Season Starts with No Guarantees

By Associated PressJanuary 4, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are absent by choice. So many others are not at the season-opening Mercedes Championships because they failed to meet the toughest criteria on the PGA Tour.
 
This is for winners only.
 
Golf offers no guarantees, and there is no better reminder than to scan the list of results at Kapalua last year to see who didn't make it back.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is one of only eight players returning from the 2005 Mercedes field.
Ernie Els nearly won twice in Hawaii last year, but his season ended in July with surgery on his knee and no PGA Tour victories to his credit for the first time since 2001. Jonathan Kaye was on the verge of getting into a playoff at Kapalua until he muffed a chip on the final hole and finished second. He never came close to winning the rest of the year.
 
Mike Weir will have to wait two weeks to start his season. Zach Johnson, a promising rookie in 2004, went winless as a sophomore. Adam Scott won a tournament that didn't count. For all the fist pumps and theatrical moments for Chris DiMarco, none included posing with a trophy.
 
Of the 31 players in the field at Kapalua last year, only eight of them will be teeing it up Thursday on the Plantation course to start the new season. Throw in three guys who are taking this week off -- Woods, Mickelson and Retief Goosen -- and just more than one-third of the players were eligible.
 
'There were eight guys that played last year? That means 20 new guys? Wow,' said Brad Faxon, who is one of those 20 having won the Buick Championship for his first PGA Tour victory in four years. 'That just shows it's harder to win. And there are a few guys that aren't here that win a lot.'
 
There are 48 chances to get into the Mercedes Championships. Woods and Mickelson combined to take away 10 of those opportunities, including three of the majors. Vijay Singh won four times, and other multiple winners were Justin Leonard, Padraig Harrington, Kenny Perry and Bart Bryant, all of whom won twice.
 
If the veterans looks over their shoulder, they will find 12 players at Kapalua here for the first time. That list includes Sean O'Hair, a Q-school graduate a year ago, and Jason Gore, who went from nowhere to the final group of the U.S. Open and back to nowhere, until his meteoric rise to the big leagues.
 
Gore is new, but he gets it.
 
'I was a little worried when the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, going into a new year,' Gore said. 'That's what makes golf a great game. You're only as good as the last shot you hit. You move on from there, and hopefully get off to a good start this week, see what happens.'
 
The great thing about golf is that no one knows where it all will lead.
 
At this time a year ago, Woods had gone 15 months without a stroke-play victory and was a distant second to Singh in the world ranking. The hype was the Big Five -- Woods, Singh, Mickelson, Els and Goosen -- and who would emerge as the best player in golf.
 
By year end, Woods had six victories, two majors and an overwhelming margin at No. 1.
 
The new season gets under way at Thursday with the attention already shifting to several storylines for 2006, from the return to traditional major championship sites like Winged Foot (U.S. Open) and Medinah (PGA Championship), to who makes the Ryder Cup team, to whether Els can bounce back and the 42-year-old Singh can hang on.
 
The immediate question is whether Stuart Appleby can become the first player in 50 years to win this elite tournament three straight times. The only other player was Gene Littler, from 1955-57, when it was played at Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas and appropriately called the Tournament of Champions.
 
'I know what I have to do,' Appleby said. 'I know how to play, I know what sort of golf is required to win here. Having Phil and Tiger not here, Retief, is a good thing for me. Maybe they're a little scared.'
 
Despite his success, Appleby will have to get used to the new greens on the Plantation course, with grass that stands taller so it can be cut shorter. They are smoother than ever, and capable of being faster than ever, although they still have the severe breaks toward the island of Molokai on the horizon.
 
Among the injured are Faxon and Bryant, both coming off knee surgeries.
 
Faxon's was more severe, as he had torn ligaments in his left knee repaired in September. Faxon was supposed to be out until at least Pebble Beach, but when a player loves Kapalua like he does, and when he goes four years without winning, the motivation to return is a little stronger.
 
And he already is looking ahead.
 
'When you're here, you want to be here the next year,' Faxon said.
 
It all begins to unfold Thursday morning on a course perched atop the hills overlooking the Pacific, where it is not unusual to see humpback whales breeching below, sharing the blue waters with surfers.
 
The Mercedes Championship doesn't have Woods or Mickelson or Goosen -- in fact, only three of the top 10 in the world ranking are at Kapalua -- but it has 28 guys hungry to start the year off right, and guaranteeing a spot next year.
 
'This is where you want to start out,' said Mark Calcavecchia, back at Kapalua for the first time in four years. 'Everybody here won a tournament. That's a big thing nowadays.'
 
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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.