Notes Vijay Lefty Feud Jack at Masters
Not only did Mickelson beat him by two shots each day, he routinely hit his tee shots beyond Singh. On average, he was 6.1 yards longer than Singh in the first round, and 15.4 yards longer than Singh on Friday.
When Mickelson showed up Saturday morning, the PGA Tour asked to test his Callaway FT3 driver to make sure it was under the limit for springlike effect. The driver passed the test.
A person involved with the tour said Singh asked for the driver to be tested. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the test is supposed to be confidential.
At least Singh was playing with Mickelson.
A year ago, Tom Pernice asked for Tiger Woods' driver to be tested after watching on TV as Woods routinely blasted it by Mickelson in the final round of the Ford Championship at Doral.
Jack Nicklaus received his annual invitation to play in the Masters early last month, a tradition that for him began in 1959. But this was the earliest he said no.
'I received a letter of invitation in early January and have already declined,' Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus ended his incomparable run in the majors at the British Open last year, and the only reason for him to take his clubs to Augusta National this year is for the Par 3 Tournament.
There was speculation last week about Nicklaus' plans, considering this is the 20-year anniversary of winning his sixth green jacket at age 46. He was quoted at the Champions Skins Game as saying he hasn't made up his mind what he was going to do at the Masters and 'I hope I'm smart enough not to take my golf clubs.'
Nicklaus, however, is only going to Augusta National for the Champions Dinner on Tuesday and the Golf Writers Association of America dinner Wednesday. He will not be part of the competition.
In announcing a revamped schedule for 2007, the PGA Tour originally referred to events after the FedEx Cup as the 'Quest for the Card,' later changing it to the 'Fall Series.'
Perhaps another slogan it should consider is 'Go West, Young Man.'
Officials are closing in on deals that would bring two PGA Tour events to California in the fall of 2007. One tournament would be in Fresno at Running Horse Golf Club, which is being designed by Jack Nicklaus II and is scheduled to open this fall.
What makes it unique is that the charitable partner will be U.S. veterans. Running Horse spokesman Tim Ummel said a California Veterans Home is being built adjacent to the gated community, with U.S. and San Joaquin Valley veterans benefiting from the tournament.
'We'll honor a veteran every year, and we would like to tie this in to players with fathers or grandfathers who were veterans,' Ummel said.
Jack Nicklaus is helping his son with the course, and the Nicklaus clan was on site two weeks ago as plans for a PGA Tour event were coming together.
'Although the deal is not totally done, we like the way it's coming together,' PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said. 'And we like even more the potential for the event. We think the community support in Fresno and throughout the San Joaquin Valley is going to be absolutely tremendous.'
Ummel said Running Horse was negotiating with three potential title sponsors, and an announcement was expected next month at The Players Championship.
Also in the works is a tournament near San Jose, Calif., that would be sponsored by Fry's Electronics on a private course called The Institute, which is owned by Silicon Valley mogul John Fry. During the American Express Championship at Harding Park last October, a few players took part in an outing at The Institute. Fred Funk was said to have shot the lowest score (75) on a course that measured about 7,900 yards.
RORY ROARS BACK
Coming off his worst season since he was a PGA Tour rookie, Rory Sabbatini has made up ground quickly by sneaking into a couple of runner-up finishes. He shot 62 at Waialae and tied for second at the Sony Open, then closed with a 70 at Pebble Beach to finish second.
Now, the South African appears to be a shoo-in to get back to the Masters.
Sabbatini, who started the year at No. 71 in the world ranking, is all the way up to No. 33. He also is third on the money list with over $1.2 million. The top 50 in the world and top 10 on the money list after The Players Championship get into the Masters.
'It would be nice to get back,' Sabbatini said. 'I haven't had as much success there as I would like, but I think my mental game is ready for it now. I'm a lot more mature.'
Sabbatini has missed the cut the three previous times he has played Augusta National.
Loren Roberts has a chance to make Champions Tour history this week at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., where he will try to win the first three events of the year.
Only two other players have had that chance - Don January in 1981 and Larry Nelson in 2001, and both tied for eighth in the third tournament. Five other players have won three straight Champions Tour events, while Chi Chi Rodriguez holds the record by winning four straight times in 1987.
Rory Sabbatini has started doing his own yardage to help him slow his pace of play. ... Phil Mickelson's caddie, Jim 'Bones' Mackay, was a late arrival to Pebble Beach. His wife gave birth to their second child, Emma Elizabeth, last Monday. ... Former USGA president Fred Ridley is the 2006 recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award, the organization's highest honor.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Three players in the top 10 of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings were not even among the top 30 when the PGA Tour season began six weeks ago.
'I've had a lot of humbling experiences in my life.' - Former President Clinton, after playing golf with Tiger Woods. Clinton didn't say what he shot, only that Woods beat him by 25.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy
Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.
But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.
"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."
Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.
"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.
Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.
"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."
Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup
Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.
Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.
But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.
"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."
It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.
"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."
Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two
SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.
Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.
''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''
Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).
Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.
Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.
The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.
New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more
If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.
Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.
“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."
In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)
And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.
But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.
Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.
He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”
What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.
Who’s the best at their best?
In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.
It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.
But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.
And he’s far from done.
“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”