DEAL, N.J. – Two-time defending champion Ellen Port advanced to the second round of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur on Monday at Hollywood Golf Club, beating Kimberly Briele 6 and 4. The 52-year-old Port, from St. Louis, was the qualifying medalist. She has a record four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles and captained the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team in June. Port won four of the last five holes on the front nine and took Nos. 12, 13 and 14 with pars to finish off her 80th USGA match-play victory. “It was nice to build that lead because on the back a lot of things can happen,” Port said. “I was a little off today, didn’t hit everything as well as I like, but I got the job done.” Briele is from New Bern, North Carolina. Port will face Martha Leach of Hebron, Kentucky, in the second round. Leach beat Claudia Pilot of Lake Shore, Minnesota, 3 and 2. Port beat Leach in the 2011 Women’s Mid-Amateur final. “There’s no hidden secret,” Leach said. “She hits it far enough, she’s strong enough, but she is a great competitor.”
NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko had just been handed a $1 million bonus for the second consecutive year, and the first thing she thought about buying with those newfound additional riches was a new phone. She’s had a bunch. She keeps dropping them. ”My mom doesn’t like it,” Ko said. ”Phones are expensive.” It’s moments like those that serve as the reminder that the New Zealander is only 18. The way she plays, no one believes she’s just a teenager. The LPGA’s rookie of the year from 2014 was the LPGA’s player of the year in 2015, and in golf – or any major U.S. pro sport – there’s never been anyone younger to end a season as the unquestioned best in his or her game. Ko has 10 wins already, and there’s about 40 tournaments left to play before her teenage years are over. ”I don’t think she’s the age she is,” said Cristie Kerr, who at 38 is more than twice Ko’s age. ”She’s such an old soul. It’s hard to believe she’s that young. … There’s that saying, ‘Youth is wasted on the young.’ They don’t know what they have until they are my age, right? But she has such a great, easy disposition about her. She puts everybody around her at ease. I think she’ll be that way for the rest of her life.” Tiger Woods was 21 when he won his first PGA Player of the Year Award. Wayne Gretzky was 19 when he won his first NHL MVP. Jim Brown was 21 when he captured NFL MVP honors and neither Major League Baseball nor the NBA has ever had an MVP younger than 22. Put in that company, she is a phenom among phenoms. Annika Sorenstam, for example, didn’t get her first LPGA win until she was 24. ”Lydia is on a whole other level,” said LPGA veteran Brittany Lincicome. ”It’s like an Annika level. To be 18 years old, I was trying to shoot somewhere close to even par when I was 18 years old. Now I’m 30 and she still kicks my butt every year. To be so young and so talented and to be so humble and so sweet, she’s really the whole package.” Even though Ko is in the mix to win just about every time she tees it up, that’s another fascinating element to her story. The players that she’s beating every week, the players who’ve watched her collect nearly $5 million in earnings already and another $2 million by winning the Race to CME Globe bonuses in each of the last two years, they really like her. ”I heard her swear once,” Michelle Wie said. So she’s not perfect. ”I don’t know how a person can be that nice,” Wie said. ”I would probably explode inside.” Ko tries not to let fame or fortune change anything. When her friends spot someone who they think recognizes her at the mall, Ko usually tries to get them talking about something else. And though she’s long been labeled a golf prodigy, many find her to be remarkably well grounded. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan talks with Ko often. It’s rarely about golf. ”I don’t know how to describe what Lydia Ko is doing,” Whan said. ”I mean you know sometimes when you’re watching history and you sort of tell yourself, I’m watching history, but I don’t really grasp it when I’m standing in the range talking to her. And if you play a practice round with her or pro-am you grasp it even less. Because she doesn’t seem to be caught up in it at all.” For Ko, that’s the key. ”I think I’ve been very fortunate to have a very supportive team around me,” Ko said. ”I think they have definitely helped me keep grounded, always saying ‘Hey, even if I win one week, it’s a whole new week and let’s go in fresh, obviously confident.’ Not being like, ‘Hey, I’m the champion and world No. 1 and all that.’ ”My team has really been helpful in that aspect. I don’t know if I could be in this position without them.”
