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Crespi wins first European Tour title at NH Collection Open

first_imgCADIZ, Spain – Marco Crespi of Italy won his first European Tour title Sunday after carding a 3-under 69 in the final round for a two-shot victory at the inaugural edition of the NH Collection Open. Playing in his 25th European Tour event, the 35-year-old Crespi had five birdies to overcome a pair of bogeys on the final day for a 10-under total of 278. Jordi Garcia of Spain carded a 66 to climb into a tie for second with Richie Ramsay of Scotland, who shot 68. Felipe Aguilar of Chile (71) and overnight leader Matthew Nixon of England (73) finished three shots back. Crespi stumbled with back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes, but he responded with a birdie on the 14th before making par down the stretch to take the win at La Reserva de Sotogrande Golf Club. ”I started very well today,” Crespi said. ”I birdied the first and that gave me the confidence to go low. I just had to manage my pressure on the back nine.” His previous best finish was fourth at the South African Open earlier this year. Crespi said he started playing at the age of 13 and practiced at the Milan Golf Club where his father worked as a caddie. ”My brother turned pro 15 years before me, and my main objective was to follow his steps,” he said. ”This is my 11th year as a professional and my first on the European Tour. I have been waiting a long time for this moment.”last_img read more

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Predict Ability

first_imgLast week, the PGA of America issued some propaganda that perfectly exemplified the recent struggles of the U.S. Ryder Cup team – even if it was clearly unintentional. The organization began circulating movie-type posters featuring captain Tom Watson and the names of his assistants and 12-man roster, hailing them as “The Redeem Team.” Nice thought, but just like so many other well intentioned ideas for the team over the past decade-and-half, something was destined to go wrong. And there it was, over in the bottom right corner of the poster. Continuing with the movie theme, the Ryder Cup team was rated “Extreme Drama” – and shortened to “ED.” All that was missing was a tagline: “If your match lasts longer than four hours, consult your physician.” Here’s guessing the 65-year-old Watson didn’t get too excited about that one. And here are five more bold predictions entering this year’s edition of the Ryder Cup. 1. Tiger Woods’ absence will mean the U.S. team wins – or maybe loses. Those who regularly pray at the altar of Tiger Woods Is The Worst Person Ever have readily kept this statistic handy for daily message board comments in caps lock, oozing with vitriol: Since the turn of the century, the U.S. has only won one Ryder Cup – and that was the only one that didn’t include Woods. The unsubtle points here? Tiger is a me-first guy who couldn’t care less about the team; he’d rather hang with his buddies in Europe’s team room; he chokes in big-time competitions and – quite possibly – he hates America. Just because none of those things are true doesn’t keep people from using these assumptions to back their own story. OK, so Tiger’s 13-17-3 overall record isn’t exactly the stuff of Billy Casper or Lanny Wadkins. You know who else has struggled for the U.S. side? Everybody. I suppose it’s human nature to want to place blame on a single individual for a culture of losing, but Tiger couldn’t have done this alone. This isn’t the NBA. His teammates can’t stand around setting picks and hope he puts up a ton of points and sinks the game-winner for good measure. Woods won’t play this week. If the guys in red, white and blue rekindle the magic of 2008, it will once again send the truthers scurrying to their message boards to connect some dots that shouldn’t be connected. And if they lose again, he’ll somehow be blamed for returning from injury too soon during the summer, getting hurt again, taking himself out of consideration for the Ryder Cup and – yes – screwing over his country. Talk about your lose-lose, huh? The simple fact is, the U.S. team can win with Tiger or without him, and it can lose with or without him. That might not be enough of a scolding hot take in today’s sports parlance, but it’s the truth. His absence from this year’s festivities won’t mean the team will win any more than his presence would have meant it would lose.  2. Ian Poulter’s eyes will remain inside his skull this time. First things first: I’m of the belief that even if Poulter finished DFL at the Lake Nona member-member this summer, he locked up a spot on Europe’s team two years ago. No questions asked, no looking back. BUT … I’m still having a hard time buying the narrative that just because Poulter looked like Seve Ballesteros’ spiky-haired second coming at Medinah, he’s going to replicate those magic moments at Gleneagles, too. Poulter played as if he’d sold his soul to Samuel Ryder last time, his eyes bulging further out of his skull with each birdie celebration. But that doesn’t mean he’ll do it again. That doesn’t mean every putt will drop at this one. That doesn’t mean he’s automatic for five points. It doesn’t mean anything, really. What surprises me the most is that it seems like people are fully expecting this. Everyone appears so stuck on the idea that Poulter can simply show up at the Ryder Cup and dominate that they’re forgetting his only top-10s of the year have come in China and Memphis. They’re overlooking that he’s slipped so far in the world ranking that he’s behind Kevin Na. They’re thinking with their memories instead of applying the most logistical strategy possible to analyze upcoming competitions. Past performance is rarely a predictor of future results. Just think of the pressure Poulter will be under: He’s playing some of the worst golf of his professional career and he’s being expected to win every match he plays. That’s a dangerous combination. It’s also one that is easy to see not having a happy ending. If that’s the case, expect the golf world to go into collective shock. When Poulter fails to make everything he looks at on the greens, when his previously bugged-out eyes are being rubbed in disbelief because the birdies are tougher to come by, everyone will insist they didn’t see it coming because it didn’t happen last time. That’s a poor excuse, though, for just failing to see what he’s been doing lately. 3. Patrick Reed is going to play better than everyone – except Reed – thinks People can’t stand Reed. And when I say people, I mostly mean those who don’t know much about him and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but remember his “top-five” comment after winning at Doral and take personal offense to a golfer believing in his own abilities. But there might be small factions of people who can’t stand Reed that also have to share a team room with him this week. It’s little secret that he isn’t exactly the most popular guy on Tour. As one player whispered recently, “The next time he eats with us in player dining will be the first time.” Now, we can sit at the local 19th hole for hours and argue whether being an individualistic guy in an individual sport should really be perceived as a negative, but it’s pretty obvious that this is a player with a major chip on his shoulder who prides himself in proving people wrong. Well, guess what? If I was building my very own successful Ryder Cup prototype, this exact personality trait might be the first thing I downloaded into the microchip in his cerebral cortex. Reed is a fiery dude who will have absolutely no problem laughing when the European supporters cheer a poor shot and gesticulating toward them when he hits a good one. He’ll be unlike most competitors who have trouble removing the 51-weeks-a-year of “gentlemanliness” from their Ryder Cup emotions. That won’t be a problem for Reed. He doesn’t care what people think of him. The irony of that mentality? Employing that exact approach to ruffle feathers and play great golf at Gleneagles might very well endear him to American fans who months ago wrote him off as a cocky kid who needs to know his place. It will just go to prove that attitude is a wonderful thing to have – as long as it’s on your team. 4. Lance Bennett will provide the U.S. team with an inspirational rallying cry. Back in 2006, Darren Clarke served as the heart of the European side, earning three emotion-filled points in the wake of his wife’s death. Two years ago, captain Jose Maria Olazabal invoked the memory of Seve Ballesteros so often that he was in the forefront of each player’s thoughts throughout the week, both on and off the course. A team doesn’t have to overcome death in order to claim victory, but it has proven to unify players in the team room, bringing a group of individuals closer together for the good of the cause. Bennett, the