Notes: Clark making most of big break at N.C. State

By Doug FergusonJanuary 11, 2015, 9:54 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Tim Clark knows all about pressure, and not just when he's in contention at a golf tournament.

Clark has had a productive career as he enters his 14th season on the PGA Tour. His two victories include The Players Championship. His six international titles include the Australian Open and Scottish Open. He has played on three Presidents Cup teams.

And it all started with a tryout in the North Carolina snow.

For a South African who didn't have the pedigree of an Ernie Els or Retief Goosen, Clark never imagined how he could get to the toughest tour in golf. Travel was long and expensive. A chance to play college golf turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.

There was another South African playing at North Carolina State, and one year his father had come over to watch Simon Hobday in the U.S. Senior Open at Pinehurst. He spoke to Wolfpack golf coach Richard Sykes about Clark, who was approaching his 20th birthday.

''His dad spoke to the coach and said, 'Listen, there's a kid in South Africa who would really like to come and play on your team right now if you'd give him a chance,''' Clark said. ''So he called me up and said, 'You can come in the spring. If you play any good, you can stay. If you don't, sorry, your scholarship is gone.' And then I made first-team All-American in the spring.''

But it wasn't that easy.

Clark had only been to America once in his life. He came over in 1993 with Rory Sabbatini to play in the International Junior Masters (Sabbatini won). They headed over to Las Vegas for an AJGA and were asked to qualify (Clark was the only one who did). The Junior World at Torrey Pines was the next week, but Clark said South Africa was banned because of apartheid.

And then he went home, until North Carolina State gave him a chance - with a caveat.

''I left South Africa on Christmas Day because that's the cheapest flight,'' Clark said. ''We landed and it was snowing. And I was like, 'Wow, I'm not prepared for this.' I live in weather like this (Hawaii) all year round. Coach picked me up. He had never seen me play before and he took me to hit balls - straight off the plane, in the snow. He just wanted to see what he had.''

Clark apparently swung the club good enough. Along with getting off to an All-American start that spring, he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links the next year and played in the 1998 Masters. He turned pro later that year, spent two years on the Nationwide Tour, won twice in 2000 to the PGA Tour and was on his way.

''The biggest opportunity I had in my career was to go there and play,'' Clark said.

It's not an unusual path for international players. Colin Montgomerie went to Houston Baptist. Luke Donald went to Northwestern, earned a degree in art and won an NCAA title. Graeme McDowell played at Alabama-Birmingham.

Back then, it was rarer for South Africans given the distance and lack of attention unless young Springboks could make frequent trips to America.

''When we grew up, the PGA Tour was like an afterthought,'' Clark said. ''You never thought that was even a possibility. I was lucky to come over to college and have that opportunity. For most of us, that was so far-fetched. Financially, it's a big thing to come from South Africa to play Q-school. Guys can't afford it. For me, that was probably the biggest break I ever had in my career.''


MONDAY FINISH: The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the second PGA Tour event that ends on a Monday. The other is the Deutsche Bank Championship, which has ended on Labor Day since its inception in 2003 and it works beautifully with the Boston community.

As for Kapalua? The decision to switch to a Monday finish didn't make sense four years ago, and it doesn't make sense now.

For sure, the tour wants to get away from the NFL playoffs. But the NFL is not played on Sunday night - the second game ends about 8 p.m. EST - and that would be ideal for the frigid part of the mainland to watch the final round from Kapalua with scenic shots of surf and humpbacks.

Instead, it's only the third round. The final round Monday ends before the college championship game. But the guess here is that most fans aren't watching golf, they're watching the pre-game show.

Worse yet, it cuts into the following week at the Sony Open, a loyal sponsor that is not treated like one by giving it a shorter week.


CHANGING TIMES: When the Tournament of Champions first came to Kapalua in 1999, there were 13 major champions in the 30-man field. There are four major champions in the 34-man field this year.

Of course, some of those 13 major champions make 1999 seem a long time ago. The field included Tom Watson and Scott Simpson. The regular winners included Brandel Chamblee.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."