Mulling over the top performances of the year

By Doug FergusonOctober 25, 2011, 9:12 pm

The PGA Tour was going to send its postseason awards ballot to the players on Tuesday until realizing the World Golf Championship in Shanghai counts as official if a PGA Tour member wins.

So it will wait until after the HSBC Champions next week.

On a slow news day, this became a controversy, and in some corners a conspiracy against Luke Donald. Now players will have only a month, instead of six weeks, to decide which box to check. They might need longer than that to find someone who had a better year than Donald. If what Donald did at Disney was that special - and it was - then it won’t be forgotten.

Would it not have been worse if the Tour became aware of an oversight and chose to do nothing at all?

Of course, this could have been avoided if the PGA Tour treated the HSBC Champions like the other three WGC events. It’s still a “world” event, even though it’s not held in global communities such as Marana, Ariz., and Akron, Ohio.

Now that’s a controversy.

That also can wait. In the two weeks that players will be on pins and needles waiting for those PGA Tour ballots, here are some other awards worth mulling over.

BEST MAJOR:

It was the first time since 2003 that four players captured their first major, and all were compelling for reasons beyond that. Darren Clarke scores sentimental points, a popular champion whose best golf appeared to be behind him. Rory McIlroy represented the youth movement and smashed scoring records at the U.S. Open. The PGA Championship gets credit for being the only major to go overtime, but that only meant more TV commercials.

There simply was no topping Charl Schwartzel at Augusta National. Eight players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round, and the South African became the first Masters champion to birdie the last four holes. So spectacular was the finish that it overshadowed his 60-foot chip for birdie on No. 1 and holing out from the fairway for eagle on No. 3.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

This award typically goes to a player who returned from some sort of injury, or barring any candidates, a player who really stunk it up the year before.

In this case, the vote is for McIlroy.

The lasting image from The Masters is the 22-year-old burying his head in the crook of his arm when he finished four-putting the 12th hole from 12 feet on his way to blowing a four-shot lead with an 80 in the final round. Yes, he’s young and resilient. But to bounce back two months later and win the U.S. Open by eight shots with a record score was remarkable.

By the way, if Steve Stricker goes 5-0 at the Presidents Cup after sitting out nearly two months with a neck injury, does the PGA Tour put him back on the ballot?

SHOT OF THE YEAR:

The best shots come from the biggest moments, and it’s hard to argue with Bill Haas splashing out of the water from left of the 17th hole in a playoff at East Lake to save par and stay in the hunt for the $10 million FedEx Cup, which he won. It was a great shot. It was a greater moment. And because of the water level, it was a great break.

For a pure golf shot that not many saw? Go back to Honolulu at the start of the season, when Steve Marino needed an eagle on the last hole to tie for the lead. With his feet in the bunker and the ball chest-high on the side of a hill, Marino hit fairway metal from 234 yards that landed on the front of the green and stopped 40 feet away. He missed the putt.

Another consideration would be Stricker, tied for the lead at the John Deere Classic on the 18th hole, his feet pressed against the back of the bunker, the ball below his feet and water between him and the green. From 182 yards, he hit 6-iron just through the green and made the putt to win.

BIGGEST BREAKUP:

In a peculiar year, this gets plenty of candidates.

Start with Tiger Woods and Steve Williams, his caddie for 12 years and 13 majors. It started with Williams going to work for Adam Scott at the U.S. Open, featured a nasty departure a month later, and culminated with Williams’ television interview at Firestone calling it the “best win I’ve ever had.”

And then there was McIlroy’s abrupt departure from agent Chubby Chandler, a surprising turn of events after a summer filled with talk about the “Chubby Slam.”

The award, however, goes to Mark Steinberg and IMG.

Steinberg for so many years was seen primarily as Woods’ agent and known in some quarters as “Dr. No” for his propensity to rarely say “Yes.” However, he also was the head of the powerful IMG golf division and a major player when it came to creating new tournaments around the world and finding a spot for them on the schedule.

BEST PERFORMER:

Donald wins under any definition.

He turned in the best year, no matter what happens in Shanghai, with two wins, the most money and the lowest scoring average. If that’s not enough, his top 10 finishes - 14 of 19 - as the highest rate this side of Woods.

Under the circumstances, was there a better performance than his six straight birdies on the back nine at Disney?

Still, his best performance came in the high desert of Arizona at the Match Play Championship. Donald never trailed in any of his six matches. Even more incredible, he never played the 18th hole except in a practice round.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."