The Highs and Lows from the Week in Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
 
Front 9 Hole 1
HOW SWEDE IT IS: While most everyone was focused on the Tiger Woods' PGA TOUR winning streak, Henrik Stenson put an end to another impressive run. Stenson defeated defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, 2 and 1, to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Swede handed the Aussie his first defeat in this tournament (Ogilvy is now 11-1) and won his first TOUR event in the process. Stenson not only moved up to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking to stake his claim as Europe's Best, but he also became just the second different European-born player (Darren Clarke, twice) to win a WGC event.
 
Nick O
Tiger Woods might want to think about using his putter as a weapon the next time he faces Nick O'Hern. (WireImage)
Hole 2
THE STREAK STOPS HERE: Nick OHern is the man who officially ended Woods TOUR winning streak at seven, defeating him in 20 holes in the third round of the Accenture. OHern is the first player since Woods turned professional 11 years ago to beat him twice heads-up in match play, also doing so in the second round in 2005. The end of the streak was not only good news for O'Hern, but also for the rest of the TOUR players who no longer have to answer questions about its impressiveness or validity.
 
Hole 3
A SILVER LINING: While Woods might be on a losing streak now; there is a ray of sunshine, because an early exit at the Accenture might mean a major title or two later on this season. Woods has twice won the Accenture, doing so in 2003 and 2004, but didnt capture a major championship in either of those two seasons. He has won at least one major every other year since the Match Plays inception in 99.
 
Hole 4
DON'T CHANGE THAT CHANNEL: Not to toot the company horn, but it was nice to see the entire Woods-OHern match Friday evening. GOLF CHANNEL stayed with the match until its conclusion in 20 holes, which was much better than watching a re-run of Walker, Texas Ranger.
 
Hole 5
AMES REVENGE: One year after getting demolished by Woods in the opening round of the Accenture, 9 and 8, Stephen Ames got his revenge by thumping Swede Robert Karlsson, 8 and 7. Ames, who had a career record of 0-2 at the Accenture, advanced to the fourth round this year.
 
Hole 6
MORE OF THE SAME: The Europeans own the Ryder Cup; apparently, they own the Americans in general. The Euros continued their dominance of U.S. players in match play, winning seven of the nine matches in which they faced one another at the Accenture.
 
Hole 7
OLD SCHOOL: Some have questioned why Fred Funk would want to play more on the PGA TOUR than on the Champions Tour this season. He gave his answer at the Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya. The 50-year-old, who is exempt on TOUR through 2010 due to his '05 Players Championship victory, won a playoff over Jose Coceres to become the fifth oldest TOUR winner. The $630,000 he collected in Mexico was nearly 400K more than he earned in his 11-stroke win last month at the Champions Tour's Turtle Bay Championship.
 
Hole 8
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: Mark OMeara didn't win this past week on the Champions Tour, but he did show fine form getting within one shot of the lead after each of the first two rounds, ultimately finishing tied for fifth. Having notable newcomers like O'Meara near the top of the leaderboard is just what the senior set needs.
 
Hole 9
READY FOR A RETURN: After being demoted to the Nationwide Tour thanks to a 180th-place finish on last year's PGA TOUR money list, Nicolas Thompson made a huge step in returning to the big leagues. Thompson, who only had conditional status on the secondary circuit to start the season, won the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship in a playoff to move to the top of the 2007 money list. He then hopped on a plane to head back to the States to try and Monday qualify for The Honda Classic. 'It's my hometown event,' he said. 'I have to be in that field!'
 
Back 9 Hole 10
WE FEEL YOUR PAIN:
Tiger's loss wasn't only deflating to him, as network executives had to be sad to see him exit so early. It didn't help matters that other top players packed their bags prematurely, which leads us to ...
 
Hole 11
SUPERSTARS?: By the end of the second round of the Accenture, eight of the top-10 players in the world had been shown the door. Adam Scott and Ernie Els even went so far as to head home after just one round, confirming the old adage, Anything can happen in match play. Stenson was the lone top-10 player to make it to the weekend.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els would love to see this event head to another site - outside the U.S. (WireImage)
Hole 12
PILING ON: Yes, we've already mentioned Els, but he deserves a hole all to his own. Els has won the European Tour's HSBC World Match Play, which is played on his home course at Wentworth, six times -- twice doing it three times in succession. But his record in the Accenture is now a dismal 6-8. A change in venue didn't help him, as he lost in the first round for the fourth time in seven appearances. He would prefer another change -- to somewhere outside the U.S. The only time Els has made it beyond the second round was in 2001, when the tournament was contested in Australia.
 
Hole 13
U-S-A! U-s-a. u-s: The Americans had a record-low 23 players in the 64-man field at the Accenture, where they had placed at least three players into the quarterfinals each year since the tournament began. Only one - Chad Campbell - made it that far this year. And for the first time in the nine-year history of the event, an American did not make it to the finals. Ouch!
 
Hole 14
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY: The LPGA Tour was playing the Fields Open in Hawaii at the Ko Olina Golf Club when monsoon like rains nearly washed out play during the second round. The Leeward Coast of Oahu averages just five inches of rain a year, but had almost half of that on Friday afternoon.
 
Hole 15
PARADISE LOST: Natalie Gulbis might be one who is glad to see the LPGA Tour leave Hawaii. In each of the two events in the Aloha State, Gulbis entered the final round within five strokes of the lead. But instead of making a closing push to earn her first tour title, she back-peddled, shooting 75 on each occasion.
 
Hole 16
FUZZY WUZZY WIKI: Fuzzy Zoeller filed a lawsuit seeking to find out who posted a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia. The posting claimed Zoeller had committed acts of alcohol, drug, and domestic abuse. The site has since removed the posting.
 
Hole 17
PAPERS, PLEASE: According to reports, Anthony Kim made a rookie mistake by losing his passport, forcing him to miss out on the PGA TOUR's Mayakoba Classic. The brash Kim, a chic pick for Rookie of the Year honors, tied for ninth at the Nissan Open and was guaranteed a spot in the field.
 
Hole 18
LOSS OF A FATHER: Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA TOUR, lost his father this past week. The Associated Press reported that Harold Finchem, 88, died peacefully in his sleep in Virginia Beach, Va.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya
  • Full Coverage - Fields Open in Hawaii
  • Full Coverage - ACE Group Classic
  • Full Coverage - HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship
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    Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

    Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

    Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

    Getty Images

    S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

    By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

    INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

    Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    ''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

    Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

    ''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

    Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

    Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

    ''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

    After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


    In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

    She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

    Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

    Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

    Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

    Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

    ''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

    Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

    Hataoka shot 69.

    Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

    And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

    Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

    Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

    ''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

    Getty Images

    Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

    Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

    It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

    And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

    Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



    DEVON BLING

    In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

    Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

    “It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

    The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

    “Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

    Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

    They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

    Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

    He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

    “I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



    VIKTOR HOVLAND

    Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

    It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

    “That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

    Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

    Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

    He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

    After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

    He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

    He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

    In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

    “I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

    He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



    COLE HAMMER

    The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

    Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

    “It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

    They all seem to be dropping recently.

    The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

    “I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



    ISAIAH SALINDA

    After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

    Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

    On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

    “He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

    Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

    Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

    He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

    Getty Images

    Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

    By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

    Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

    D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

    And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

    But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

    Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

    Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

    Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

    Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

    With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


    Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

    Current FedExCup points list


    “I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

    I'll get to rest.”

    Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

    Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

    Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.