Notes Diaz Ends the Year Strong
Diaz was headed for her worst season in four years until a birdie-birdie finish in the Tournament of Champions moved her up to second place and earned her enough money to finish in the top 30 on the money list and qualify for the ADT Championship at Trump International.
'I really, really wanted to play this week,' Diaz said.
It was a small consolation for the 29-year-old Floridian once touted as a rising star in women's golf.
Diaz won twice in 2002 and finished seventh on the money list, but then injured her left ankle. She continued to play last year and qualified for her first Solheim Cup team, but surgery in December revealed four tears in the tendon and a torn ligament.
'When the doctor opened it up, he didn't know how I could play golf, let alone walk,' Diaz said.
Compounding problems, Diaz tried to return a month ahead of schedule to play in the first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She had only one top 10 the first half of the season.
The change started in July, when her regular caddie returned to the bag. Diaz tied for fourth at the Giant Eagle Classic, and had four top 10s over the final three months of the season, getting to No. 27 on the money list.
'I could end the season knowing I played my heart out,' Diaz said. 'I'm happy with my season, but I'm not happy with where I am on the money list. Unless you're No. 1, I don't think you can ever be satisfied.'
The 50-and-older Champions Tour will again feature 28 tournaments with at least $50 million in prize money.
The tour released its 2005 schedule Tuesday, and the only significant change is swapping out south Florida for Seattle. The tour could not find a title sponsor for the Key Biscayne event, which had been the first Champions Tour stop on the mainland.
The first three weeks will be in Hawaii, including the Skins Game at Wailea Resort during Super Bowl weekend. After a week off, the tour resumes in Naples, Fla. The only new tournament is the Greater Seattle Champions Classic, to be played Aug. 19-21 on the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge.
The Champions Tour will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.
The PGA Tour season is over, and Fred Couples is about to get busy.
Couples, also known as the 'king of the silly season,' is playing in the UBS Cup this week at Kiawah Island, followed by the Skins Game on Thanksgiving weekend against Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam and Adam Scott.
Couples is a four-time winner of the Skins Game, and could top $3 million in career earnings.
'I would hate to say I take it more seriously than PGA Tour events, but at the same time, I've been on tour for 24 years and this is my 11th one,' he said of the Skins Game. 'I look forward to them.'
Couples holds a share of the Skins Game record with nine birdies in 1999. He realizes not everyone likes the Skins Game, but there are few other places he'd rather be.
'I do know there are some guys who do not really care for the format because it's not to their liking, and I don't know why,' Couples said. 'Because for me, you're in Palm Springs in November on Thanksgiving, and everyone is watching, and it's a lot of fun to be out there.'
A world ranking system for women's golf is a little behind schedule and might not begin until the start of the 2006 season.
The rankings were announced in May and were to help determine teams for the World Cup, to be played in February at Fancourt in South Africa. Instead, the LPGA Tour will rely on the money list. Meg Mallon is the top American and can choose her own partner.
'We wanted to get it done right,' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'We think it will get rolled out in the middle of '05, but I think a realistic chance is '06.'
Q-SCHOOL PROGRESS REPORT
Garrett Willis became only the third player to win his first tournament as a PGA Tour member in the 2001 Tucson Open, and it's been all downhill since.
Willis finished out of the top 125 on the money list the next three years, and last week failed to advance out of the second stage of Q-school. He now must rely on his status as a past champion.
Others who failed to reach the final stage included former Masters champion Larry Mize and 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan.
The second stage will be wrapped up this week at four sites, with most of the focus at Black Horse on the Monterey Peninsula. Among those in the field are Bill Haas, former U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes and Casey Martin. Haas goes into the second stage having tied for fourth with his father, Jay Haas, at the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Hank Kuehne and Camilo Villegas have signed on with J. Lindeberg. The Swedish clothing designer said Villegas is one of the 'coolest' new golfers and reminded him of Marlon Brando. Exactly who gets to see Villegas in his new duds remains a mystery since he failed to get out of the second stage of Q-school. ... Greg Norman has signed an endorsement deal with MacGregor Golf. The Shark is expected to play around the world next year, perhaps even on the Champions Tour when he turns 50 on Feb. 10. ... The 2005 U.S. Open is a sellout for the 19th consecutive year. The USGA is offering additional practice round tickets for Monday and Tuesday (June 13-14) at $35.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Total prize money for the silly season is $23.5 million. Twenty years ago, total prize money on the PGA Tour was $21.3 million.
'If I told you I am going to win the U.S. Open next year, you will sit there and laugh. But if I said it 10 or 12 years ago, I would seriously mean it.' - Fred Couples.
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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'
WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.
It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.
Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.
''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''
The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.
It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.
''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.
''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''
A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.
The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.
''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''
Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.
''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.
''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''
Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.
Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.
''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''
Romo rallies to win American Century Championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.
''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''
Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.
Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''
Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.
Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.
Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.
The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.
Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.
Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.
Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.
Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.
He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.
His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.
The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.
His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.
McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.
He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.
Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship
Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.
The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.
The week was more than nostalgic.
It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.
In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.
“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”
Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.
“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”
Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.
The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.
“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”
Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.
“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”
She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.
“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.
At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.
With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.
This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.
“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”
Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.
“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.
In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.