Tour Comes Calling to Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach has a history of disastrous weather. Two of the last three contests have been shortened to 54 holes due to the elements, while the 1996 event was cancelled altogether.
Last year's tournament included a spectacular Monday finish. Tiger Woods overcame a seven-shot deficit with seven holes to play to better Matt Gogel and Vijay Singh by two shots. The win was Tiger's sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory, dating back to 1999.
Woods went on to win for a second time in 2000 at the famed layout, doing so in record fashion at the U.S. Open. Tiger completed the third-leg of the career Grand Slam by posting an unfathomable 15-stroke triumph at 12-under-par.
Tiger comes into this year's tournament without a win in 2001. In fact, Woods hasn't won a PGA Tour event in his last five starts.
Woods, who tied for fifth last week, will face strong competition in trying to become the first person since Mark O'Meara in 1990 to successfully defend his title. Phoenix Open winner Mark Calcavecchia, David Duval, Sergio Garcia, Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton and Singh are among those scheduled to compete.
'I love the (Monterey) peninsula,' Woods said. 'I can hardly wait to get there.'
The purse is $4 Million, with the winner earning $720,000.
Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday
Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.
European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.
Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.
Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.
Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.
Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.
Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time
In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.
In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.
On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.
“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”
Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.
It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.
“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.
As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.
Garcia wins rain-shortened Valderrama Masters
SOTOGRANDE, Spain -- Sergio Garcia won his third Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Monday, finishing the rain-shortened European Tour event four shots ahead of Shane Lowry.
Garcia shot a 2-under 69 for a 12-under 201 total in the 54-hole tournament at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain. Lowry shot a 66 in the final round.
Garcia, the tournament host, had a three-shot lead before the turn when stormy conditions suspended play on Sunday. He had three birdies and a bogey when play resumed on Monday, enough to add to his Valderrama titles in 2011 and 2017.
''It's amazing to be able to win here at Valderrama three times. It's a dream come true,'' the Spaniard said. ''This golf course is so challenging and for me to be able to go out there in the conditions we played in all week and shoot three rounds under par means a lot. I'm very proud of that and really excited about the week.''
Lowry was as close as one shot off the lead after a round that included seven birdies. His title chances ended with a double bogey at the par-3 15th hole.
''Obviously Shane was playing well, he got close to me, then unfortunately he doubled 15 and that gave me a little bit of an extra gap, with his double and my birdie on 14 opening it to four, and we kept it there until the end so that was nice,'' Garcia said.
Lee Westwood (70) finished tied for fifth.
Tournament officials reduced the event to 54 holes on Saturday after bad weather had forced several delays.
It was the 15th European Tour win for Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion.
Paul Azinger Joins NBC Sports Group, Succeeding Johnny Miller as Lead Golf Analyst
Azinger Will Be Lead Golf Analyst on Golf Channel and NBC Tournament Coverage, Contribute to Golf Central’s Live From the Masters,
Golf Channel’s Instructional Platforms and Future Golf Films Projects
Paul Azinger will become NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst in 2019, following Johnny Miller’s retirement at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (Jan. 31-Feb. 3). The announcement was made by Molly Solomon, executive vice president, content, Golf Channel.
“For nearly three decades fans tuning into NBC Sports’ golf coverage have been accustomed to a lead analyst that told it like it was, and that mantra will continue with Paul Azinger calling the action from our 18th tower,” Solomon said. “Following Johnny Miller is a tall order. However, we’re confident in Paul’s ability to serve our viewers with candor and sharp insight, pulling from his decorated professional golf career and extensive broadcast experience.”
“I have great admiration for both the quality of NBC Sports’ coverage and commitment to great storytelling, as well as the network’s deep commitment to the game I love,” Azinger said. “It is a great honor to cover a tremendous slate of PGA TOUR and marquee events, including THE PLAYERS, The Open, Ryder Cup and Tokyo Olympics. Additional opportunities to contribute to instructional and historical projects, as well as Golf Channel’s top-notch news platforms, makes this the role of a lifetime.”
“Paul is one of the most perceptive minds in golf,” said Tommy Roy, lead golf producer, NBC Sports. “His innate ability to dissect the action in front of him and convey it to the viewer in such a concise, assured manner is what we value most across our tournament broadcast team.”
Additionally, Azinger will contribute to Golf Channel’s portfolio of platforms, ranging from Golf Central’s Live From the Masters alongside former colleague Mike Tirico; develop instructional content for both on-air and via Revolution Golf; and develop documentary projects for Golf Channel’s Emmy-nominated and critically-acclaimed Golf Films.
Azinger’s NBC Sports schedule in 2019, which will regularly include all four days of tournament coverage on Golf Channel and NBC, will kick off at the WGC-Mexico Championship (Feb. 21-24). NBC Sports will allow Azinger to continue to call The Masters for the BBC, as well as the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on FOX.
Paul Azinger Bio:
After playing for Florida State University, Azinger’s professional career highlights include 17 worldwide wins, including 12 PGA TOUR wins and the 1993 PGA Championship, as well as captaining the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Following his breakthrough major championship victory at the PGA Championship at Inverness, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After battling the disease for months with intensive chemotherapy and radiation, he was able to return to golf and received the Golf Writer’s Association of America Ben Hogan Award in 1995, which recognizes a professional golfer who remains active in the sport despite serious illness or physical handicap. Azinger’s comeback was fully realized in 2000, when at the age of forty, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii.
From 2006-2015 he served as the lead golf analyst for ABC and subsequently ESPN. In 2016, he joined Fox Sports' team for its slate of USGA Championships. Paul enjoys many hobbies off the course, including an affinity for poker and foosball, as well as maintaining a consistent schedule of all types of fishing. Azinger and his wife Toni reside in Bradenton, Fla., near their daughters Josie (son-in-law Sebastian) and Sarah Jean (son-in-law Tim). They are proud grandparents of Campbell and Houston.