Notes: East Lake's last produces few gasps

By Doug FergusonSeptember 21, 2011, 10:02 pm

ATLANTA — The first year of The Tour Championship at East Lake offered great promise for dramatic theater on the par-3 18th. Hal Sutton saved par from a deep bunker to get into a playoff, then hit a 4-wood to 6 feet for a birdie to beat Vijay Singh.

That was in 1998.

And that was the last time a player won with a birdie on the closing hole at East Lake.

That's no surprise. The par 3 is 235 yards and plays slightly uphill, guarded by deep bunkers to the right. The green has a false front. Most players would be happy with par. Jim Furyk last year had a one-shot lead, found the right bunker and got up-and-down to capture the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

But it's not conducive to excitement.

In fact, most players would say it's harder to make a birdie 2 than a double-bogey 5.

'I've had some putts at 2,' Geoff Ogilvy said. 'But it's mostly 3s and 4s.'

Matt Kuchar, who played East Lake when he was at Georgia Tech, called it an 'interesting' hole, but maybe not a hole where anything can happen, such as the closing holes at the previous three playoff venues — a reachable par 4 at Plainfield, a par 5 at TPC Boston where Chris Stroud made eagle to advance, and even the long par 4 at Cog Hill with water hugging the left side of the green and bunkers right.

'It's fun when you have a finishing hole and you can make a birdie, make a bogey, where stuff can happen,' Kuchar said. 'It seems like you pretty much see pars and bogeys on the last hole. You don't see many 2s. And you see even less 5s.'

Dustin Johnson, who has to hit a 4-iron from the back of the 18th tee, was playing a practice round Tuesday when he wondered how the end of the Tour Championship might be different if officials switched the nine holes. The ninth at East Lake is a par 5 that can be reached in two with a big, and straight, tee shot.

'You've got guys who can reach the green, making eagles, or to come from one or two back to tie or win,' Johnson said. 'I think that definitely makes for a little more excitement.'

East Lake is among the few courses that finish with a par 3. Another one is at The Greenbrier, which was a wedge or a 9-iron. Scott Stallings made a birdie in regulation and in a playoff to win. It was exciting.

Then again, most people are used to the par-3 finish at East Lake.

'It's kind of become a signature hole, and I guess a birdie there would certainly look pretty cool,' Kuchar said. 'To finish with a 2 there is kind of a heroic effort.'

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: For the first time in three years, no one from outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup at the start of the playoffs reached the Tour Championship.

Kevin Streelman made it to East Lake last year after starting at No. 102. The year before, Heath Slocum was at No. 124 when he won the opening playoff event at The Barclays and assured himself a spot in the Tour Championship.

The highest seed at East Lake this year is Geoff Ogilvy, who started at No. 79.

Only seven players who started in the top 30 got bumped after three playoff events, the highest being Martin Laird at No. 17. He tied for 58th at The Barclays, tied for 74th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for 12th at the BMW Championship. He fell to No. 31.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel skipped the opening event, and it cost him. He wound up at No. 32. He hoped to follow Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, who won the FedEx Cup after not playing the first event. But they started much higher — Woods was No. 1 in 2007, while Furyk was No. 3 last year.

The others who fell out of the top 30 this year were Rory Sabbatini, D.A. Points, Rickie Fowler, Spencer Levin and Tommy Gainey. For Fowler, it was the second straight year he started the playoffs inside the top 30 and failed to get to the Tour Championship.

THE PARTY'S OVER: Matt Kuchar was the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup last year and never had a chance. He attributes that to missing too many fairways, although his wife came up with another plan for this year.

They won't be doing as much entertaining.

Kuchar used to live in Atlanta, had just sold his house and stayed with friends as he prepared to move to Sea Island. The trouble was having so many friends in town who wanted to catch up over dinner.

This year, don't bother calling.

'My wife has made me limit the off-course activities — getting together with friends, dinners, those sort of things, which has been tough to say 'no' to friends,' Kuchar said. 'This year, we're going to try to stay a lot more quiet. I love Atlanta, and I love being here. I've got so many great friends. But my wife said, 'You really owe it to yourself to make this as much of a regular tournament as you can, and to not just feel like you're entertaining all week.''

He was to attend a dinner hosted by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem on Wednesday night, 'and then I'm going to stay pretty quiet for the rest of the week.'

CHUBBY'S STABLE: Chubby Chandler's magnificent stable of golfers has one less star.

At the end of a weekly blog on his website, Ernie Els said he is leaving International Sports Management because he is living in South Florida and wants to consolidate his management to a new office.

Chandler's clients include major champions Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel, along with Lee Westwood, who was No. 1 in the world this year. Els joined him at London-based ISM in 2004.

'I feel like it's the right time to make this move,' Els said. 'After so many years based in the U.K. and traveling the world golf circuit since turning pro, it is nice to consolidate our activities in one place.'

Els thanked Chandler and the ISM team for their seven years together and said he was proud to be associated with 'one of the most talented stables in world golf.'

He did not say who would handle his management.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner

On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell

On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."