Am Tour: Playoff needed to decide competitive Jones flight; Snead flight a runaway

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 22, 2015, 11:04 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – It didn't take long for a spectacular finish at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship at PGA West, where six flights will crown national Champions.

Michael Baker, from Corona, Calif., held off Jayr Tonido, from Clarskston, Ga., in a one-hole playoff on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West to win a highly contested Jones flight (handicaps 16.0-19.9).

After entering the day in the final pairing and one shot off the lead, Baker played a steady final round. On the 18th green, he had a three-foot bogey putt to clinch the win.

"The arms were a little shaky," said Baker, who missed the putt and wound up in a playoff with Tonido.

Each player had just a few minutes to regroup before heading to the par-4 1st hole of the Nicklaus course for a sudden death playoff. Both players hit good drives, but Tonido missed the green and had a tough pitch back on.

After Tonido missed his par putt, Baker had this look at birdie to clinch the victory:

"This is the top," said Baker. "This is right up there except for my kids being born.

"It's not going to get any better than this."

Baker joined Am Tour this year at the suggestion of his brother Bryan Baker, a three-time Nationals qualifier who plays on the Chicago local tour, also competing in the Jones flight at this week's Nationals. Michael and Bryan lost their mother last year, and made a point to make this year's National Championship a family affair. Michael brought his wife along and Bryan brought his wife and kids and they rented a house to be together all week.

"This meant a lot to me," said Baker. "I wanted to do this for her."

Runaway champion in the Snead flight

Heading into the final round, there wasn't much doubt as to who would win the Snead flight (20-plus handicaps). Rick Burton, from Seymour, Ind., entered the day with a 15-shot lead and cruised to a 16-shot victory of Rodney Harrison from Decatur, Ga.

Burton, 52, had the opportunity to compete in the Senior Nationals, which begins on Friday, but decided to compete this week instead in order to play with his son John, as well as some other friends on tour.

Turns out, it may have been a blessing playing with the younger and wilder Snead-flight golfers.

"The older guys, we try and advance it down the middle," said Burton. "And we do alright.

"I was playing with a couple guys who hit it 60 yards farther."

The result was a runaway victory, but it turned out to be a bittersweet one. His son John Burton, 21, was also in contention in the Sarazen flight until yesterday.

As John walked off the 18th hole after a 76, he was in an apparent tie with Vijay Jain for the lead. But shortly after turning in their cards, Burton realized his score on the 18th hole had been written down wrong on the scorecard by his scorer -- a five instead of a six.

He promptly reported the error, unsolicited, and it resulted a disqualification and forfeiting the opportunity to play in the final group in Round 4.

"I was proud of him for turning himself in," said his father Rick. "I wish he didn't have to learn so early at such a crucial time."

John will never know if he could have prevailed in the Sarazen flight to make it a father-son sweep, but Rick leaves nationals with a trophy for the family and great pride in his son's honesty.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

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Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

“We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”