Bunker Shots Asian Invasion

By Randall MellOctober 26, 2010, 9:50 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Asia to Bubble Boy Mania.PGA Tour

PGA Tour

CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia

This inaugural tournament is billed as a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

What’s that mean? It does not mean the winner gets credit for an official PGA Tour victory or claims the two-year exemption that usually goes with official victories. And, thus, it does not mean money won will count as official money.

Mostly, it means the PGA Tour sees a benefit in partnering with the event, much the same way it sees the benefit in partnering with Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge, which also doesn’t carry official-victory or official-money status.

Mostly, in the new CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, the PGA Tour sees a future in Asia and wants another foot in the door to the Far East.

What kind of future?

“As far as I have heard, the Asia Pacific Classic is going to become a full-field event in the future, and will count towards the PGA Tour Money List,” Jeev Milkha Singh wrote in a story special to the Gulf News of the United Arab Emirates.

Whether that’s the reality remains to be seen as we all wait to see what kind of plans the PGA Tour has in the Far East. The event is followed a week later by the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

Bunker shot: Ernie Els spoke last week about how he’ll tailor down his international schedule next year, but he’s making the most of this year. Els is the second highest ranked player in this week’s 40-man field at No. 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking (only No. 8 Luke Donald ranks ahead of him). Els is also scheduled to play in next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions. Els, Donald, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Tim Clark and Rickie Fowler are among the draws this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Luke Donald. Contender – Adam Scott. Dark horse – Ben Crane.

Course: The Mines Resort & Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Purse: $6 million (winner’s share, $1 million).

TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Inaugural event.


LPGA Tour _new

LPGA Hana Bank Championship

Paula Creamer moved back into the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking this week off a fourth-place finish at the Masters GC Ladies on the Japan LPGA Tour last weekend. She’s among eight of the top 10 in the world rankings in this week’s field. No. 3 Ai Miyazato and No. 5 Yani Tseng are the only top-10 players who aren’t scheduled to play in the 54-hole event in South Korea.

Bunker shot: Cristie Kerr reclaimed the No. 1 ranking she so desperately wanted this week, but it won’t be easy holding on to the top spot down the home stretch of the season with so many players grouped so close at the top of the Rolex world rankings. No. 2 Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen have a chance to ascend to No. 1 with victories this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Na Yeon Choi. Contender – Song Hee Kim. Dark horse – Meena Lee.

Course: Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course, Incheon, South Korea. Par 72, 6,364 yards.

Purse: $1.8 million (winner’s share, $270,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Friday-Sunday, noon to 2 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Na Yeon Choi won, defeating Yani Tseng and Maria Hjorth by a shot.

Champions Tour

Champions Tour

AT&T Championship

Though the money list hovers as a major storyline this week, so does the golf course.

Oak Hills, a favorite venue among Champions Tour veterans, is in the final year of hosting the championship on the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course. The event’s moving next year to the AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio, ending Oak Hills’ 29-year run as home to a Tour event. This week’s event is the last before the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. The top 30 on the money list advance to next week’s season-ending event.

Bunker shot: Nobody ought to be sadder to see the event moving away from Oak Hills than John Cook, who won Champions Tour starts there in ’07 and ’08 and sports a 66.7 scoring average in nine rounds on the course.

Mell’s picks: Winner – John Cook. Contender – Bernhard Langer. Dark horse – Mark Wiebe.

Course: Oak Hills Country Club, San Antonio, Texas. Par 71, 6,670 yards.

Purse: $1.75 million (winner’s share, $255,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Friday-Sunday, 4:30-7 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Phil Blackmar claimed his first Champions Tour title, finishing a shot ahead of Jay Haas, Tom Kite and Andy Bean.


Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island

It’s choke or thrive time for the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit.

Twenty-nine tournaments come down to this pressure-packed finale.

The Nationwide Tour’s season-ending event offers up Q-School like pressure with players trying to finish among the top 25 on the money list and earn their promotions to the PGA Tour next year.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark sits atop the money list with Chris Nallen “on the bubble” at No. 25, but all 60 players in the field have mathematical chances to win PGA Tour cards. Players who finish 26th-40th in money are exempt into the final stage of Q-School in December.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Won Joon Lee. Contender – Kevin Chappell. Dark horse – Jeff Curl.

Course: Daniel Island Club’s Ralston Creek Course, Charleston, S.C. Par 72, 7,446 yards.

Purse: $1 million (winner’s share: $180,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Sunday, 2-4:30 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Matt Every won, finishing three shots ahead of Michael Sim.

Getty Images

Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open

Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

Getty Images

McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."