Notes The End of Doral as They Know It
Billy Mayfair has played at Doral every year since he was a rookie in 1989.
Ive always loved this place, Mayfair said. Youre coming off California, where youre used to wearing sweaters and turtlenecks. You come here and its 90 degrees and perfect greens.
But as he finished the Ford Championship at Doral, Mayfair could only wonder if his tradition would continue.
Doral will be home to a World Golf Championship next year, a limited field for only the top 50 in the world ranking and leading money-winners from six tours around the world. There were only 69 players at Harding Park last year, including Warren Abery, Neil Cheetham and Jyoti Randhawa.
If I dont play well the rest of the year, I might not be here, said Mayfair, who is No. 78 in the world. That probably was the most disappointing thing I saw on next years schedule.
Its the first time a regular PGA Tour stop has been converted into an elite tournament with a small field. La Costa Resort near San Diego hosted the Mercedes Championships until it got the Match Play Championship in 1999, but the Mercedes (winners only) has an even smaller field.
The PGA Tour has been going to Doral since 1962. Only two other courses'Augusta National and Pebble Beach'have had the same tournament longer without interruption.
Two-time Doral winner Steve Elkington has come to the Blue Monster every year since 1988, and he remembers seeing all the champions on the wall'Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino.
I figured they played this course for a reason, and theyve played it well for a reason, Elkington said. Ive always like this tournament. I hope Im in the top 156 next year.
Elkington, who is No. 61 in the world, apparently confused it for a 156-man field in the late spring.
Isnt it top 156? Its top 50? he said.
He paused, then added, Theres not much we can do about it. I dont think theyll let you in a World Championship as a past champion.
Others who have never missed a year since 1989 are Bob Tway, Paul Azinger and John Huston. None are likely to be back next year unless they play well and get into the top 50 in the world or the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list.
I think its awful, Azinger said. You build a history, you build a tradition at a site, then change it all up. I think its a really sad day when an exempt player cant play at Doral.
HELP IS ON THE WAY
The Zurich Classic at New Orleans will be played in seven weeks, and help is on the way to the Big Easy. Steve Sarro, the superintendent at Vail Golf Club in Colorado, is leading a group of 30 golf course management professionals and students to help four golf courses recover from Hurricane Katrina.
They will be in the area all next week, working on bunkers, spraying herbicides and helping restore English Turn and three other courses'TPC of Louisiana, Audubon Golf Course and Brechtel Golf Course.
English Turn will host the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on April 27-30.
What is nice about this industry is we are used to helping each other out. We are all friends and want to help, Sarro said. Our peers have faced significant challenges. Labor is in short supply, so we saw this as a means to provide expertise in helping golf courses get back open.
Sarro said he was looking for a way to help, and figured manpower would be as effective as writing a check to the Red Cross. He is not sure how much they can do in one week having not seen the damage.
What we hope to accomplish is to instill hope in these guys, he said. We want to support them.
Tucson is regarded as merely an opposite field on the PGA Tour, only this year it turned into something a little more'a qualifier for a $5.5 million tournament at Doral.
The PGA Tour has a policy that anyone finishing in the top 10 is exempt for the following week as long as that tournament is not an invitational. So when six players not otherwise eligible for Doral finished in the top 10 at Tucson, Dorals tournament director was left scrambling.
We had five or six players that would have been in the tournament, but werent in the tournament, Eddie Carbone said. There seemed to be a lot more changes this year.
The start of the Florida swing usually is messy because players ranking out of Q-school and the Nationwide Tour are reshuffled depending on how they fared on the West Coast. Bubba Watson went from 38th to second in the pecking order, and would have gotten into Doral anyway.
The other top 10s from Tucson who got into Doral were Duffy Waldorf, David Branshaw, Cameron Beckman, Gabriel Hjertstedt, Charley Hoffman and Mark Wilson. Only two of them made the cut.
Thats a record for number of players coming out of one tournament into the next one, said Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour. Usually its one or two, if any. But given the makeup of the field in Tucson, and the way the tournament finished up, we had that large number.
Hunter Mahan slipped all the way to fourth alternate, no chance of playing. He spent the rest of the week on the range when everyone else was on the course.
Ive never had this issue before, Mahan said. I was boarding a plane in Tucson and they told me I was going to be fourth alternate. It was a little odd.
Camilo Villegas, 24, was the youngest player to finish second to Tiger Woods since 19-year-old Sergio Garcia at the 99 PGA Championship. ... If anyone questions the support in Charlotte, consider ticket sales for the Wachovia Championship'a sellout on the first day for Saturday tickets, a sellout on the second day for Friday tickets, and a sellout the first week for Sunday tickets.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods has a larger lead over Vijay Singh in the world ranking than Annika Sorenstam has over Michelle Wie in the womens world ranking.
Its just a fancy name for a $10 million event.'Steve Elkington on the World Golf Championships.
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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.