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Rosaforte Report: Recalling an epic Presidents Cup

By Tim RosaforteMarch 12, 2018, 7:17 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report, the reported selection of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els as Presidents Cup captains for 2019 evokes memories of their putting duel in South Africa in 2003; Peter Kostis talks about Paul Casey and the virtue of aggressiveness; Patrick Reed justifies his sartorial homage to Tiger Woods and Liezl Els reflects on a decade of raising money for autism research.

There were no pretenses to Ernie Els being in the team room for the International side in last year’s Presidents Cup. Els told me at Liberty National last fall that he would like to follow in Nick Price’s footsteps and become the next International captain.

“I’m up for it,” Els said. “It would be a dream job.”

Making it even more of a dream is that Els gets to match strategies with Tiger Woods, his opponent in the all-time greatest moment in Presidents Cup history – their epic putting duel at Fancourt, South Africa, in 2003. The score was tied, 17-17, when Woods and Els began a sudden-death playoff. They halved the first two holes, and daylight was fading when Woods sank a 15-footer and Els dropped a 6-footer on top of him for another halve. Captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player decided to let the competition end in a tie.

While Els, who brings mojo with three victories and a course record (60) to Royal Melbourne. was a lock for his captainship, there is some second-guessing over Woods' selection. With a second-place finish on Sunday at the Valspar Championship in only his fourth tournament after back fusion surgery, it is foreseeable that Woods could make the 2019 team. Potentially, that could make Woods the first playing captain since Hale Irwin went 2-1 in a 20-12 victory over the Internationals at Robert Trent Jones GC in 1994.

As Nick Price’s protégé, Els brings cachet as a hall of famer and experience in eight Presidents Cups. Like Price, he’s extremely popular among his peers.

“Like Pricey, he’s a players guy. He mixes with all of us,” said fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen. “I think he will be an amazing captain.”

Els told me that remaining current with players is important, and to that end he will be playing more of an international schedule over the next two years as part of the education process with new players. As Els said about last year’s Presidents Cup, spending time “with the boys,” looking at the competition more as a captain than a competitor for the first time, “was quite an education.”

CASEY GOES FOR IT: Analytics have become a way that teachers teach and players play in this era of hitting shots and plotting strategy by the numbers. When Peter Kostis sat down with Paul Casey in the offseason, the conversation wasn’t so much about proximity to the hole as it was proximity to victory.

“You could even call it stupid aggressive,” Kostis said. “Confidence can paper over mistakes.”

It says something that Casey is the current leader in consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour with 27. It also says something that Casey went 150 starts without a win on the PGA Tour until Sunday’s victory in the Valspar Championship.

The point Kostis made is that it’s more difficult to win in 2018 than it was in 2010 or even 2000, the sweet spots in Tiger Woods’ career. And as Woods was shown on Sunday at Innisbrook, playing to the fat part of the green will produce second-place finishes, but not victories like the one that Casey pulled off with a final-round 65.

As Kostis told me on Sunday, playing this type of golf required the highest levels of short game and putting, but it pays off. Casey was third in the field in strokes gained around the green.

“It’s a different game now in order to get in the winner’s circle,” Kostis said. “Somebody is going to play all out, hit the shots they need, posting the low score and they get the W.”

RED SUITS REED: There’s been some social media banter about Patrick Reed wearing Tiger colors and his Nike logo in the final round of the Valspar, as if it were sacrilegious. It turned out more than coincidental when they finished on the same number (275) and the same place (T-2).

Reed has been wearing Tiger colors since junior golf; he always thought it was cool to wear black pants and a red shirt on Sunday.

There’s also some karma in it. The first time he wore the red and black in a Tiger pairing was in the second round of the 2014 Hero World Challenge, when he shot 63. That performance and the way he played in Tiger’s pod at the 2016 Ryder Cup, were enough to justify the homage to Woods.

Reed was also justifying the Nike contract that pays him enough that he can afford to be a free agent in the golf equipment marketplace.

Reed has struggled since his epic battle with Rory McIlroy at Hazeltine. Before that, he won five times from 2013-2016, rising to No. 7 in the world – the closest he’s come to the days of comparing himself to a top-five player in the world after winning at Doral in 2014. It’s now been 24 starts without a win, but he worked on his game hard in the offseason and could emerge as one of Tiger’s partners for the Ryder Cup in Paris if he keeps trending.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” Reed said Sunday after his best finish since a second in last year’s PGA Championship. “But at the end of the day, back in contention, having a chance to win a golf tournament is always fun.”

TEN YEARS OF AUTISM FUNDRAISING: Els was busy on Monday, working on a passion of his, and it wasn’t related to his new role as Presidents Cup captain. Ten years ago at the Valspar Championship, Els told the world that his son, Ben, had autism. He’s been working ever since raising money for the Els Center for Autism in Jupiter.

“Ernie was more than ready to have that discussion,” said his wife, Liezl. “He was the one sharing that. He knew it was time to share.”

Luminaries such as McIlroy, Price and Nicklaus were in attendance, pushing the fundraising to over $10 million in the decade since going public.

“For us it’s been such an unbelievable journey the last 10 years,” Liezl said. “It was such a struggle in the beginning to convince people, without land or a building, what we had in mind.”

What stands today is a 26-acre campus that features a fully staffed upper and lower school. And they wouldn’t have built the upper school unless Rickie Fowler made a $1 million hole-in-one in 2016 that kept the project going.

“It’s been a fulfilling and rewarding 10 years,” Liezl said. “The parents, the kids, the progress, and how grateful they are to have a facility like this that the kids can attend. We’re very proud of it and happy for all the happy faces we see.”

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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.