Aussie Wins Title on Futures Tour
Or maybe it was the steely nerves and gentle demeanor that enabled smooth-swinging rookie Sarah-Jane Kenyon of Queensland, Australia to secure her first professional victory at the $65,000 Tampa Bay Futures Golf Classic. Kenyon held a two-shot lead coming into the final hole and added a birdie from 10 feet as if to put a stamp on the start of her pro career at East Lake Woodlands Golf & Country Club.
Her final-round score of 69 on the South Course and 6-under-par total of 210 gave her a three-stroke cushion over runners-up Lori Atsedes (2-under 70) of Ithaca, N.Y., and Becky Iverson (even-par 72) of Gladstone, Mich., who tied at 213 (-3) in the 54-hole event.
'I've been hitting it well for a long time, but I made heaps of putts that were ridiculous this week,' said Kenyon, 20, still too young to rent a car. With her victory, she became the second Tour rookie to win in as many weeks.
Kenyon appeared calm after the victory, almost as if winning was something she expected to do and to do this early in her pro career. But it was the oversize replica champion's check that seemed to capture her imagination the most.
'I've always wanted that big check,' admitted Kenyon, who was more interested in the replica than her actual winner's paycheck for $9,100. Riding in a small car back to Orlando with fellow Australian Tamara Johns, one can imagine how Kenyon's giant check must have figured into every conversation along the congested Interstate-4 corridor.
But the young player already has become pretty savvy about navigating her way around obstacles. She held off her nerves in the Lakeland season opener to finish tied for 18th. And at this week's event, in spite of limited practice time on a golf course that received five inches of rain in three days, she posted rounds of 73-68-69 to make the veterans take note.
'She hit the ball fantastic and was down the middle every time,' said Iverson, a veteran LPGA Tour player and LPGA winner. 'She's a very good young player and she made a ton of putts today.'
'Kids don't know what fear is,' added Atsedes, who also has played on the LPGA Tour and has won five Futures Tour titles. 'They have no reason to doubt and no reason to fear anything out there.'
It was, in fact, the veteran players who doubted themselves on Sunday. Iverson hit 15 greens, but carded 33 putts in today's final round, which she entered tied for the lead with Kenyon.
'I hit the ball well enough to win, but you can't win a tournament with 33 putts,' said Iverson, adding that she had seven putts within 12 feet that she missed for birdie. For the day, she posted one birdie and one bogey.
Normally a solid ball striker, Atsedes second-guessed herself all day with her full swing and recorded 26 putts for the second consecutive day.
'I'm not at all pleased with my long game,' said Atsedes, who recorded four birdies and two bogeys, with birdies on two of her last three holes. 'I've only had two rounds in my entire career where I had 26 putts, and they both came this week. It's just strange.'
Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea, who finished as runner-up at this tournament in 2004, made a late charge, firing a 3-under-par 69 to finish solo fourth at 214 (-2).
Rookie pro Mollie Fankhauser of Columbus, Ohio, also carded a 69 in today's final round for a share of fifth place with Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea, Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Naree Song of Seoul, Dana Lacey of North Beach, W. Australia, Cristina Baena of Pereira, Colombia and Kristy McPherson of Conway, S.C. That pack of players tied at 1-under-par 215.
But Kenyon, an only child and daughter of a golf course greenskeeper, bested the field of 144 players this week. With a list of Australian amateur accolades, she came to America this year with the goal of making every tournament cut and finishing among the Tour's top five money winners by season's end to earn her exempt LPGA Tour status for 2006. Three years ago, when she sustained a badly broken left hand in a car crash, the talented Aussie wondered if any of her golf dreams would come true.
Today, one of them did. Still with three metal screws securing the bones in her left hand, Kenyon played fearless, youthful golf with a calm sense of belonging. Her only regret was that her parents could not be in Florida to see her win.
'It's Monday morning at home,' she said. 'They probably know by now.'
Kenyon showed her first sign of queasiness as she sat in a golf cart talking to media following her win. She held on to her giant check with one hand and patted her face with the other.
'I feel crook -- you know, sick,' she said, accepting a bottle of water. 'I don't know what's wrong with me.'
To be sure, this time, it wasn't the Aussie burger.
Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.
''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''
The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.
''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''
Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.
''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''
Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162
The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.
McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year
ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.
Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.
Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.
“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.
McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.
“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”
Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist
ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.
After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.
He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.
“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.
Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.
“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”
Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead
ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.
Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.
Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.
“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”
Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.
“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.