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
  • Getty Images

    Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

    By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

    DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

    Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

    He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

    Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

    With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

    “She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

    Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

    That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

    “I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

    Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

    “He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

    Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

    The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

    “I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

    Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

    “It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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    Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

    By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

    DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

    Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

    “Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

    “It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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    Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

    By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

    DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

    Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

    Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    “I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

    Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

    Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

    “I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.

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    Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

    By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

    On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

    Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Marc Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

    What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through the 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

    Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

    Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

    Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

    Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

    Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise