Kraft Wins Inaugural Puerto Rico Open

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- Greg Kraft struggled to explain the emotions that followed his first official PGA TOUR victory when a simple thought came to him.
 
I wish I could describe how I feel, Kraft said. Maybe justice.
 
Perhaps, given Krafts career of near misses, lost chances and overlooked success, thats indeed the most appropriate.
 
Kraft held on for a one-shot victory at the inaugural Puerto Rico Open on Sunday. He finished at 14-under to hold off Bo Van Pelt (72), who led after the first three days, and Jerry Kelly (70), the highest-rated player to compete at Trump International Golf Club.
 
All the work, rookie year, 91, 92, all the way to now. Ups and downs, I had chances to win through the years, Kraft reflected.
 
Even Krafts one win on tour before now, the Deposit Guaranty Classic in 1993, a second-tier event played opposite the Masters.
 
Back then, the younger Kraft figured he deserved the win because it was my time.
 
Fifteen years has a way of changing ones perspective.
 
I enjoyed it, dont get me wrong, but it doesnt even compare to the way I feel now, he said.
 
The worlds best were again elsewhere for Krafts latest success, playing Dorals Blue Monster in the World Golf Championships CA Championships.
 
This time, though, therell be no asterisks.
 
Kraft earned $630,000'more than hes made on the PGA TOUR combined since 2003'and has secured playing privileges through 2010. He had played only two other PGA Tour events this season, his best finish before now a tie for 19th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, which also came the week of a WGC tournament.
 
The win brings Kraft flexibility. Since hell no longer worry about chasing tournament opportunities, hell work on conditioning to regain playing shape.
 
I dont have to play the Nationwide Tour to get my card back. Thats no fun, go out there and starve, he said.
 
Its been a long road back to the top for Kraft, who turns 44 in April.
 
Kraft had closed in on the tours top 50 money winners a decade ago and looked to be entering the prime of his career. However, he contracted an illness, Valley fever, during the 2002 Tucson Open. The disease is caused by a fungus that get stirred up in soil and attacks the lungs.
 
Kraft suddenly was losing strength and didnt know what was wrong. Doctors had trouble diagnosing the malady, even telling Kraft he had cancer. He underwent painful chemotherapy and had a section of a lung removed.
 
The problems led Kraft to sue the PGA TOUR and the resort that hosted the tournament. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, Kraft said.
 
Gradually, Kraft found his strength. This week in Puerto Rico, he rediscovered his championship game.
 
That crystal trophy that Ill lug home, he said. Ill look at that every day.
 
No one was steadier than Kraft. He went 29 straight holes without a bogey on the weekend until a meaningless mistake on the 72nd hole.
 
Kraft began Sunday a shot behind Van Pelt, who led after each of first three days here.
 
Early on, Van Pelt seemingly locked down his own first tour win with a stunning eagle-3 on the fifth hole to grab a two-shot lead.
 
Still, Kraft stayed close with a birdie on No. 5. His chance came soon enough as Van Pelt had consecutive bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes to fall into a three-way tie for first with the back nine to go.
 
Kraft and Van Pelt had matching birdies on the 12th to stay tied at 14 under. Two holes later, Kraft moved in front for good after Van Pelts bogey.
 
Van Pelt felt confident and figured his eagle'he amazingly hooked a low-liner around some palm trees on the par-5 fifth to land 12 feet away'was the jump start he needed.
 
Instead, the 32-year-old will have to wait for his first tour win.
 
It was frustrating because I knew how good I played all week, Van Pelt said.
 
Briny Baird was part of that three-way tie for first. But Baird followed with four straight bogeys to fall from contention. He rallied back within a shot of Kraft after a stretch of three birdies in four holes, but that was as close as Baird could get.
 
Baird blamed his putter, missing makable par putts on all four holes. I was looking for a rock to hide under, Baird said.
 
It probably wouldnt have mattered since Kraft wasnt about to bobble this one away. He cemented things with a birdie on the par-4 17th to open a three-shot cushion.
 
