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Perseverance pays off for Nordqvist

By Randall MellSeptember 17, 2017, 6:12 pm

Mercifully, Anna Nordqvist ended the Evian Championship on Sunday, winning on the first playoff hole, fittingly with a bogey in a victory defined by all the adversity she has played through to get her second major championship title.

Nordqvist, however, didn’t quiet the controversy that promises to linger over how this championship was conducted from start to finish.

Nordqvist, 30, isn’t to blame for that.

The Swede, still enduring the effects of mononucleosis, was brilliant posting a 5-under-par 66 to get into a playoff with American Brittany Altomare, who was equally brilliant matching her 66. Nordqvist had to be more unflinching and undeterred than brilliant slogging through hard rain, wind and even hail in the playoff.

It wasn’t much more than a year ago that Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff to Brittany Lang when she was penalized after a super slow-motion replay was zoomed in to catch her clubhead grazing a few grains of sand in a fairway bunker. She was celebrated back then for the grace with which she handled that loss, and she will be celebrated today for the pure toughness she showed bouncing back to win this major.

“The last couple months have been tough,” said Nordqvist, who was diagnosed nine weeks ago with mononucleosis. “I hate to give up. My grandpa was always my biggest role model. He always used to tell me to never give up, and that’s what I never did today.”

That attitude was vital to her winning Sunday.

Evian Championship: Articles, video and photos

Full-field scores from the Evian Championship

The Evian Championship started controversially with the LPGA deciding to wipe out scores from an abbreviated first round suspended by wind and rain, and with the tour deciding at the same time to shorten the event to 54 holes, instead of waiting to see how much play they could get in on Friday and on the weekend.

“We feel like this was the right decision to have the cleanest, fairest, competitive round that's still going to finish on a Sunday, with somebody jumping on an airplane with a flag behind them,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.

The weather turned foul again Sunday as the playoff was beginning, too foul for a parachutist carrying the flag of the winning player’s country to jump to the 18th green at day’s end, as is the custom at Evian. The high winds and hard rain, however, didn’t halt the playoff. Even the hail that began to fall, and the large puddles that formed on the 18th green, didn’t halt play as Nordqvist and Altomare tried to hit their third shots to the green.

LPGA officials never intervened to halt play.

“I couldn't feel my hands on the last few shots in the playoff,” Nordqvist said.

What did she think about playing on?

“When it starts hailing, we're over the third shot, and they tell us to go, I guess we go,” Nordqvist said. “I feel like I'm pretty used to bad conditions, but that was probably some of the worst I've seen.”

The greens were squeegeed before both players chipped on to them. Altomare, ranked No. 102 in the world, ended up missing a 45-foot putt for bogey. Nordqvist, No. 13 in the world, made her 5-footer for bogey.

“Crazy,” Altomare said of the conditions. “No other way to describe it. It was really crazy.”

Nordqvist started the day making two bogeys over her first five holes, but she mounted a memorable charge. She made four birdies and two eagles over the next 11 holes before making bogey at the last.

“It’s been very testing, but I couldn’t be prouder,” Nordqvist said.


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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.