Birthday Boy Els Wins Record Sixth

By Sports NetworkOctober 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 HBSC World Match Play ChampionshipSURREY, England -- Ernie Els birdied the 35th hole Sunday, on his 35th birthday, to earn a 2-and-1 win over Lee Westwood in the final of the HSBC World Match Play Championship.
 
The win for Els was his third straight at this event and sixth overall, giving him the most wins in tournament history. Els also won the title of this event three straight years from 1994-96.
 
'It's a great feeling. I see Seve over there and I was lucky enough to beat him on this green in 1994 and that was the best victory of my career,' said Els. 'Some great champions here and to win the title six times is a great feeling.'
 
Westwood, who moved into the final with a 1-up win over Miguel Angel Jimenez, was in the final of this event for the second time. He won the 2000 title when he beat Colin Montgomerie 1-up in 38 holes.
 
'It wasn't the best golf you've ever seen, but it was competitive I suppose,' said Westwood. 'I just tried to fight to the end. I probably made too many mistakes on the greens today, and Ernie is a deserving champion.'
 
Westwood stumbled at the first to a bogey to give Els a quick 1-up lead. However, Els faltered to a bogey at the third and the match was all square.
 
After the duo halved the fourth with eagles, Els tripped to back-to-back bogeys from the fifth to fall 2-down. The South African fought right back with a birdie on the seventh at the Wentworth Club.
 
Els, who downed an injured Padraig Harrington 5 and 4 in the semifinal, drained another birdie at the ninth to square the match. Els dropped 1-down again when he bogeyed the 10th, but atoned for that error with an eagle at the 12th to even the match.
 
Westwood again moved ahead when he dropped in a birdie at the 15th, but stumbled to a bogey at the next to square the match.
 
The match remained all square into the afternoon 18. Els took the lead for good when he drained a birdie try at the 21st hole. The 2002 British Open champion came right back with an eagle at the next to move 2-up.
 
Westwood birdied the 23rd hole to get back within 1-down. The pair scrambled to pars at the next four holes. The Englishman missed the green at the 28th hole. He pitched to 9 feet, but missed his par putt to again fall 2-down.
 
Both men parred the next four holes. Els stumbled to a three-putt bogey at the 33rd. Westwood did the same at the next hole and faced a 2-down deficit with two holes to go.
 
At the 35th, Els' second shot to the par-5 came up short in the right rough. Westwood, battling a cold that was draining his energy, knocked his second on the green and gave himself a look at eagle.
 
Els pitched his third to 20 feet. Westwood then rolled his eagle try to tap-in range. Els calmly drained his birdie putt to win the match 2 and 1.
 
'Well I tell you I got quite fortunate today,' Els said. 'Lee said it earlier, it wasn't the greatest golf, but that is match play. I just tried to stay the course and hit fairways and greens. I couldn't get my iron shots close and Lee hit a great shot in there on 16. I made it difficult for myself, but that's match play.'
 
'I played pretty good overall,' Westwood said. 'It's a long tiring week and I just ran out of gas there at the end. I haven't felt too good today, but that's part of the game I suppose.'
 
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    Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

    By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

    ROGERS, Ark. – Former Arkansas star Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship.

    Lopez, a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks, matched her career best by finishing at 8 under - doing so after missing the cut in her last two tournaments. The Mexican player began the tournament at Pinnacle Country Club ranked 136th in the world but finished just two shots off the course record of 10 under in her third year on the LPGA Tour.

    Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok.

    Local favorite Stacy Lewis, expecting her first child in early November, had a 66.

    Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

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    Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

    Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

    “Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

    Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

    “The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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    10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

    Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

    Was it a birdie, or a par?

    According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

    According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

    Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

    “The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

    While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

    His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

    “I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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    Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

    The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

    The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

    Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

    The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

    While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

    Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

    “It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

    Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

    But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

    “Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

    After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

    The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

    But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

    Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

    It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

    “All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”