Inbee Park takes home gold, Si Woo Kim wins the Wyndam, Darren Clarke’s European Ryder Cup team is nearly set and more in this week’s Monday Scramble. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson’s battle for the gold medal was a heck of an opening act at the Olympics. And while the race for gold wasn’t nearly as exciting for the women, it was still an incredible two weeks in Rio for golf. It’s been mentioned already, but it’s worth repeating – the sport is in better shape than it was two weeks ago. And could there be a better endorsement for golf’s inclusion in the Olympics? There were plenty of concerns heading into the Games, but the top players rose to the occasion and it became clear early on that, yes, this was something bigger than another 72-hole, stroke-play event. In the end, six medals were handed out to six different countries – Great Britain, Sweden, the United States, Korea, New Zealand and China. Those who missed out on the podium were heartbroken when the realization hit that it would be another four years before they would get another chance. With great attendance in Rio and strong TV ratings, it would be very surprising not to see golf become a fixture at the Olympics, long past Tokyo in 2020. 1. After she won her fourth different major title last year (and seventh of her career), our Randall Mell wrote that Park “closed with a vengeance” when she came from three back to take the Women’s British at Turnberry. Saturday in Rio, she cruised with a vengeance. As her playing competitors, Lydia Ko and Gerina Piller, struggled with the wind – or perhaps the grand stage – early in the round, Park went out in a bogey-free 4-under 31 two go from up two to up six. Yes, a hard-charging Shanshan Feng quickly cut the lead to three, but the result was never in doubt. Park displayed her signature staid demeanor as she left the field in the dust and reasserted herself as a dominant force in the women’s game after months of injury and absence and doubt. 2. Speaking of which, it sounds like we can press pause on the idea of any imminent retirement. While she’s been honest about wanting to start a family in the near future, Park told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis after the gold medal ceremony that “there is no plan for retirement at the moment.” “I really haven’t planned for anything,” she said, “so I’m just going to go day by day and see.” Regardless of how she performed in Rio or how she wants to wind down her career, Park always owed it to herself to play the Evian next month. Her win at Turnberry prompted a lot of hand-wringing when it came to whether Park had actually won the career Grand Slam, given her claim to only four of the LPGA’s current five major titles. [She won the Evian before it was deemed a major.] Frankly, the debate was and remains silly. Whatever we do or don’t call it, we all know the circumstances and the facts. There were five majors, then four, now five again. Park has four. Call it what you want. 3. A Park victory at next month’s Evian would mean an end to the equivocating. She would become only the second player in the game’s history to win five different majors, joining Karrie Webb, who won the now-defunct du Maurier in 1999. Park is already the only player in history to own multiple majors and Olympic gold. While wunderkinds like Ko and Brooke Henderson will have the opportunity to play in 50 majors over the next 10 years, they’ll only be able to play in the Olympics twice over that same span. It’s going to be hard enough to win a medal on its own. If Park is able to complete the Grand Slam and boast Olympic gold, she could be in a class by herself for a long time. She probably already is. 4. While we’re discussing gold, the medals that belong to Park and Rose are going to be held in higher esteem four years from now in Tokyo. Both the men’s and women’s medal stands were filled with three of the top-15 players in the world. Both events benefitted from the major-championship pedigrees of their contenders. Who knows what the world will look like in 2020, but it’s highly unlikely Tokyo will resemble Rio. Let’s assume there won’t be a mosquito-transmitted virus, polluted water or unpaid police forces. Short of a zombie apocalypse, the top players in the world will go, they will be excited and the IGF will fully realize its dream for Olympic golf. The scarcity of opportunity will make Olympic medals precious commodities. Now let’s announce Bill Murray as the official 2020 mascot and enjoy relaxing times. 5. With respect to both Japan and the medal stand, Haru Nomura and Stacy Lewis missed out on a potential playoff for bronze Saturday by a combined … three inches? Maybe four? Lewis arrived at the 72nd hole 9 under for the week and left her birdie putt hanging on the edge, one roll short. Had it dropped, she would have tied Feng at 10 under, forcing a playoff had all things stayed the same (which they probably would have – more on that in a minute). Nomura, on the other hand, unknowingly cost herself a medal during the first round on Wednesday when she missed this backhanded tap-in attempt. 