Tagged in: PGA tour

Darren Clarke wins TimberTech Champions by 1 stroke for first PGA Tour Champions title

Darren Clarke won the TimberTech Champions on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions title, two-putting for birdie on the par-5 18th for a 1-stroke triumph over Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer.

Clarke hit his second shot on 18 to 30 feet and rolled his eagle try just past the hole. After Furyk missed a 20-foot eagle try, Clarke tapped in for a 4-under 68 and the breakthrough victory in his 40th senior start.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities the last few years, so it’s great to finally win one,” Clarke said. “I wouldn’t be working this hard if I didn’t think I could still win.”

The 52-year-old major champion from Northern Ireland had a 17-under 199 total at The Old Course at Broken Sound. Clarke shot a 62 — with a penalty stroke for picking up his ball on the second fairway — Saturday for a share of the lead with Robert Karlsson.

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Clarke won for the first time since the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s.

“Well, the last victory I had, I was drunk for a week, so this time I won’t be,” Clarke said.

The 50-year-old Furyk also closed with a 68. He won this year in his first two starts on the senior tour.

“I really feel like I’m putting well, but I was burning a lot of edges and not able to get some putts to go in,” Furyk said. “At 18 had a nice look for eagle there from about 20 feet and thought I hit a great putt. I didn’t even sniff the hole, I probably missed it a good cup low and we just misread the putt. I’m a little stunned it broke as much as it did.”

Langer, the 63-year-old German star who won the event in 2010 and 2019, shot 67. He was 16 under until making bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes that cost him. He regained the lead in the Charles Schwab Cup.

“I didn’t drive the ball well and I could feel there was something wasn’t right with my swing and it showed up over and over,” Langer stated. “I hit probably six or seven tee shots just way right and that’s going to bite you sooner or later — and it did on 16.”

The PGA Tour Champions wraps up 2020 next week with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix, although the season will be extended to include 2021 because of tournaments lost from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was fourth at 15 under after a 66.

Karlsson (71) and Gene Sauers (68) followed at 14 under.John Daly, tied with Furyk for the first-round lead after a 64, had weekend rounds of 73 and 71 to tie for 26th at 7 under. He was making his fourth start since exposing he has bladder cancer.

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Peter Malnati shoots 63, leads PGA Bermuda Championship

Peter Malnati saw his infant son at a PGA Tour event for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic, which brought a smile to his face and another birdie on his card for an 8-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the Bermuda Championship.

The tournament is the first to permit limited fans — no more than 500 a day at Port Royal — since the opening round of The Players Championship on March 12.

The final birdie was the ninth of the round for Malnati, who has gone from the South to the West to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and keeps playing some of his best golf.

It was the third time in his past three events he posted a 63 or lower. Malnati was runner-up at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi and followed that with a tie for fifth in Las Vegas. This round gave him a one-shot lead over Ryan Armour and Doug Ghim, who birdied his last two holes.

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“With everything in the world right now — and this island is doing a phenomenal job with their testing protocol and keeping everyone safe — I just didn’t know if it was actually going to work for them to get out here,” Malnati said of about his wife and 1-year-old son.

“So coming off that disappointing bogey on 17, I hit a nice drive on 18 and before I even get my yardage or anything, I see my wife and boy standing out there.

“It just brought a huge smile to my face,” he said. “To see them and then to finish with that birdie, I’m a happy man.”

Malnati ran off five straight birdies starting with No. 9, and he was looking to finish strong.

Among the shorter hitters in the modern power game, he had made up his mind to take on the bunkers down the right side of the par-5 17th hole and turn it into an easy birdie.

Instead, he turned it left into the water for a penalty stroke and made bogey.

“So that stunk,” Malnati stated. “But how can I complain about much? We’re on the island of Bermuda and I sure played great.”

The Bermuda Championship matches the weakest field of the year on the PGA Tour, though it receives full status this year because the HSBC Champions in Shanghai was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Bermuda is not the same week as a World Golf Championship.

The winner receives an invitation to the Masters next year. It also is the start of consecutive PGA Tour events permitting limited fans. The Houston Open has said it will sell no more than 2,000 tickets a day. The Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, the first event on 2021, also announced this week it would limited fans.

Doc Redman, Vaughn Taylor and Chase Seiffert were at 65, while Hunter Mahan was in the group at 66. It was Mahan’s lowest opening round in more than two years.

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Sergio birdies final hold to win Sanderson Farms

Sergio Garcia didn’t have to sweat much over the final shot that clinched the Sanderson Farms Championship, his first PGA Tour triumph since the 2017 Masters. It was only 2 feet 6 inches in length, barely more than a tap-in after the Spaniard hit the shot of the tournament from the final fairway.

But just like with the other putts he stroked this week, Garcia wasn’t watching when he rolled in one last birdie putt to close out a final-round 67 to edge Peter Malnati by a shot at the Country Club of Jackson.

“Well, I guess eyes closed is probably normal for me now,” Garcia said. “I realized that I get too caught up in trying to make it too perfect instead of just letting myself do it. You don’t have to hit a perfect putt every time to be able to make it.”

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Garcia, 40, has been one of the more cerebral players on Tour for more than two decades.

But even after opening with a share of the 54-hole lead in Mississippi, it didn’t appear likely coming down the stretch that he’d be able to add to his trophy haul this week.

