Brilliance at the BMW

By Rex HoggardSeptember 14, 2009, 4:56 am
BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – Seems about right that the same weekend Michael Jordan was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame Tiger Woods would do his MJ thing at Cog Hill, sans the tongue waging and buzzer-beating histrionics.

Uproot that bronze statue of Jordan in front of the United Center, replace the basketball with a well-worn Scotty Cameron putter and rename Cog Hill the House that Woods built, with apologies to the Jemsek family that has toiled for generations to make the Southside staple something special.

Word is Cog Hill is angling for a U.S. Open and has early dibs on the golf portion of an Olympic itinerary if the Second City gets the IOC’s first nod. Following Woods’ Draconian weekend on the nip/tucked Dubsdread layout the world No. 1 is fine with both options. While they are at it, perhaps the powers could rotate a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and World Golf Championship through Cog Hill.

Babe Ruth built old Yankee Stadium by hitting dingers. Woods made Cog Hill his own by hitting fairways (41 of 56, T-15), greens (50 of 74, T-4) and every putt that mattered (106, T-2) over four cloudless days.

Chicagoland hasn’t been manhandled like this since the days of Al Capone, who was a Cog Hill regular back in his day.

Sunday’s final lap was a formality, made so by Woods’ scorching 62 on Saturday that gave him a touchdown head start entering the final turn. No one has ever blown a 54-hole lead of seven strokes or more, particularly if his name is Woods.

But Tour types are sticklers for 72-hole events, so off Woods went alongside Brandt Snedeker – who plays fast, talks fast and is fast finding his old form – and a Rugby 7s player, or so it seems when Marc Leishman takes a lash.

Truth be told neither Woods nor anyone else made things interesting as far as the BMW crown was concerned on Sunday. A bogey at No. 5, his first in 21 holes, did little more than mock those a half dozen strokes adrift and his messy birdie from a concession stand and the trees along the ninth fairway made it clear everyone else was playing for “B” flight honors.

A day earlier Woods put the metaphorical fork in the field at the ninth, carving his second shot from 303 yards to 10 feet for eagle. The next 101 strokes were little more than accounting.

“When I got to 10 I remember a few holes back Tiger was at 15 (under),” said Jim Furyk, who rallied with a final-round 66 to finish tied for second place with Leishman. “I started thinking, well, what if? What if he made another bogey? I asked my caddie where he stood and he said, ’17 (under).’ I just started laughing. I thought, back to the real world.”

Cog Hill officials weren’t laughing after Woods’ Saturday 62 likely sent Rees Jones back to the drawing board, U.S. Golf Association officials to another Chicago-area Open venue and Olympic officials to Tokyo or Rio. Gold medals don’t come easy, unless your name is Michael Phelps, and simply put Woods has made the game look easy at Cog Hill.

The well-hit putts that didn’t drop on Sunday at Hazeltine National, the drives that didn’t find the fairway at Liberty National all fell into place at Cog Hill. The result? An eight-stroke victory, Tour title No. 71, which places him two behind Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list, and both hands firmly on the Player of the Year trophy.

This was a Woods of a different sort, unencumbered by the constraints of either a balky putter or a slightly off driver and emboldened by a thorough understanding of his swing.

“The most important thing is that I know he is improving which is his main goal always,” Hank Haney said in an e-mail to Golf “It is exciting for me to see that when things aren't exactly right Tiger can fix himself. As he has said he is getting better all the time at that. He has a great understanding of what he is trying to do and how to do it.”

Following his BMW blowout it’s difficult to grasp the uncertainty of 12 months ago. Still recovering from ACL surgery, unsure of when he would be able to start chasing history again Cog Hill may as well have been the moon last fall.

“There was so many uncertainties at the beginning of the season. I didn't know how the leg was going to respond. I've never had a leg that was stable. I can't remember the last time I had a leg that was stable, that didn't hurt when I played,” said Woods, who finished at 19-under 265 total after a closing 68. “There was so many different things that I didn't know, and I hadn't played competitively since the (U.S.) Open. A lot of guys had played well, and I hadn't played at all. So there was a lot of uncertainty. To come back and be, as I said, this consistent feels pretty good.”

The answers came in a flourish on Saturday and transformed Sunday’s final turn into a surreal study of the mundane.

Not since Jean Van de Velde booted a British Open has the top of a leaderboard drawn so little interest, part a product of Woods’ dominance and part an element of new math.

Event: BMW ChampionshipA dozen players were vying for a spot in the Tour Championship while another half dozen were looking to slip into the coveted top 5 in points, and, as minutia goes, it was exciting stuff.

Luke Donald limped home with a 73 and watched the computer nervously while the final two groups closed out their rounds. “It’s insane,” Donald’s wife, Diane, sighed.

And Donald’s plight wasn’t even close to the day’s most insane.

For most of the day Brandt Snedeker was in, then he was out after needing four putts from 12 feet at the last. John Senden was out, then he was in, thanks to said four-putt. A bogey at the last would have earned Snedeker a trip to East Lake, instead he’s on furlough until Turning Stone.

“I just started thinking about the wrong things,” said an emotional Snedeker, who said he asked about his FedEx Cup status walking up the 18th hole. “I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do. It shouldn’t affect me. It shows how weak mentally I am.”

It was a measure of drama at an event that would have otherwise been devoid of any, yet ultimately the day belonged to Woods.

Only the world No. 1 could rescue golf from the ratings depths of the NFL’s opening weekend, and only the math club could transform East Lake from a formality into a fight, or “sprint” as Woods called it.

Without the points reset, which narrows the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 to 250 points and guarantees the FedEx Cup to any player that is in the top 5 that wins the Tour Championship, Woods would need only to remain upright and lucid to claim his second FedEx Cup.

But then given his Cog Hill performance it will take much more than creative math to keep Woods from winning the FedEx Cup. Thankfully for the other 29 hopefuls bound for Atlanta, they aren’t playing the Tour Championship at Cog Hill.
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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.