6. As for that would-be playoff, Terry Gannon, Annika Sorenstam and Curt Byrum made a point during the coverage to hammer home that Feng does not look at leaderboards down the stretch. Gannon could best be described as mildly apoplectic, and it’s hard to disagree with him. There is a logic to playing with blinders on, but when you’re coming down the stretch, wouldn’t you want to know what you need to do to win? It’s impossible to say whether Feng would have done anything differently, whether her three-putt par at 18 would have somehow turned into something else. It’s just hard to get over that look of pleasant surprise that came to her face when she finally looked at the leaderboard. 7. Poor Gerina Piller. But you know what? Good for you, Gerina Piller. It’s refreshing to see athletes who care this much. Contrast Piller’s emotion, resolve and general level of give-a-damn with Dustin Johnson last year at Chambers Bay. Who is more relatable? Who is more likeable? Who are you more likely to root for in the future? Hold your head high, Gerina Piller. You’ll be back. 8. There is still one more week until it’s official, but Clarke’s Ryder Cup team is almost complete. With a fifth-place finish at the Czech Masters, Matthew Fitzpatrick secured the ninth spot on the team, and no matter what happens this week there won’t be any scenario where someone can pass him. That means the automatic qualifiers for Clarke’s team are: Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Danny Willett, Open champion Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andy Sullivan and Fitzpatrick. A nice mix of major champions, Ryder Cup veterans and rookies who are proven winners. Clarke will have an extra week to ponder his three picks before the August 29 deadline. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are likely picks, but Shane Lowry, Russell Knox and Thomas Pieters are all strong contenders for Clarke’s consideration. 9. The race to make Davis Love III’s U.S. team will be a juicy subplot at The Barclays. One thing is for sure with each passing week, it is getting harder and harder for Love not to pick Jim Furyk. He dropped from T-3 to T-10 Sunday with a sloppy double bogey on 18, but Furyk still moved up to No. 15 in the U.S. standings. Incredibly impressive since his season didn’t begin until May, and he didn’t start making a serious move up the rankings until a T-2 at the U.S. Open. 10. So who is looking like the odd-man out? Fowler hasn’t done much this summer, and even worse his putter has been chilly. But Holmes hasn’t been stellar, either. He missed his third cut in a row at the Wyndham, and fourth in his last five events. The last time he made the cut, he finished third at The Open. 11. Thanks to a rain delay, Si Woo Kim had to wait a little longer for his first PGA Tour win that was never in doubt on Sunday. The 21-year-old Korean became the youngest winner of the season, and the youngest international winner since Seve Ballesteros (20) won in Greensboro in 1978. This will be a strong contender for the WTH? Hall of Fame. In the final round of the Web.com Tour’s News Sentinel Open, there was a threesome of Jhared Hack, Adam Schenk and Ryan Yip That’s right – Hack, Schenk and Yip. Not quite a legendary threesome like Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, but still unforgettable, nonetheless. This week’s award winners … More International Flavor: As if the Olympics didn’t prove how global golf has become, for the third time in four years the U.S. Amateur champion is from outside the U.S. Australia’s Curtis Luck won eight consecutive holes on his way to defeating Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke, 6 and 4, in the 36-hole finale. Ace is the Place: Scott Brown is making quite the name for himself at the Wyndham without taking home the trophy. Last year he made an ace in the final round at the par-3 third while paired with Tiger Woods. On Sunday, he aced the same hole again, this time with Boo Weekley as his witness. That’s Nice, But …: Brown’s ace was remarkable, but it didn’t payoff as handsomely as Luke Donald’s. Donald made a hole-in-one Thursday at the par-3 16th to win vacations for life at Wyndham Resorts. And as if his week wasn’t going well already, Donald finished second, collected a six-figure paycheck and now he heads into the playoffs with a great chance to make the Tour Championship. Talk About Some VIPs: Before the playoffs start, Rory McIlroy and buddy Niall Horan of One Direction watched Ireland’s Conor McGregor defeat Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in Las Vegas.
NAPA, Calif. – In an opening-day edition, Cut Line showcases the end of an era in South Korea, the beginning of more speculation regarding Tiger Woods and the monotony of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule. Made Cut A class above. On Wednesday, Emiliano Grillo was named the 2015-16 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, becoming the third player from the high school class of 2011 to claim the honor in the last four years. Grillo staked his claim to the award with his victory at last year’s Safeway Open, and the race heated up even more when Smylie Kaufman won the next week in Las Vegas. But what turned into one of the tightest races in recent memory for the rookie award may be a precursor to this year’s class, which includes a host of blue-chip prospects including Ollie Schniederjans, Trey Mullinax, Bobby Wyatt and Wesley Bryan, a three-time winner on the Web.com Tour last season. Because of small print in the Tour’s regulations, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm, who is in the hunt this week in Napa, don’t qualify as rookies but certainly add to the notion that a new wave of young talent is poised to make its mark. Fit for a King. Officials with the Central Florida Expressway board announced a plan this week to rename a portion of State Road 408 after Arnold Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at age 87. Considering everything the King meant to central Florida, the Arnold Palmer Expressway, which still must be approved by Florida legislators, seems like the least officials could do to honor him, but for your scribe this is personal. When Cut Line isn’t following the traveling Tour circus, we always try to park as close as possible to Palmer’s personalized space at Golf Channel HQ, eat in Arnie’s Café, and now will commute to work on a road named in his honor. Battling traffic and paying tolls suddenly seems much less concerning. Pak’s place. Se Ri Pak played her last competitive round Thursday at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea, a planned farewell to one of the game’s most inspiring players. It was a testament to her reach that a host of players, both Korean and American, were waiting for her as she finished her emotional final turn, including Inbee Park, who wasn’t even participating in the event. Pak’s impact on the growth of golf in Korea can’t be truly measured, but as a sign of her reach consider that in 1998 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open she was the only South Korean playing on the LPGA tour. Today that number has grown to 34. In August at the Olympics, Pak talked of Park’s gold-medal winning performance, telling reporters the victory in Rio would create a legacy for other South Koreans to follow. After a life of leadership, she would know. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Tough choices. Nothing brings out armchair analysts like Tiger Woods; the second-guessing reached a frenzied level on Monday when he announced he would not be playing this week’s Safeway Open. Speculation raged from those who now believe the former world No. 1 will never play another PGA Tour event, to conspiracy theories that he withdrew because officials were going to pair him with Phil Mickelson for Rounds 1 and 2 in Napa. Both assumptions seem wildly off base. Various sources this week confirmed to Cut Line that both Woods and Mickelson, who shared leadership duties two weeks ago at the Ryder Cup, embraced this week’s potential pairing; and despite the withdrawal from Napa, Tiger remained committed to playing his own Hero World Challenge in December. Although it’s not an official event, a start later this year in the Bahamas would qualify as a step in the right direction. Only Woods knows his body and his game, and no athlete should be criticized for taking the long road back from injury, particularly if that athlete is Tiger. Tweet of the week: @Bowdo83 (Steven Bowditch) “Don’t WD Tiger! Come play a couple of practice rounds with me. Your confidence will go through the roof!” You have to give the Australian the award for most deprecating after all he endured last season. Twelve of Bowditch’s 71 rounds last season were in the 80s and he missed his last five cuts. It turns out Woods did miss a show. On Tuesday, Bowditch made a hole-in-one during a practice round and tweeted: “One thing worse than having a hole in one on Tuesday, making it against (Boo Weekley). #Natylite #unluckytiger” Missed Cut Off and running. The long wait ended this week as the 2016-17 Tour season got underway at Silverado Resort & Spa (insert eye roll). “After five solid days off, it’s exciting to start the year,” smiled Mickelson in a not-so-subtle shot at the Tour’s non-existent offseason. It’s been exactly 17 days since the final putt of the 2015-16 season dropped at East Lake, which makes it hard to embrace this week’s event with anything even close to opening-day excitement. Tour types will compete in the fall because they largely have to or risk falling behind in the season-long points race, but that doesn’t mean the quick turnaround is good for the players or the fans.
