey, his old playing partner in Belfast and someone he looked up to as a budding amateur.

“It’s good to see all us boys up there but I’m obviously disappointed it wasn’t me that’s lifting the trophy,” said McIlroy, who looked at home this week on the links, 2 1/2 months after becoming disillusioned with that style of golf at a wet and wild British Open at Royal St. George’s.

“But considering that I was 3 over after 11 holes in this tournament, I’ve come back and played some really good golf. I’ve still got a few tournaments left this year to try to get a win or two.”

The pace of play was snail-like, with Hoey, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen – playing in the final group – taking almost three hours to complete first nine holes.

“I struggled at the start but the pace of play actually helped me a bit,” Hoey said. “And Graeme was great to play with – he said ‘knock it in’ a few times on the greens.”

Like McIlroy, the 15th-ranked McDowell made only one birdie on the back nine, with a host of putts slipping by the cup, but still left St. Andrews happy after finding his form following a poor summer.

“Great things are ahead for me; I’m much happier with my game. But when a guy plays like Michael played down the stretch, you can’t have any complaints,” McDowell said. “No one lost the tournament today, Michael just played fantastic.”

Oosthuizen began the final round four shots off the lead but couldn’t recreate the glories of his British Open win at St. Andrews last year, a closing 69 leaving him tied for fifth on 17 under with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Scotland’s Marc Warren.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington (69) was a shot back, a stroke clear of top-ranked Luke Donald (70) and seven others.

Second-ranked Lee Westwood shot 73 and was 11 strokes behind Hoey on 10 under.

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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: