Woods falls to Rock in Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 29, 2012, 5:15 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Tiger Woods talked all week about his improved ball control – then it let him down when he needed it most.Woods resembled the Tiger of old over the first three rounds at the Abu Dhabi Championship, stringing together a trio of rounds below par before shooting an even-par 72 in Sunday’s finale to finish in a tie for third place behind winner Robert Rock and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.

The 117th-ranked Rock shot 70 for an overall 275 to beat McIlroy (69) by a shot. Woods was a shot further back with Thomas Bjorn (68) and Graeme Mcdowell (68). The 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero (69) and George Coetzee (70) of South Africa were another shot back.

“Today I just didn’t give myself enough looks at it,” Woods said. “Most of my putts were lag putts. I didn’t drive the ball in as many fairways as I should have … It was a day I was just a touch off the tee, and consequently, I couldn’t get the ball close enough.”

It marked the second straight time Woods hasn’t won with at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. He failed to win the Chevron World Challenge in 2010 after going into the final round with a four-shot lead over McDowell.

The 14-time major winner appears to have recovered from a two-year victory drought in which he was sidelined by injuries and personal turmoil. But Woods must now face the fact that, at age 36, there are plenty of players – known and unknown – who can potentially beat him.

Woods, though, was looking for the silver lining out of his third-place finish. He insisted he has been steadily improving – hitting a high percentage of fairways and greens until Sunday and putting much better.

“There’s plenty of big events to go, but I’m pleased at the progress I’ve made so far,” said Woods, who won the Chevron World Challenge last month to end his drought. “I just need to keep building, keep getting more consistent, and today was a day where I putted beautifully. Just didn’t give myself enough looks.”

Coming into Sunday, Woods was tied for the lead with the unheralded Rock and was the clear favorite to win. Rock had only one victory under his belt compared to 83 for Woods worldwide, but it was Rock – battling his nerves over playing alongside one of his golfing idols – who held it together down the stretch.

“It’s pretty hard to believe that I managed to win today. Very surprised,” the Englishman said. “I played good. So I guess I had a chance from early on; a couple of birdies made the day feel a little bit easier.”

“But it’s difficult playing with Tiger. You expect almost every shot to threaten to go in. I felt a lot of pressure and couldn’t afford any lapses in concentration at all.”

Woods started strong and it looked as though he might pull away from Rock, sinking a 40-footer on No. 2 for birdie and chipping to within a foot of the cup for a second birdie on the 3rd. But Rock didn’t blink, making birdie on two of the first three holes to keep pace.

Then Woods began to unravel.

He started spraying his drives into the thick rough and fairway bunkers, resulting in bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5. When Woods wasn’t missing the fairways, he was scrambling to save par as he did on 11 after overshooting the green. As he approached his shot in deep rough just off the 11th green, he sighed heavily and let out a stream of obscenities under his breath.

Woods managed to save par by sinking a 12-footer, and Rock just missed a birdie putt. Woods pumped his fist and appeared to be regaining momentum as he pulled within one shot of Rock on No. 13 when the Englishman had one of his three bogeys. But the 34-year-old Rock birdied two of the next three holes to regain control.

Rock wobbled on the 18th when his drive landed in a pile of rocks near the water – forcing him to take a drop – but he recovered beautifully, reaching the green in four and two-putting for the win.

“I was just focusing on trying to hit fairways and then hit my iron shots as good as I have been and give myself chances at birdies,” Rock said. “Both Tiger and Peter struggled on occasions on a few holes, and I managed to keep my ball in the right position and didn’t put myself under too much stress until the last, which was a relief.”

It was a storybook ending for Rock, who rose from a club pro to join the European Tour in 2003 and only got his first tour win last year at the Italian Open. The victory will elevate him into the top 60.

“It doesn’t get an awful lot harder than playing with Tiger Woods,” Rock said. “So I guess barring a major championship, I know I can handle that again. So that’s pretty nice to know.”

While most of the attention was on Rock and Woods, several players surged into contention down the stretch.

McIlroy, playing ahead of Rock and Woods, birdied No. 18 to move to 12 under and give himself a chance. But he came up short with four rounds of par or better golf being undone by several costly mistakes – the worst coming Friday when the third-ranked McIlroy was penalized two shots for brushing away sand in front of his ball in the rough on the 9th.

“You know, you’ve got to take the positives,” McIlroy said. “It’s the first week of the year, and you know, it looks like it’s going to be the second year in a row here that I’ll finish second. But still a very good start to the season and something I’ll build on.”

McDowell played the most exciting round of the tournament on Sunday, with an ace on No. 12, a chip-in on 13 and then a shot off the grandstand on the 18th that led to a birdie and a tie for third. For the 2010 U.S. Open champion, it was a good way to start the year after failing to win in 2011.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.