longtime caddie for Matt Kuchar, will be making his return to the bag at Gleneagles. On Aug. 27, his wife, Angela, passed away suddenly. Since then, there’s been an outpouring of support – not only from his fellow loopers, but from players, as well. That support certainly hasn’t been limited to players on this team and not even just Americans, but having Bennett around should provide an extra jolt of inspiration. I know what you’re probably thinking: These guys shouldn’t need it. Competing for their country should be inspiration enough. They shouldn’t need the death of a caddie’s wife to make them hungrier to play inspired golf. The whole situation is analogous to the “Think Globally, Act Locally” campaign. Players can’t see millions of Americans huddled around their TV screens rooting them on. They can’t tangibly feel how much this would mean to a nation that couldn’t care less how many Presidents Cup titles it’s won. But they can look into Bennett’s eyes and understand what it would mean to him – and what it would mean to his family. There’s no telling the importance that type of impact that could have. Many of the team’s caddies got together a few weeks ago in Denver. When the subject of Bennett came up, they all talked about wanting to carry him around on their shoulders after a U.S. victory. There’s little doubt some of the players would be right there with them, propping up a likeable man who could use a few smiles these days. 5. If you’re expecting a blowout, go watch the Presidents Cup. Since these are bold predictions and the U.S. team is a lowly underdog and – full disclosure – I’m an American-born citizen, this is probably the part where I’m supposed to go full Lee Corso. You know, slip under the desk for a minute, and then emerge in patriotic regalia topped by an Uncle Sam chin beard and top hat while orchestrating the crowd into a hastily contrived version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Not so fast, my friends. Despite my birthplace allegiances, when it comes to international team competitions, I’m only a fan of the law of averages. That’s why this missive from former assistant captain Paul Goydos, as part of his keynote address during the recent U.S. Senior Amateur and reported by Sports Illustrated’s Gary Van Sickle, rings so true. “The Ryder Cup is basically a coin toss,” Goydos told the crowd. “If I tossed a coin 10 times and it came up heads seven times, I wouldn’t immediately think that coin is defective.” This should come as good news to a U.S. roster which has been accused of being defective pretty frequently over the years. And really, it’s being accused of this before the first shot is even struck this week. Phil Mickelson gave up on the FedEx Cup. Jim Furyk can’t close on Sundays. Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson are no Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk. Pessimism has reigned supreme in recent weeks. What I haven’t heard – and again, call it an American bias if you will – is similar worry over the state of the European team. Martin Kaymer has looked eminently mediocre since the U.S. Open. Lee Westwood has looked that way since the last Ryder Cup. Stephen Gallacher and Jamie Donaldson are unproven on this stage. Victor Dubuisson is a wildcard in every sense of the word. So, why is Europe considered such a heavy favorite? Beats me. I think it’s some combination of the fact that Rory McIlroy looked unbeatable for a month, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have looked unbeatable in this competition before, and they’re playing a home game. But those things should hardly spell doom and gloom for their counterparts. Think about it: For years, the American side was a prohibitive favorite “on paper” and yet those plucky Europeans would look like the dominant team once it started. There are a few logical conclusions here. One is that it’s brutally difficult to play with a target on your back, especially on home turf. The other is that a coin which lands on heads seven times out of 10 is likely to come up tails at some point. This will be that point. Even though they’re not supposed to win, even though Europe is the favorite and the U.S. is without some prominent potential team members, even though pessimism has reigned throughout the 50 states, this column is about bold predictions, so here it comes: The U.S. will win the Ryder Cup. Somebody pass me that Uncle Sam top hat.last_img read more

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Channeling his energy: Veteran eyes career in golf

first_imgThe way Angel Morales Jr. sees it, watching Golf Channel saved his life. In July 2014 Morales was one of thousands of former veterans struggling to cope with becoming a civilian. His whole life had revolved around the military. His relatives had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When he had turned 19, “It was my turn.” For most of the next two decades, he served in the Army. He was part of Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and was stationed in Kosovo after 9/11. But a knee injury ended his military career. “The Army told me ‘You have to go,’” he said. The knee was probably the least of his wounds. “I got scars and some injuries,” he said, “but my bigger injuries were the mental stuff, the friends that I lost.” Civilian life was a mystery to Morales. He tried to go to school, “but I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t focus.” He couldn’t deal with his own family. A sister took out a restraining order against him. Chat on airplane led to founding of vets’ group Feeling suicidal, Morales checked himself into a VA hospital, but returned to his downward spiral after being released. He had no job prospects and was abusing his pain medication. Thoughts of suicide were never far from his mind. Watching golf on TV was one of the few things that gave him pleasure. On July 4, 2014, while watching “Morning Drive” in his Milwaukee home, Morales saw host Gary Williams interviewing Tom Underdown about his Fairways for Warriors organization. “I saw Tom and it was like a light turned on,” Morales said. “He was saying how there was a place you can go, play golf, not just play golf but there’s a family there – you know, they take care of each other. And I said, ‘I need that.’” He packed everything he could cram into his 2010 Toyota Corolla. What he couldn’t fit, he gave away to fellow veterans. A friend from high school offered him an affordable place to live near Orlando. “The doors began to open,” he said. “I got here literally in a week. The first person I called was Tom. I explained my situation. He said ‘Come on down this weekend.’ We started playing golf, and my life has completely turned around.” Like all of the Fairways for Warriors members, Morales can cite the Department of Veterans Affairs statistic on suicides by veterans – 22 per day. “I [would have been] one of them,” he said. “But through the Golf Channel, through Tom, through the camaraderie that we have with the other soldiers I was able to get out of that list. “Since I’ve been here, the pain medications, I don’t abuse those, I’m clean from that; [I’m] alcohol-free, once in a while a glass of wine, but nothing like it used to be. I’m focused, I’m going to school, I just recently put in an application to work with Marriott Grande Vista.” Morales is currently attending the Core Golf Academy at Orange County National, training to become a golf pro. The formal instruction he’s receiving is a far cry from his origins in the game. Veterans group seeks to build golf course Growing up in Puerto Rico, he lived in an area where there was only one course, and it was private. But the game fascinated him. He would press his face against the fence, watching the rich members swat these little white balls. “Sometimes they threw the balls over the fence and I kept them,” he said. He built his own mini-course in his backyard. “I cut the grass, I put a hole,” he said. He wasn’t able to pursue the game, further, though. “They didn’t have any golf programs in the school there,” he said. “It was only baseball.” In the Army, he could use real equipment. “The first day I went out I chipped one ball in the hole and I was hooked for life,” he said. “I went and bought clubs, I got shoes, clothes, everything.” Now Morales wants to combine his two loves – golf and his fellow veterans. “I see the soldiers that come to Fairways for Warriors – triple amputees, double amputees, one of our guys is blind. I see them, I see hope. So now I’m committed to help – whatever it takes. “My mission is to work [at the Warrior Golf Club] and get those [suicide] numbers down.”last_img read more

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Europe takes big lead early in EurAsia Cup

first_imgKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Europe grabbed a good lead over Asia in the EurAsia Cup, 4 ½ to 1 ½, after the opening day at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club on Friday. Bernd Wiesberger and Ian Poulter notched five birdies and an eagle to beat Anirban Lahiri and Wang Jeung-hun, 4 and 3 in the first fourballs match, then Kristoffer Broberg and Ross Fischer doubled that advantage. The 6-and-4 victory over Kim Kyung-tae and Prayad Marksaeng looked to put Europe in cruise control, but the Asians came back through Byeong Hun-an and Thongchai Jaidee, who upstaged Danny Willett and Matthew Fitzpatrick, 3 and 1. Europe, however, regained a two-point advantage thanks to a 2-and-1 success through Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan. Full scoring from the EurAsia Cup Despite the local cheers for Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung, who took turns trading birdies on the back nine to earn Asia half a point, Lee Westwood and Chris Wood made sure Europe ended the day on a high by beating Kiradech Aphibarnrat and SSP Chawrasia, 2 and 1. ”We know we are in the driving seat after today, but we need to keep up this performance,” Sullivan said. ”We all know what happened the last time, and what the Asian team are capable off.” At the inaugural event in 2014, Asia trailed Europe 5-0 on the opening day, before storming back to force a 10-10 draw and share the trophy. Thai stalwart Jaidee, who captained the team in that tournament, was confident a good showing on Saturday will set the tone for another remarkable comeback. ”Tomorrow will be very important,” Thongchai said. ”If we get some points and score some in the singles, it will make for a great spectacle. Our team (is) quite well set up for Asia to make a comeback.”last_img read more

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Taylor wins Pebble Beach as Phil comes up short

first_imgPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Vaughn Taylor doesn’t know how he lost his game. Even more mystifying was the way it returned. His goal Sunday when he teed off in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, trailing Phil Mickelson by six shots, was to finish in the top 10 so he wouldn’t have to rush down to Los Angeles and try to qualify for the next PGA Tour event. It had been more than a decade since he won. It had been three years since he had a full PGA Tour card. And just 10 days ago, Taylor was throwing up in his hotel room in Bogota, Colombia, so sick that he withdrew from a Web.com Tour event and flew to Pebble Beach as an alternate. The one-time Ryder Cup player only had a carry bag with him to save money on baggage fees. Taylor ran off four straight birdies on the back nine at Pebble Beach to close with a 7-under 65, and he wasn’t sure it was enough when Mickelson stood over a 5-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. And then Taylor got one last surprise. Mickelson missed. ”Just absolutely amazing,” Taylor said. ”Didn’t know if it would ever happen again, to be honest. Just lost a lot of confidence, lost a good bit of my game. I just kept working, grinding and kept at it. And I can’t believe it actually happened today.” Neither could Mickelson. Lefty was going for his record-tying fifth victory at Pebble Beach, and the 43rd title of his Hall of Fame career. He had a two-shot lead to start the final round, lost the lead after five holes, rallied with a birdie on the 17th hole and then delivered two good shots to within 60 feet of the hole, just short of the green on the par-5 18th. ”It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make that one,” Mickelson said after his 72. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, photos and videos Taylor had never given up on his career, though he was starting to rule out another victory, and he never imagined returning home to Augusta, Georgia, to play in the Masters. He is the first player this year to qualify by winning. ”Playing in the Masters is my Super Bowl,” Taylor said. Taylor was No. 447 in the world and had never won a tournament against the best players. His previous two victories were the Reno-Tahoe Open (2004 and 2005), which is held opposite a World Golf Championship. He had a scare two years ago when his aluminum fishing boat capsized in a strong current, leading to a few moment of panic with cold water up his chin and a park ranger guiding him to shore. He finished at 17-under 270 and earned $1.26 million, which is about $165,000 more than he made the last three years combined. Jonas Blixt, the first player to catch Mickelson, made bogey on the par-5 14th to fall back and closed with four pars for a 69 to finish third. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, who played with Mickelson in the final group, was one shot behind until he missed the 16th green and made bogey. He closed with a 72 to tie for fourth with Freddie Jacobson (71). Taylor didn’t look like much of a threat when he went out in 34, but he poured it on the back nine. He hit his approach to 3 feet on the 13th and to 12 feet on the dangerous par-5 14th. Coming out of the rough on the 15th, his ball hit the golf ball of Matt Jones and settled 2 feet away for a third straight birdie. The real blow came at the 16th, a 30-foot birdie putt on one of the toughest greens at Pebble. He rammed it hard enough and watched it break back into the cup, and Taylor ran around the green to celebrate. ”I’ve had that putt before. It’s a hard putt,” Taylor said. ”I wasn’t even thinking about making that putt. I knew it broke a lot, and it’s a little uphill at the end. It’s really easy to leave that putt short. I just flushed it. It was kind of going in from the start.” He missed two good birdie chances on the last two holes, but still wound up a winner. Taylor didn’t even realize he was in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am – he still has limited status as a past PGA Tour winner – until Monday when he was learned Cal Pettersen had withdrawn. That no longer is a problem. He’s in the Masters and PGA Championship, and he gets to set his own schedule for the next two years. Jordan Spieth, the world’s No. 1 player, closed with a 66 and tied for 21st, ending his streak of seven straight top 10s dating to September. Mickelson at least left Pebble believing he was closer to ending the longest victory drought of his pro career that dates to the 2013 British Open. ”It’s certainly disappointing, but it makes me more determined to get back to work and get this thing right,” he said. ”I know that I’m close to being where I want to be. But if I was there, I would have been able to finish it off.”last_img read more

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Snedeker leads by three though 54 holes in Fiji

first_imgNATADOLA, Fiji – Brandt Snedeker took a three-stroke lead Saturday in the wind-swept Fiji International, shooting a 2-under 70 in difficult conditions at Natadola Bay. Coming off the United States’ Ryder Cup victory Sunday in Minnesota, Snedeker had three birdies and a bogey to reach 12-under 204 on the Vijay Singh-designed layout. He opened with a 69 and shot a 64 on Friday. ”It was a tough day. I did a great job of hanging in there,” Snedeker said. ”I hit the ball really well off the tee with one exception and put the ball where I needed to all day. I hit a bunch of great putts that didn’t want to go in today for whatever reason. Australia’s Anthony Houston was second after a 73, and countryman Matthew Giles, the second-round leader, was 8 under after a 75. New Zealand’s Gareth Paddison followed his course-record 64 with a 69 to join Australia’s Michael Hendry (68) at 7 under. Snedeker parred the first eight holes, birdied the par-4 ninth and added another on the par-4 14th. He dropped a stroke on the par-4 16th – ending his bogey-free streak at 49 holes – and rebounded with an up-and-down birdie on the short par-5 17th. ”Starting the day out, if you’d have told me I’d shoot a couple under I probably would have taken it tough as the conditions are and as many big numbers are out there. I’ve given myself a chance and going into tomorrow I need to finish it off. A three-shot lead in wind like this is one hole, so I need to go out there and play a solid round of golf like I did today. Ranked 23rd in the world, the 35-year-old Snedeker won at Torrey Pines in February for his eighth PGA Tour title. He’s trying to win his first international title in the event sanctioned by European, Australasian and Asian tours. ”We’ll see what the weather looks like,” Snedeker said about the final round. ”Hopefully, we get a good day forecast, go out there and make some birdies and shoot something low.” Singh was tied for 36th at 1 over after a 72. The 53-year-old Fijian is a three-time major champion. Boo Weekley was even par after a 75, and fellow American Heath Slocum was 2 over, also after a 75.last_img read more

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Bradley’s chance to get back on track

first_imgLAKE FOREST, Ill. – The decline finally felt real for Keegan Bradley in April. After years as a mainstay near the top of the world rankings, Bradley’s game had been slowly slipping away for months as he made adjustments both on and off the course. But it wasn’t until his peers started their annual pilgrimage down Magnolia Lane without him this past spring that the former PGA champ took stock of just how far he had fallen. “That was awful,” said Bradley, whose five-year Masters exemption for winning the 2011 PGA expired in 2016. “I normally would go early and practice and play a little bit. That was always super fun for me, and now I wasn’t allowed. I couldn’t go, so that was tough.” It doesn’t seem that long ago that Bradley was christened as the next can’t-miss prospect when he burst out of obscurity during a steamy week at Atlanta Athletic Club, hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy in his first-ever major start. It was the second win of his rookie year, and another trophy followed the next summer at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But since then, the hardware has been hard to come by. Bradley is in the midst of a winless drought that now stretches more than five years, one he hopes to end this week at the BMW Championship where his 6-under 65 left him in a tie for second place, three shots behind leader Marc Leishman. The 25-year-old who seemingly couldn’t believe his fortune after that playoff over Jason Dufner is long gone. In his place stands a 31-year-old man with a baby on the way, a seasoned veteran who now has to fight off an incoming group of younger talent and who has experienced both the ups and the downs that pro golf has to offer. “It stinks. It’s no fun watching majors at home, no fun watching Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups at home,” Bradley said. “You start feeling bad for yourself.” The crux of Bradley’s regression can be traced back to the anchoring ban that took effect last year. His win with an anchored belly putter at the 2011 PGA was one of the results that led the USGA to take action, and Bradley admittedly struggled to find a solution. BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos Current FedExCup Playoff points standings After finishing 47th on Tour in strokes gained putting in 2014, he fell to 128th the next season and bottomed out at No. 183 on the greens in 2016. “It was tougher than I thought,” Bradley said. “But I was going through stuff with my game as well where I was working on that, so it was kind of like I couldn’t focus on one thing long enough.” Bradley failed to advance to the second playoff event in his native New England last year, but he opened the fall portion of this season with four straight top-25 finishes. That proved to be a harbinger of things to come, as a more confident and consistent Bradley now sits on the cusp of advancing to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. While he deserves much of the credit for his own reclamation, he put a hefty amount at the feet of veterans who offered advice during his darkest moments. Bradley has gotten tips from Ernie Els on what it takes to rebound from poor stretches, and he still has a pipeline for advice from friend and former Ryder Cup teammate Phil Mickelson, who sent Bradley a note of encouragement prior to the opening round at Conway Farms Golf Club. “He and I have been on a stretch where we are not playing at our best, and we are close to getting it back,” Mickelson said. “I just sent him a little text, ‘Hey, let’s have a special week. We’re close, we’re playing well, let’s put it together this week.’ Because his upside, his potential as a player is as high as just about anybody.” A spot at East Lake remains the goal for all 70 players in this week’s field but it holds extra gravity for Bradley, who missed two of the four majors this year and entered the week ranked No. 95 in the world. A schedule constructed with fully-exempt status is nice, but it doesn’t compare to one replete with the spoils of making the season finale: spots in each of the first three majors as well as the WGC-Mexico Championship. For Bradley, this week serves as a tantalizing opportunity to ensure his absence from Augusta National is short-lived. “Get into the Tour Championship and your year is set,” he said. “You’re basically top 50 in the world at that point. So it’s always in the back (of the mind), somewhere.” The game is still not as easy as it felt when he was taking the Tour by storm as a rookie, and the baby-faced grin is a bit more weathered these days. But after spending the last 11 months steadily climbing back onto leaderboards, Bradley has a chance this week to put an emphatic stamp on his return to form. Suddenly, the lows of April seem far away. “It was a lot more fun back then, I can tell you that. It’s a lot more fun winning, playing in majors and playing in Ryder Cups,” Bradley said. “But things are different for me now. I have a lot to look forward to, and a lot to work for. I’ve got a lot more years out here, so I look forward to that.”last_img read more

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Daly, Langer one behind leaders in Victoria

first_imgVICTORIA, British Columbia – Steve Flesch and Jerry Smith each shot 7-under 64 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship. Flesh is making his 12th senior start after turning 50 in late May. ”It’s kind of an awkward golf course off the tee, so you need to be decisive about what club you are going to hit and if you can hit it in the right places, you can make some birdies,” Flesch said. ”You have to pay attention out there. There are some tough tee shots out there and some awkward greens, so you can’t put yourself in the wrong place.” The four-time PGA Tour winner had four birdies in a five-hole stretch on Bear Mountain’s Mountain Course and capped the bogey-free round with a birdie on the par-5 18th. ”I hit a lot of good tee shots and set myself up for a lot of short irons,” Flesh said. ”I didn’t make a lot of putts early one, but I got it going in the middle of the round and ran off a few. It surprised me how much the golf course has dried out just in the last few days.” Smith also closed with a birdie and had six birdies in a seven-hole span before bogeying the par-3 14th. He has one senior title. Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer was a stroke back along with John Daly, David Toms and Jerry Kelly. Coming off a two-week break, the 60-year-old Langer opened eagle-birdie-birdie. ”Pretty easy eagle on No. 1 after a 3-wood,” Langer said. ”I pretty much stiffed it on the next two holes, so suddenly I was 4 under after three. I played pretty solid, although there were a couple of loose shots. Overall, it was pretty decent. I had a couple of chances coming in, but didn’t make any putts.” The German star won three of the tour’s five majors and is tied with Scott McCarron for tour victory lead with four. ”The greens have really toughened up and are really firm and really fast,” Langer said. ”We don’t get conditions like this very often, so you have to be aware of it. You have to be on your toes and know what greens are firm and what fairways are running out.” Daly won the Insperity Invitational in May in Texas for his first senior title. The fan favorite eagled the par-5 12th. ”Over the years, Canada has been just a wonderful place to come and play,” Daly said. ”I always feel the support of the fans. I always love the fans and love playing for them, but it’s a hell of a lot better when you are playing good, however.” Kelly took the Boeing Classic three weeks ago outside Seattle for his first tour victory. ”I wasn’t very happy with the way I started the year, but since I won, I have started to play much better,” Kelly said. ”Took a change of putters, a change of irons, a change of drivers, a change of shoes to play better. These courses are not pitch and putts. They are tough golf courses, period. You need to shoot low every single week. You need to make putts.” Canadian Stephen Ames topped the group at 66. Defending champion Colin Montgomerie opened with a 70. He won last week outside Tokyo in the 50-and-over tour’s first event in Japan. McCarron had a 71. He lost a playoff to Montgomerie last year at Bear Mountain, and tied for second last week in Japan after winning three of the previous six events. Nick Faldo shot 73.last_img read more

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Kitayama claims first European Tour win at Mauritius Open

first_imgBEAU CHAMP, Mauritius – Kurt Kitayama claimed his first European Tour win at the Mauritius Open on Sunday as he closed with a 4-under 68 for a 2-shot victory. Kitayama’s first European title came in just his third tournament as the American held off Chikkarangappa S and Matthieu Pavon, who both carded 67s to tie for second. Defending champion Dylan Frittelli finished strongly, shooting 65 to share fifth place. Justin Harding, tied for the lead with Kitayama overnight, was a shot ahead of him in fourth. Kitayama had an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys in his final round at Four Seasons Golf Course, going birdie-eagle-birdie from Nos. 3-5 to pull ahead. He had to hold his nerve, though, after his second dropped shot on No. 16 saw his lead cut to just a shot and gave Chikkarangappa and Pavon a chance. Kitayama recovered to finish birdie-par for a breakthrough win after only coming through qualifying school last month. ”I’m just so proud, really happy,” said Kitayama, who finished on 20-under 268 overall. ”It’s an unbelievable moment for me. I’m just so happy I was able to pull it off.” The 25-year-old Kitayama said earlier in the tournament he would reconsider staying on the European Tour at the end of the year, but he may have made his mind up to continue after Sunday’s success. ”This whole year has been, well, what a great year,” he said. ”I still have two more events but to win on one of the last events of the year is just great. ”It’s been really exciting, being able to travel all over the globe and I’m going to continue to travel more. I’m really looking forward to it.”last_img read more

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TT Postscript: Did Tiger gain enough ground?

first_imgAUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods didn’t lose ground Saturday morning. The question is: Did he gain enough? Woods made just one birdie over his seven-and-a-half holes to wrap a second-round 71. At 5 under par, he’ll enter the “weekend” at Augusta National four off the pace. Quick thoughts on the end of Round 2 before a quick turnaround to Round 3: • He couldn’t afford to drop a shot right out of the gate, and his up-and-down from in front of the green at 11 was massive. When that ticklish 5-footer snuck in the right edge, I thought we were off and running. • We were not. The tee shot at 12 was a touch conservative, 15 feet right of the flag. He hit a wonderful putt that broke across the entirety of the hole in the very last foot. No harm, no foul. • The real disappointment came at 13, when a push-draw with a fairway wood found the second cut by just a few feet. Tiger said after his round that he doesn’t think the grounds crew mowed that second cut overnight, that it was longer this morning. No doubt it led to his lay up out to the right, 90 yards from the front pin. A wedge with some action gave him a great look at birdie — 10 feet up the hill — he just pulled it. • And I thought for sure he were headed for a similar dynamic at 15. He put a lot into his drive, but the ball hit and died in the fairway, leaving him 243 down the hill and prompting him to again lay up. When his wedge spun back to 20 feet, he was in danger of failing to capitalize on either par 5. • Of course, he drained it. Quote Tiger: Guys tend to over-read that putt. These are the kinds of things you know and the kind of things you say when you’ve won five times. • So he didn’t make the two or three birdies we were looking for to really vault him near the top of this leaderboard. Instead, he put on a short-game clinic. Where the up-and-down at 11 was a grind, the checked chips into the hills at 14 and 18 were the work of a savant. They helped him save par and kept him afloat. They also belong in some kind of museum. Vintage Woods. • Four back through 36 with 16 in front of him and five more tied. It’s doable. But he’s going to need to be aggressive about it. This is a little different golf course this year. And guys like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm aren’t going to be plotting their way around. It’s time to put the pedal down.last_img read more

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