Players Get Rude Welcome to the PGA Tour Season

By Associated PressJanuary 9, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Justin Leonard took a quick shower and was headed to the airport for a flight home to Dallas when he saw David Toms at his locker and, in his own sarcastic way, wished him well at the next stop in Hawaii.
 
'I hear it's supposed to blow even harder next week,' Leonard said.
 
That was the last thing Toms needed to hear after getting kicked around in a PGA Tour season-opener that was played in paradise and felt, uh, much warmer.
 
It was only three years ago at the Mercedes Championships that players were begging for a challenge after Ernie Els set a PGA Tour record by winning at 31 under par in fast, calm conditions.
 
Now they're saying it's too hard.
 
The new greens on the Plantation Course at Kapalua were firmer and smoother than ever, so pure that PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle thought there was a chance someone could go lower than Els. Then it kept raining overnight, the fierce trade winds arrived, and a working vacation became all work.
 
'I think they've blown it,' Kenny Perry huffed after a 77 in the third round. 'It's a little unfair. Everyone has to play it, but I don't think it's golf, in my opinion. Who wants to shoot 75 or 76 when that's the average score? I tell you what, it's shot my confidence.'
 
Beauty -- and in this case, a beast of a course -- was in the eye of the beholder.
 
Stuart Appleby brought his best golf to the Mercedes Championships and walked away with his third straight trophy by breaking par all four days to finish at 8-under 284, then beating Vijay Singh on the first playoff hole. Singh finally kept mistakes off his card and closed with a 66, nine shots better than the average score.
 
But it raised questions how the PGA Tour season should begin.
 
With quick greens that demanded the utmost precision, and gusts up to 40 mph, it felt like a U.S. Open at times. Most of the players were rusty from their time off, whether that was two weeks or two months. Appleby was the first to concede that no one was at his best last week.
 
'I walked off the second green and told people they need to go watch football,' said Toms, who was one shot out of the lead going into the weekend until rounds of 79-75 left him in a tie for 13th. 'Obviously, some guys are playing good. But to see pros in the teens over par starting the season? That's not a lot of fun.'
 
But no one wanted to see a winners-only tournament turn into the Bob Hope Classic, where 65 means losing ground.
 
'I think it's great,' said Brad Faxon, who opened with an 82, closed with a 74 and tied for 23rd at 17 over. 'A lot of people thought this course was too easy. I would think Mercedes would be a competitive tournament, not a 30-under romp. If 2 or 3 under is leading, you can have a handful of guys who can win.'
 
Even par would have been good enough for seventh place this year.
 
Carlos Franco shot that a year ago and finished last.
 
'Somebody is always going to play good,' said Fred Funk, who whose best round was a 76. 'The guys that complain are guys like me who aren't playing well, or not scoring well. You feel like you're hitting good shots and not getting rewarded. Right now, I feel like I'm not a good player. I shouldn't feel that way.'
 
Brendle, who was in charge of setting up the golf course, has heard this all before.
 
He empathizes with the players, but only to a point. It was obvious why the scores were so high, starting with wind so strong that Jim Furyk had a hard time standing up over his tee shot. The best story belonged to Perry. While hitting a provisional shot on the 12th hole, the wind blew his ball off the tee during his downswing. Unable to stop, he did his best to make contact, and dumped that 100 yards into the weeds.
 
Thankfully, he found his original ball and made par.
 
The Plantation showed a rare quality of allowing 31 under when it's calm, 8 under when it blows.
 
With new greens, Brendle had several options for pin placements, but he didn't use many of them because of the wind and tough conditions. He kept the speed of the greens slightly slower.
 
'I don't think it had anything to do with the golf course,' he said. 'It had to do with the weather. When the wind blows, it shakes these guys up. Jason Gore played bad. Stuart Appleby played good. Happens every week.'
 
Still posted late Sunday night on the PGA Tour's web site was a teaser that said, 'How could you not be excited at the start of 2006?' Next to that was a picture of Funk, who was excited to be done.
 
'There's a lot of pride out here,' Funk said. 'You don't expect this golf course to play that hard. It used to be that if you weren't playing well, you could always make some birdies. I've made two birdies all week.'
 
He said that on Saturday. He birdied the last hole Sunday to make it three.
 
Vaughn Taylor doesn't have much to say, but he seemed to have the right answer after steady improvement at Kapalua -- rounds of 74-73-72-71 -- left him tied for fourth.
 
Should the first event of the year be kind and gentle, or a test of survival?
 
'Playing well is a good way to start the year,' Taylor said. 'Hopefully, this will sharpen me up a little bit.'
 
Perry was so flustered that he said he would consider not returning next year if he was eligible. Mark Calcavecchia thought that was a little severe. After all, they're in Hawaii being treated like royalty. Last place paid $70,000. Every player got a free room at the Ritz-Carlton.
 
'I don't think anybody was expecting this kind of battle the first week of the year,' Calcavecchia said. 'It's a lot of work. But it's a great place to be. I'd love to be back next year.'
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Mercedes Championships
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championship

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    Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


    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.''

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    Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the American Century Championship


    ''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.

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    Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

    By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players


    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.

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    Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

    By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


    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.