Olazabal Sprints to Victory in Hong Kong
The 35-year-old Spaniard set up his triumph with the shot of the week at Hong Kong Golf Club. After driving into the right rough at the 410-yard, par-4 18th hole, Olazbal knocked his 5-iron approach onto the front of the green and his ball rolled to within inches of the cup for a closing birdie.
'I didn't expect that last shot and you always need a bit of good luck,' said Olazbal, who posted his second straight 64 to finish atop the leaderboard at 22-under-par 262. 'I don't think I've won with three closing birdies and it was excellent. This is very special and it was fantastic to win as it was a tight finish.'
Norway's Bjornstad, 22, who fired a course-record 61 Saturday to take over the top spot, had a chance to force extra holes but missed a 20-foot birdie try at the last. He carded a 4-under 67 for 21-under and second place, the best finish of his career.
Playing in the final group with Olazbal and Bjornstad was 21-year-old Australian Adam Scott, who led after the first round and for much of the day Sunday. Scott was part of a three-way tie for the lead heading into the 72nd hole but his bunkered tee shot resulted in a bogey that left him alone in third at minus 20.
Bjornstad and Scott were tied at 21-under, two shots ahead of Olazbal, heading into the last three holes. But Olazbal, who may have won the tournament in a runaway had he putted better the first three days, drew alongside the leaders by draining birdies from 15 and 18 feet at the 16th and 17th, respectively.
Meanwhile, Bjornstad left his two long birdie attempts short and Scott just missed a pair of 30-footers.
Bjornstad seemed to have the advantage at 18 when he placed his drive in the middle of the fairway. Olazbal's tee shot cleared the right fairway bunker but stopped in the rough and Scott found the sand with his drive.
Scott then attempted to cut his ball around the water fronting the final green but his shot stayed left and finished in the rough just off the putting surface.
Olazbal went next and pulled off the shot perfectly.
'I had to punch it and didn't have much green to work with, but I had a good slice of luck,' he said. 'I executed the shot the way that I wanted. But I always say you need a bit of luck ... if it had pitched three feet more, that ball would have landed well past the pin.'
Bjornstad, whose approach to 18 left him two putts away from a closing par, later gave credit to the heroics Olazbal produced over the final few holes.
'Ollie finished great to win the tournament,' said the young Norwegian. 'He just came from behind and took it away from us.'
Scott, still searching for his second win after several near-misses since breaking through at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in January, agreed.
'When Ollie finishes three, three, three, there is nothing much you can do,' said Scott, who shot a final-round 67. 'He hit a great shot at the last.'
Olazbal was two shots off the pace at the start of the round and never led until his winning birdie. He matched birdies with Scott at the second and third holes to stay one behind the Aussie, but a bogey at the fifth dropped Olazbal two strokes back at 16-under.
Although birdies at the eighth, ninth and 12th lifted Olazbal to 19-under, Scott added three birdies of his own and Bjornstad came to life with five birdies over a six-hole stretch to share the lead at 21-under-par.
But while it turned out the young guns were done making birdies, the sage Spaniard was just warming up.
Olazbal earned the first prize of $113,000 to remain second behind Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden on the new season money list. He finished runner-up to Sandelin at last week's BMW Asian Open in Taiwan, the first event to count toward the 2002 European Tour Order of Merit.
England's Mark Foster, No. 1 in the 2001 Challenge Tour rankings, finished solo fourth at 19-under, one stroke ahead of Sweden's Carl Pettersson, who recorded his second top-five finish in as many weeks.
Swede Anders Forsbrand, Andrew Marshall of England and Welshman Mark Pilkington tied for sixth place at 17-under. Sandelin rounded out the top 10 at 16-under with second-round leader Yeh Wei-Tze of Taiwan and Englishmen Brian Davis and Simon Dyson. Dyson was the defending champion.
Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, who finished second with Olazbal last week, claimed the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit crown after tying for 13th Sunday with England's Gary Evans and New Zealand's Michael Campbell.
The Hong Kong Open, which was co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Davidoff (Asian PGA) Tour for the first time, was the season-ending tournament on the 2001 Davidoff Tour.
Full-field scores from the Omega Hong Kong Open
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”