Divots
 
Puerto Ricos lone native golfer in the field Sunday, Miguel Suarez, finished 1-over par and tied for 61st. Van Pelt was trying to become the first first-time winner to go wire-to-wire since K.J. Choi won the Tampa Bay Classic in 2002. Organizers were pleased with the weeks turnout, considering the event coincided with Holy Week ceremonies on this highly religious island. Chairman Sidney Wolf says next years tournament is expected to come earlier on the PGA TOUR schedule.
 
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    Mickelson: 'Not my finest moment ... 'I'm sorry'

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 2:41 pm

    Days after his putter swipe ignited a controversy that threatened to overshadow the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson offered an apology.

    Mickelson received a two-shot penalty for purposely hitting his ball while it was still in motion on the 13th green during the third round at Shinnecock Hills. In the eyes of the USGA, his actions fell short of a disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules, and the 48-year-old ultimately matched his age with a T-48 finish after returning to play the final round.

    Mickelson declined to speak to reporters after a Sunday 66, but Wednesday he sent a note to a select group of media members that included Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte in which the five-time major champ offered some contrition.

    “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend,” Mickelson wrote. “I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

    Mickelson’s actions drew ire from both media members and his fellow competitors, with members of both groups implying that his actions merited disqualification. His most recent remarks seem to indicate that the decision to run up and stop his ball from tumbling back across the 13th green was more of an impulse than the calculated use of the rule book he described after the third round at Shinnecock.

    “It’s certainly not meant (to show disrespect). It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best you can,” Mickelson said Saturday. “In that situation I was just, I was just going back and forth. I’ll gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

    Mickelson is not in the field this week at the Travelers Championship and is expected to make his next start in two weeks at The Greenbrier.

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    Hubert Green, Hall of Famer, dies at 71

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Hubert Green, a World Golf Hall of Famer who won 19 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 U.S. Open and 1985 PGA Championship, died Tuesday from complications following a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He was 71.

    A remarkably consistent player, Green used his distinctive swing to finish in the top 25 in a third of the PGA Tour events he entered. He also played on three Ryder Cup teams (1977, 1979, and 1985) and was undefeated in singles play.

    A native of Birmingham, Ala., Green graduated from Florida State University in 1968. While at FSU, he won the Cape Coral Intercollegiate tournament by eight strokes and the Miami Invitational, the nation’s largest collegiate tournament, by five strokes. He turned pro in 1969, earned his Tour card in 1970 and was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 1971.

    Green's first PGA Tour win was the 1971 Houston Champions International, in which he beat Don January in a playoff. Between 1973 and 1976 he won 10 more times, including a three-week stretch in 1976 when he won at Doral, Jacksonville and Hilton Head.

    Green won the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., despite being informed of a death threat against him that had been anonymously telephoned to the course. He received the news after putting out on the 14th hole of the final round. He decided to keep playing, and wound up winning  by one stroke over Lou Graham.

    A seldom-remembered fact about Green: he finished third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in their 1977 "Duel in the Sun" Open Championship at Turnberry. He was 11 strokes behind winner Watson.

    Green won his second major championship in 1985, taking the PGA Championship at Cherry Hills. By a margin of two strokes, he denied Lee Trevino's bid to win back-to-back PGAs. It would be Green's last win on the PGA Tour. Afterward, Trevino praised his opponent, saying “He’s a great sand player and probably the best chipper we’ve got. Every time he got into trouble, he chipped it close to the hole.”

    Green joined what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions in 1997 and went on to win four times, the first win coming in 1998 in his hometown of Birmingham.

    Green was also involved in golf course design, including courses such as TPC Southwind,  Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.; and Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham.

    Green was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer in 2003. Treated with chemotherapy and radiation, he continued playing golf. In 2005, he was named the Champions Tour's Comeback Player of the Year. He also received the Ben Hogan Award at the Masters that year. In 2007 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Green is also remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Over the years he participated in hundreds of charity tournaments and community fund-raising events that supported a wide range of causes including childhood cancer, united cerebral palsy, and other illnesses.

    Green is survived by his wife Becky Blair, of Birmingham; three sons, Hubert Myatt Green Jr. of Hurricane, Utah; Patrick Myatt Green; and James Thomas Green (Adrienne) of Panama City, Fla.; sisters Melinda Green Powers and Carolyn Green Satterfield and brother Maurice O. V. Green, all of Birmingham, step-sons Richard O’Brien of New Orleans and Atticus O’Brien of Dallas, Texas, and several grandchildren.

    A memorial service is being planned at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, and details are pending. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Highlands United Methodist Church Community Ministry or to a charity of your choice.

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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    Hailed as a hero to some and as golf royalty to others, Peter Thomson, a five-time winner of The Open and the only player in the 20th century to win the championship for three straight years, died Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members, Golf Australia said.

    The first Australian to win The Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

    The Australian's wins came in 1954, '55, '56, again in 1958 and lastly in 1965 against a field that included Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

    Only Harry Vardon, with six titles between 1896 and 1914, won more.

    Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 U.S. Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship.

    In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

    Asked by The Associated Press in 2011 how he'd like to be remembered, Thomson replied: ''A guy who always said what he thought.''

    Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb was among the first to tweet her condolences, saying she was ''saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game .... so honored to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter.''

    Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Thomson was ''a champion in every sense of the word, both on the course and in life.''

    ''Many know him as a five-time champion golfer of the year or as a three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team.'' Finchem added. ''But he was also a great friend, father, grandfather and husband. He was golfing royalty, and our sport is a better one because of his presence.''



    Former golfer and now broadcaster Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, called Thomson his ''hero'' - ''Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence and valuable guidance over the years.''

    From Britain, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers praised Thomson's plans for the game's future.

    ''Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf,'' Slumbers said. ''He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open.''

    Born in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick on Aug. 23, 1929, Thomson was a promising cricketer. He scored an unbeaten 150 runs for the Carlton club against a men's side as a 15-year-old.

    But golf became his passion, and he turned professional in 1947.

    He won the national championships of 10 countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times and Australian Open three times. He first played on the PGA Tour in the U.S. in 1953 and 1954, finishing 44th and 25th on the money list, respectively. He won the Texas International in 1956.

    Thomson won nine times on the Senior PGA tour in the U.S. in 1985, topping the money list. His last tournament victory came at the 1988 British PGA Seniors Championship, the same year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Overall, he won 26 European Tour events, 34 times on the Australasian PGA tour and 11 on the seniors tour in the U.S, as well as once in Japan.

    In later years, Thomson wrote articles for many publications and daily newspapers, was club professional at Royal Melbourne and designed more than 100 golf courses. In the 2011 Presidents Cup program, Thomson provided an insightful hole-by-hole analysis of the composite course at Royal Melbourne.

    Thomson was always reluctant to compare his wins with anyone else's.

    ''All records are qualified in that they were made at a certain time in history,'' Thomson told golf historian and author Brendan Moloney for a story on his 80th birthday.

    ''The circumstances change so much, and so do the players' attitudes. In golf, only in the last 30 years or so has there been a professional attitude to playing for money. The professionals in the USA and Britain and anywhere else all had club jobs as a backstop to their income.

    ''When they did play and make records, you have to understand that they were taking time off from the pro shop,'' he said. ''So the records that were set were pretty remarkable.''

    Thomson always had stories to tell, and told them well. With a full head of hair and a lineless face that belied his age, the Australian wasn't afraid to let everyone know his feelings on any subject.

    That was true as far back as 1966. As president of the Australian PGA, Thomson was indignant that Arnold Palmer's prize for winning the Australian Open was only $1,600, out of a total purse of $6,000, one of the smallest in golf.

    ''Golf Stars Play for Peanuts,'' blared the headline of a story he wrote. ''Never before has such a field of top golfers played for what $6,000 is worth today. Canada offers 19 times that. I know 19 other countries who give more.''

    But he was always happy on the golf course.

    ''I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it,'' Thomson said. ''I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.''

    Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.