ORLANDO, Fla. – A few years ago Greg Owen walked into Arnold Palmer’s office at Bay Hill to drop off a letter requesting a sponsor exemption into the King’s PGA Tour event. Owen had done this before, but this time was different. This time he was asked if he’d like to hand deliver the letter to the tournament host. “It was really unusual for me, I was speechless,” Owen said. “He was sitting behind his desk, he started the conversation because I didn’t know what to say.” Nearly everyone has an Arnie story, and this week’s event at Bay Hill, the first since Palmer passed away last September, will be a celebration of those stories as much as it will be a chance to honor one of the game’s most endearing players. But Owen’s story is a little different. On Tuesday, Danny Willett talked at length about a letter he received from Palmer following his victory last year at the Masters. Rory McIlroy tweeted a similar letter the King sent him in 2011 after he’d won the U.S. Open. Owen didn’t get one of those letters, but his correspondence may have been even more memorable. The Englishman’s first encounter with Palmer came in 2006, his second year on Tour, after he’d played three solid rounds at Bay Hill. He birdied the 10th hole on Sunday, added another at No. 14 and took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on the 16th hole. Owen joined Bay Hill about five years ago and like many who were lucky enough to be in regular contact with Palmer, he marveled at his ability to connect with everyone, from fellow professionals to his legend of fans. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos But Owen’s connection was profoundly different. “You’d see him in the locker room and he knew who you were,” Owen said. “One time he introduced me to his wife and said, ‘This is Greg Owen, he was the unlucky guy.” The unlucky guy had stood over a 3-footer for par at the 17th hole at the ’06 Arnold Palmer Invitation that would have given him a two-stroke lead. Owen pushed the putt and the comebacker from 18 inches danced around the hole and refused to fall for a double bogey-5. He bogeyed the 72nd hole after airmailing the green with his approach shot and finished a stroke behind Rod Pampling. Unlucky, indeed. Palmer sent Owen a letter following that loss at a moment when he needed it the most. His runner-up showing to Pampling had moved him to 48th in the Officical World Golf Ranking and the next week at The Players he finished 22nd only to drop to 52nd in the world, two spots outside a start at that season’s Masters. “It obviously wasn’t a very easy time for me,” Owen recalled. “I was really disappointed and then I got this letter. You could see it was personal, every word he’d thought about and wrote on. You could tell. “The fact that he’d lost majors from a winning position, that he‘d been through it you could tell he was talking from the heart. What situation in golf hadn’t he been in? He understood how it was.” The single-page letter gave condolences, but also congratulations for how he’d handled defeat, a part of the Palmer persona that was as appealing as any victory celebration. By the time Owen became a member at Bay Hill, Palmer wasn’t playing much golf because of age and injury. But Owen would see him on the practice tee from time to time, tinkering with a new driver or wedge. “He’d always have a bunch of clubs with him,” he recalled. Sometimes Palmer would be tooling around in a golf cart and stop behind Owen who was hitting balls on the range. He would stop practicing. “I didn’t want to be critiqued,” Owen laughed. Everything about Bay Hill is a testament to Palmer, from the sign requesting players remove their hats before entering the clubhouse, to the daily “shootout” among members. Many days Palmer would be waiting when players finished the regular game in Bay Hill’s rustic locker room with words of encouragement and the occasional needle. “He’d sit around the table with the guys playing cards asking questions, ‘How’d you play?’” Owen said. “He was such a nice guy, there’s no other way to put it. He never forgot, he was just great with everybody.” For Owen, that connection was very real. At perhaps the lowest point of his career, the man who was so seamlessly connected to greatness made the realities of failure something to be embraced and learned from. It at least partially explains why Owen gravitated to Bay Hill in an attempt, subconscious or otherwise, to be closer to that kind of gravitational pull. On Tuesday, as he made his way down the 10th fairway during a practice round, Owen shrugged at the thought. For the 45-year-old, it was a little more straightforward then that. “Playing at a club with Arnie, watching him up there hitting balls, that’s pretty cool,” he smiled.
It’s not as though it was any big surprise. This plan had been in the making for some time, but following the stress and strain caused by golf’s return to the Olympics last year there is something to be said for turnkey venues. Although the Olympic Golf Course has emerged as a rare beacon of hope from last year’s Rio Games, for those who endured years of delays and constructions concerns it was not an ideal situation. The anxiety caused by having to start from scratch in Rio for golf’s return to the Games was just part of bigger-picture concerns that led to many of the game’s top players passing on a trip to the ’16 Olympics, but on Wednesday the executive board of the International Olympic Committee made sure that’s not an issue for the foreseeable future. The executive board officially announced that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will get the ’28 Olympics. Both cities originally bid on the ’24 Games, but were considered such leading candidates they agreed to alter hosting duties in ’24 and ’28. It was a win-win for the IOC and for golf. While golf needs to officially be approved past the 2020 Games, which should happen this week, the venue for the ’24 Games would be Le Golf National, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup and a regular stop on the European Tour, and Riviera Country Club, the annual site of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open since 1929, in 2028. There will be no scrambling to create something from nothing, like Rio architect Gil Hanse and Co. did in Rio. No worries over whether the game’s best will find a suitable test or how the competition will show to the world – just fine-tuning. It’s a comfort that Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation, couldn’t hide during a recent interview. “A good test event next year,” joked Scanlon, referring to Le Golf National and the ’17 Ryder Cup. “Every year after that with the French Open we will try to improve on it.” If golf is approved for the ’24 Games and beyond, which officials are confident will happen, Riviera is considered one of the game’s best courses and annually draws one of the Tour’s best fields. This may seem like a small portion of the Olympic puzzle for Scanlon, but given how trying the ’16 and ’20 Games have been logistically it’s a genuine reason for organizers to celebrate. Although the Rio course was completed on time for last year’s Olympics, and by all accounts proved to be a successful venue despite countless construction delays, protests and legal wrangling, it was a distraction that golf would have gladly done without. Even the 2020 venue in Tokyo hasn’t exactly been a home run. Following weeks of criticism for not allowing females members, Kasumigaseki Country Club, the venue for the ’20 Games, voted in March to reverse its policy and allow women to join the club. This change of heart came after the IOC made it clear it would have no trouble finding another venue if the policy remained in place. The Paris and Los Angeles venues will have no such issues. Both are established clubs with close ties to the game’s leading organizations, like the PGA and European tours. The courses also have a proven track record, with Riviera regularly voted as one of the Tour’s best venues by players and Le Golf National among the Continent’s most popular stops. While Rio was a unique success story, for vastly different reasons, consider the game’s best going head-to-head on a course in Versailles just minutes outside of Paris’ city center, or at Riviera, which is wedged between San Vicente Road and Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood (In a related note to 2028 athletes: traffic could be an issue). It’s always the play on the field that makes a competition special, but having fields with established reputations and proven logistics can only enhance an event that exceeded many expectations in ’16. For all the issues faced by organizers last year in Rio, there were advantages to golf returning to the Games in South America, the primary benefit being able to introduce a country with very little golf history to the game on such an important stage. But all things considered, Scanlon will gladly embrace a little less uncertainty for future competitions.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Patton Kizzire birdied the 17th hole for a two-shot swing that gave him a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler going into the final round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Kizzire shot a 5-under 66 on Sunday morning in the rain-delayed tournament and was at 15-under 198. This is the second time Kizzire has had the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour as he goes after his first victory. Fowler had the lead until making bogey on No. 17. He shot 67. Patrick Rodgers, who was tied with Kizzire and Rodgers to start the third round, made double bogey on the first and 18th holes for a 72 and was six shots behind. Players stayed in their same groups and began the fourth round immediately, with hopes of finishing Sunday.
BEL OMBRE, Mauritius – Dylan Frittelli beat Arjun Atwal with a birdie on the first playoff hole to clinch the Mauritius Open title on Sunday. The 27-year-old South African secured a second European Tour title in his first year on the tour. He was named the tour’s best newcomer at the start of the week following a 19th place finish in the 2017 Race to Dubai. He began the new season with victory in Mauritius after India’s Atwal, who set the pace for much of the tournament at Heritage Golf Course, agonizingly missed out on an eagle on the last hole in regulation play that would have given him his first European title in nearly a decade. Atwal saw his eagle putt lip out on No. 18, and settled for birdie to set up a playoff. He and Frittelli both finished on 16 under par after 18 holes. Frittelli made five birdies and a bogey in his final round 4-under 67. Atwal, who set a course record with an opening-round 62, finished with six birdies but also two bogeys for his 68. France’s Romain Langasque was alone in third place, two shots behind Frittelli and Atwal after finishing with a 67. Louis de Jager was fourth. Louis Oosthuizen, the highest-ranked player at the tournament, made a charge up the leaderboard on the final day with two eagles and a run of three straight birdies on Nos. 10-12. However, the former Open champion’s challenge ended with a triple bogey seven on No. 16 and he finished seventh, five shots behind.
GOLD COAST, Australia – Marc Leishman took advantage of an early start to shoot a 7-under 65 and move into a share of the second-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship on Friday. Masters champion Sergio Garcia was six strokes behind after a 71 while Adam Scott missed the cut by two shots after bogeying four of six holes on the back nine at Royal Pines and shooting 74. Leishman started on the 10th hole and had four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys on his first nine before birdieing three of his first five holes after the turn. He’s on 12-under 132 and tied with Adam Bland, who shot 66 on a morning of good scoring conditions – soft greens and little wind. Greg Chalmers (66) was two strokes behind in third. Full-field scores from the Australian PGA Championship ”When you’re on a run like that and playing well, you sort of can afford to be aggressive,” Leishman said. ”If you make a few mistakes, you feel like you can make some birdies.” Defending champion Harold Varner III, who teed off with Leishman, shot 66 and was five strokes behind. Varner said he got swept along with Leishman’s strong play. ”I’m going to need some help, though, because if he (Leishman) keeps playing like that, we’re in trouble,” Varner said. ”Everyone in this field is in trouble.” Garcia had an up-and-down day with two birdies and a double bogey on the front nine before three birdies and two bogeys on the back. ”It wasn’t my best day out there,” Garcia said. ”I hit a couple of really nice putts, but probably a little bit tired, physically and mentally. Because of that my golf game wasn’t as sharp as I would like it to be. But I guess the good thing is we still fought hard, we stayed in it …” Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, shot 69 and was 10 strokes behind. Scott’s return to a long-handled putter wasn’t successful. He used a broomstick putter when he won the Masters in 2013, but switched to a short putter after a ban on anchoring the putter against the body began in 2016. A winner of the Australian PGA in 2013 and runner-up in a playoff the following year at Royal Pines, Scott started the day at 1 under but missed at least four close putts on the back nine. It ended a disappointing season for the father of two, who has slumped to a seven-year rankings low of 30th in the world. He last missed the cut at the Australian PGA in 2010, a year in which he fell as low as 48. ”I found it difficult switching on and switching off the last few months,” Scott said. ”It’s been hard not to get frustrated by just playing a bit average. ”I spent most of the time (Friday) in the trees … I’ve got to lift my ball striking up. I lose too many shots and that’s the strength of my game.”
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Tiger Woods discovered how tough Innisbrook can be in a swirling wind, and he was up to the task. Woods smacked his hands into an oak as he let loose of the club during a bold escape from the trees, came within inches of an ace on the next hole, and most importantly was among 27 players – just under 20 percent of the field – to break par Thursday in the Valspar Championship. Canadian rookie Corey Conners, who got into the field as an alternate not long after he failed to get through Monday qualifying, didn’t make a bogey until his final hole at No. 9 and shot a 4-under 67. That gave him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney, Whee Kim and Kelly Kraft. Only three other players, including former PGA champion Jimmy Walker broke 70. Woods made five birdies to counter his mistakes in his round of 70, the first time he broke par in the opening round of a PGA Tour event since his 64 in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 – just six Tour events ago because of back surgeries. This was his first time playing the Valspar Championship, and it got his attention. ”I enjoy when par is a good score. It’s a reward,” Woods said. ”There are some tournaments when about four holes you don’t make a birdie, you feel like you’re behind. Today, made a couple of birdies, all of a sudden puts me fourth, fifth, right away. That’s how hard it is.” It was like for everybody, especially Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Full-field scores from the Valspar Championship Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos Spieth, who won at Innisbrook in a playoff in 2015, didn’t make a birdie after the par-5 opening hole and shot a 76. Only six other players had a higher score. Rory McIlroy, who like Woods was making his debut in this event, played in the morning and shot 74. Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth and Woods, also shot 74. Morning or afternoon, it didn’t matter. There was a chill in the Florida air, and the wind made it feel colder. Ultimately, the wind swirling through the tree-lined fairways made it tough to get the ball close. Innisbrook produced the highest average score for the opening round – 72.86 – of the 23 courses used this season. Conners managed just fine, taking advantage of a tournament he wasn’t sure he would be playing. He went through Monday qualifying and shot 71, but moments after walking off the course, he was told he got in as an alternate. ”Kind of had a mindset of trying to take advantage of a good break, I guess,” he said. Watney holed a bunker shot on the par-4 16th, made the turn and had an eagle on the first hole. ”Maybe I need to steal a few shots here and there and get some good things going,” said Watney, winless since August 2012. Walker (69) and past Innisbrook champion Luke Donald (70) managed to go bogey-free, a rarity on a day like this. Also at 70 were Justin Rose, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Steve Stricker, who won last week on the PGA Tour Champions. Woods is playing his fourth PGA Tour event since returning from fusion surgery on his lower back, his fourth surgery since the spring of 2014. He has shown steady progress, and this might have been his most steady performance, even with four bogeys. Those were inevitable. One of the came at the par-3 fourth, when he was fooled by the wind and sent his tee shot sailing. It was next to a tree that Woods had to straddle just to advance toward the green. He also came up well short on the 12th into a strong wind. ”Into the wind, it felt like you just hit walls,” he said. Woods got within two shots of the lead by ripping a long iron from the top collar of a bunker on the par-5 11th and using the slope to chip close for a tap-in birdie. He dropped shots on the next two holes, going short into the wind on No. 12 and over the green with the wind at his back on No. 13. The only unnerving moment came at the 16th, when he tugged his iron off the tee into the trees. Woods realized he would hit the tree on his follow through, asking the gallery – thousands of them – to be careful in case the club snapped. He had to take it toward the lake on the right and bend it back to the left, and it came off perfectly. But it looked painful. Because he had to generate so much club speed, his left forearm and hands struck the oak and Woods dropped the club and winced on impact. ”It didn’t feel very good,” he said. Woods followed with a 5-iron that rolled just right of the cup for a tap-in birdie and finished with a long two-putt par after getting fooled again by the shifting wind. ”This is a tough golf course. Not too often in Florida do you find elevation. Great driving golf course,” Woods said. ”I asked Henrik, ‘What do you around this golf course when there’s no wind here?’ He said it’s still a hell of a test. We can all see that.”