A Vintage Year on the European Tour

By Sports NetworkNovember 27, 2004, 5:00 pm
European TourIt certainly was a fine year for the European Tour, with several veterans showing they can still win. But was that really a surprise? After all, it was a Ryder Cup year.
Ernie Els won the Order of Merit, again, and came close to taking home his second British Open title. The South African has received player of the year honors before, but this year's choice is a Spaniard with eccentric hair.
Miguel Angel Jimenez was a stalwart on the European Tour in the last decade, raking in all but one of his career victories from 1992 to 1999. He returned to the winner's circle in 2003 at the Mallorca Classic, ending a lengthy drought.
With the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills on the horizon, Jimenez was determined in 2004 and picked up his first win of the season at the Johnnie Walker Classic. He then won the Open de Portugal and the BMW Asian Open.
Jimenez earned his tour-leading fourth victory at the BMW International Open and his spot in the Ryder Cup was secured. Although Jimenez went 1-3 at Oakland Hills, his lone win came Friday morning alongside Darren Clarke with a 5 & 4 drubbing of Davis Love III and Chad Campbell when the Europeans grabbed a 3 1/2 - 1/2 lead en route to the dominating victory.
The 40-year-old had the best season of his career and put himself in the mix with European Tour heavyweights like Els, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington.
With several big names heading overseas to compete on the PGA Tour in 2005, the European circuit is wide open for Jimenez to have another big year.
Scott Drummond caught lightning in a bottle in May by winning the Volvo PGA Championship en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors on the European Tour.
Drummond was playing his first full season on the European Tour, badly. He made a pair of cuts at the start of the season, but by the time the tour returned to Europe, Drummond was riding a string of missed weekends.
He tied for 42nd at the Open de Sevilla then missed the cut at his next two events.
Drummond had a spot in the Volvo PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event. The entry list for the tournament at the Wentworth Club featured such names as Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Adam Scott.
The Scot became the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1975 to win the Volvo PGA Championship in his first attempt. At least Palmer was considered a favorite when he made his debut, but Drummond came out of absolutely nowhere to win one of the biggest events on the European Tour.
Drummond will be around for a while because a pretty good exemption comes with winning the Volvo PGA Championship.
The European Tour is set up in a way where lesser known players can make a splash. Take the last three winners of the Volvo PGA - Anders Hansen, Ignacio Garrido and now Drummond.
Barry Lane had not won on the European Tour since 1994. He ended that streak at this year's British Masters and celebrated his 500th tournament on the European Tour the following week at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe.
Lane was settling into his role as a veteran of over 20 years of service on the European Tour. He had already made his debut in the UBS Cup in 2002 and had played the event every year since.
His victory at the British Masters was well deserved and helped him to the 24th spot on the Order of Merit.
The Europeans came into the 35th Ryder Cup Matches on a roll. Several of the members were already in a winning mood before arriving at Oakland Hills, with Miguel Angel Jimenez, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington capturing the three events leading up to the Ryder Cup.
Donald was one of the hottest players on the planet at the end of the summer, Jimenez was on fire and even Colin Montgomerie was playing very well. Of course, the Europeans were the underdogs to the Americans, despite having won the Cup two years ago at The Belfry.
It is hard to bet against Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but put them together against Montgomerie and Harrington and you might have some problems. This was the first match on Friday morning and the Europeans won, 2 & 1.
Jimenez and Darren Clarke trashed Davis Love III and Chad Campbell, while Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood had their way with Jim Furyk and David Toms. Chris Riley and Stewart Cink pulled out a half point against Donald and Paul McGinley to avoid the sweep.
Friday morning was ugly for the U.S. and the afternoon didn't get any better. The Europeans won three more matches in foursomes and at that point the Ryder Cup was all but over.
U.S. captain Hal Sutton couldn't get anything out of his team and European leader Bernhard Langer was blessed with a group of 12 players who gelled perfectly. The Europeans won in dominating fashion and will continue to have success in the Ryder Cup for years to come with players like Donald and Paul Casey emerging and the likely debuts of Fredrik Jacobson and Graeme McDowell in Ireland in 2006.
The Americans meanwhile were left with several questions. New U.S. captain Tom Lehman will certainly have his hands full.
Troon sure looked great compared to Royal St. George's.
For the second year in a row a no-name American captured the British Open in surprising fashion. Last year it was Ben Curtis, ranked 396th in the world before he picked up his first career win. This year it was a 39-year-old rookie.
Todd Hamilton was a journeyman from the Asian tours, winning quite a few times overseas, with three previous appearances at the British Open (where he managed a cumulative score of 24-over par). He made his PGA Tour debut this year and broke through with a win at the Honda Classic before heading to Troon, where the talk was about Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Hamilton was meticulous at the British Open and earned a spot in a playoff with Ernie Els. Els, who won in overtime at Muirfield two years ago, could not overcome Hamilton's 'ugly golf' and the American shocked a golf world still trying to make sense of Curtis' 2003 win.
Paul Casey will be heading to the U.S. to give the PGA Tour a shot in 2005, so will Ian Poulter and several other European stars. They will surely be missed, but the European Tour promises to be as competitive as ever in the years to come.
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Getty Images

    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

    Getty Images

    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

    Getty Images

    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

    Getty Images

    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.