Els takes British as Scott collapses down stretch

By Doug FergusonJuly 22, 2012, 6:30 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Ernie Els felt something special could happen at the British Open, and it did.

All because of a collapse by Adam Scott that no one imagined.

Four shots ahead with four holes to play - after eight straight holes with nothing worse than par - Scott bogeyed them all and had to fight back tears on the 18th green Sunday as the magnitude of his meltdown began to sink in.

Els, who started the final round six shots behind, finished off a flawless back nine with a 15-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 68 that looked as if it would do little more than lock up another runner-up finish at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Instead, he wound up with his second British Open - the other one was 10 years ago at Muirfield - and fourth major championship at a stage in his career when it seemed as though his best golf was behind him.

''Amazing,'' Els said. ''I'm still numb. It still hasn't set in. It will probably take quite a few days because I haven't been in this position for 10 years, obviously. So it's just crazy, crazy, crazy getting here.''

The celebration was muted, unlike his other three majors.

''First of all, I feel for Adam Scott. He's a great friend of mine,'' Els said. ''Obviously, we both wanted to win very badly. But you know, that's the nature of the beast. That's why we're out here. You win, you lose. It was my time for some reason.''

The wind finally arrived off the Irish Sea and ushered in pure chaos - a mental blunder by Tiger Woods that led to triple bogey on the sixth hole, a lost ball by Brandt Snedeker that took him out of contention and a topped shot that made former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell look like an amateur.

Nothing was more stunning that what happened to Scott.

He failed to get up-and-down from a bunker on the 15th. With a wedge in his hand in the 16th fairway, he went 30 feet long and missed a 3-foot par putt. From the fairway on the 17th, he pulled his approach into thick grass left of the green. And on the final hole, he hit 3-wood to near the face of a pot bunker.

Scott still had a chance to force extra holes with a strong shot into 7 feet on the 18th for par. The putt stayed left the entire way. His chin buckled, and it looked as if he might start crying on the green. He composed himself and mouthed one word: ''Wow.''

''I had it in my hands with four to go,'' Scott said. ''I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes. Look, I played so beautifully for most of the week. I shouldn't let this bring me down.''

Even so, it added another chapter to Australian heartbreak, most of that belonging to his idol, Greg Norman.

Scott was the fourth Australian since the 2007 Masters to lead going into the final round of a major, yet the proud land Down Under remains without a major since Geoff Ogilvy won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 2006.

''Greg was my hero when I was a kid, and I thought he was a great role model, how he handled himself in victory and defeat,'' Scott said. ''He set a good example for us. It's tough. I can't justify anything that I've done out there. I didn't finish the tournament well today.

''But next time - I'm sure there will be a next time, and I can do a better job of it.''

Already in the World Golf Hall of Fame, the 42-year-old Els joined even more elite company. He became only the sixth player to win the U.S. Open and British Open twice. The others are Jack Nicklaus, Woods, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Lee Trevino.

Woods came undone on the sixth hole when he tried to blast out of a bunker from a plugged lie, stayed in the bunker, and three-putted for triple bogey. Still with an outside chance after a birdie on the 12th, he stuck with his conservative plan of hitting iron off the tee and made three straight bogeys. He closed with a 73 to tie for third with Brandt Snedeker, who also had his share of problems for a 74.

Woods had his best finish in a major since he lost to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship, though he remains winless in his last 17.

''It's part of golf,'' said Woods, who moves to No. 2 in the world. ''We all go through these phases. Some people, it lasts entire careers. Others are a little bit shorter. Even the greatest players to ever play have all gone through little stretches like this.''

Els finished at 7-under 273. He failed to qualify for the Masters this year for the first time in nearly two decades, but that won't be a problem now. His win gives him a five-year exemption into the majors.

Even in the closing ceremony, holding that precious claret jug for the second time, his thoughts immediately went to Scott.

''Sorry,'' he said, looking at the 32-year-old Australian, whose final bogey gave him a 75. ''You're a great player, a great friend of mine. I feel very fortunate. You're going to win many of these.''

It took Scott a decade just to get into position, and he let it slip away. It was the most shocking collapse at the British Open since Jean Van de Velde took a triple bogey on the final hole at Carnoustie and lost in a playoff. But this was different. It wasn't a last-minute blowup, more of a slow bleed, similar to Jason Dufner losing a five-shot lead to Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship last year, or Ed Sneed making bogey on the last three holes at the 1979 Masters.

''I know I let a really great chance slip through my fingers today,'' Scott said.

There was just enough wind to make the 206 bunkers at Royal Lytham look a little bit bigger. And as the gusts increased, a calm week turned chaotic.

It started with Woods on the sixth hole, his first triple bogey at a major championship since he lost his ball on the opening hole at Royal St. George's in 2003.

''One yard,'' he said to his caddie, a measure of the miss. It plugged near the steep wall of a pot bunker.

Instead of chipping to the middle of the bunker, Woods tried to get out with a ferocious swing. The ball smacked into the wall, nearly hit him and wound up near the left wall. He sat on the grass, his left knee (which has gone through four surgeries) flexed underneath him, his right leg extended as he dipped his upper body toward the sand to make a swing. This one also hit the ball, and caromed around and out to the right. From there, he three-putted for a 7.

''The game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it,'' Woods said. ''Unfortunately, it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me.''

Just like that, he was seven shots behind. It was the second time this year that one of golf's biggest stars made triple bogey in the final round of a major while in contention. Phil Mickelson made his on the fourth hole at the Masters and never recovered.

Neither did Woods.

Different from Augusta National, though, there was plenty of backpedaling at Lytham.

Right behind him, McDowell found the same bunker next to the wall - minus the plugged lie - and wisely chipped backward. He made bogey. Scott hit into a bunker on the other side of the green and made bogey. Ahead of them, Snedeker hit a tee shot on the par-5 seventh that was never found and made double bogey, and then compounded that by driving into a deep bunker on the next hole, blasting out and failing to reach the green for another double bogey.

McDowell's hopes ended on the back nine. From the fairway, he topped a 3-wood into the bushes and the ball was never found, and he did well to make bogey with the two-shot penalty.

Els made a bogey on the ninth to fall six shots behind. All that did was fire him up, and he came home in 32. His 68 is best measured in these terms - of the last 12 players who teed off in the final round, no one else had better than a 72.

Yet there was one more collapse, in the final hour, and it was the one everyone will remember from this British Open. It's one Scott will somehow have to forget. As winner and runner-up met in a portable trailer before going out to the trophy presentation, Els told him: ''Don't beat yourself up.''

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 20 to 30 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told PGATour.com that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five Web.com "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.