Garcia played his first 13 holes in 2 under, a solid score for a co-leader but not good enough to keep pace with Malnati, the 2015 champion who blistered the course with a closing 63.

There were few signs entering this week that self-trust would amount to much for Garcia, who was making his first-ever Sanderson presence.

He had missed three of his last four cuts, including each of the first two majors this year, and had dropped out of the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time since 2011. In nine starts since the break, he had ended better than T-32 just once – a T-5 finish at the RBC Heritage in June.

Asked if he had become frustrated by media asking him what’s wrong with his game, Garcia shed some perspective on his recent drought. “I really wasn’t that frustrated,” he stated, “because nobody was really talking to me.”

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Dustin Johnson wins FedEx Cup

Dustin Johnson only looks like he plays without a pulse. Beneath his stoic stare and that swagger as he walked the fairways of East Lake on Monday were jangled nerves because it meant so much to him.

The $15 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup? That would get anyone’s attention, especially someone who thought he was rich when Johnson cashed his first tournament check for $113,571 as a PGA Tour rookie.

But there was more.

“The prestige, for sure,” Johnson said after delivering a key par putt and steady play down the stretch for a 2-under 68 and a 3-shot victory in the Tour Championship.

“Being a FedEx Cup champion is something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to hold that trophy at the end of the day. It was something that I wanted to accomplish during my career.” He did it by hitting his stride at just the correct time

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He acquired two of the three FedEx Cup postseason events and lost in a playoff by a 65-foot putt in the other.

It all came down to the final day of the final event, and even with a 5-shot lead, it was never easy.

“It’s a very tough trophy to win,” Johnson said. “I controlled my own destiny, but I still had to go out and play well. I had a lot of great players right behind me. It got close at the end. I knew it was going to come down the stretch and I’d have to hit some golf shots.”

None was bigger than the 20-foot par putt on the 13th hole to keep his lead at three shots, the 5-iron safely on the green on the toughest hole at East Lake, another 5-iron over the water on the par-3 15th — the one hole where big numbers lurk — and a wedge out of a deep bunker and onto the green at the 16th.

“This is a tough golf course. No lead is safe,” Johnson said. “The guys gave me a good fight today.” Johnson became the first No. 1 seed at the Tour Championship to collect the FedEx Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009.

Now Johnson has his name etched on the silver trophy alongside some of the best from his generation, starting with Woods and most recently Rory McIlroy, with Hall of Famers, major champions and former world No. 1 players in between.

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Watney first player on PGA Tour to test positive

Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage on Friday prior to the second round after testing positive for COVID-19.

According to the PGA Tour, Watney specified he had symptoms consistent with the virus. After consulting with a physician, he took a COVID-19 test which turned out to be positive.

Before hearing of the result, however, Watney went to the golf course; Si Woo Kim said he saw Watney on the range. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy said he had a chat with Watney – at a distance – before teeing off. And Brooks Koepka said he saw Watney in the parking lot.

“He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I said, look, it’s fine. You never know. So I said to him, if I was in your position, I probably would have been here, too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy. “But, yeah, look, it sucks for him especially. You know, if you contract it, that’s fine, but then it’s the fact that who have you come into contact with, and who you might have exposed and stuff. Look, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Until this thing’s over, we all just have to stay vigilant and keep your distance and wear our masks if we’re going out in public and keep washing our hands.”

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Watney texted McIlroy to tell him he had the virus and McIlroy valued Watney’s concern.

Watney shot 74 in the first round before withdrawing on Friday. He had traveled privately to Hilton Head Island and tested negatively on Monday here on the island.

He is the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus.

Watney will isolate for at least 10 days nearby.

“Nick will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

The PGA Tour had no additional comment.

There were 369 tests of players, caddies, and essential personnel prior to the start of the RBC Heritage. There were no positive results. Watney, 39, is a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. He shot 71-74 to miss the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge, when the PGA Tour returned to action after a 13-week break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Love III’s return bittersweet 3 months after fire

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disruptive force across the world, made worse for Davis Love III by a March fire that devastated his home.

Love, 56, a two-time U.S. Ryder Cup team captain and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is returning to play for the first time since the fire at this week’s RBC Heritage, a tournament he has won five times.

He is also seeing many friends and colleagues for the first time since the March 27 incident that totaled his home in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

“Certainly [wife] Robin and I packing up to come to a golf tournament was exciting, but it was also a little emotional,” Love said Wednesday at Harbour Town Golf Club, where the tournament starts Thursday. “

We didn’t have anything to pack like we usually do.

“I’m searching for head covers, and my son gave me a ball-mark fixer. I was like, I just don’t have enough equipment to go play a PGA Tour event. So it’s been ups and downs like that.”

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Love discovered a fire in his garage shortly after 5 a.m. that day after an alarm alerted him and his wife. None of the couple’s kids or grandchildren were at the home during the fire.

After trying to get a fire extinguisher, it became apparent that the fire was too strong, Love said. The Loves called 911 and waited.

“It seemed like it took forever,” Love said recently in a Golf Digest interview. “We were standing there watching our house burn down.”

The house was 12,000 square feet and three stories, but Love said it was gone in 30 minutes.

Most of Love’s golf memorabilia was gone, including the replica Ryder Cup trophy he received in 2016. A replica of the Wanamaker Trophy he was given for winning the 1997 PGA Championship is part of his display at the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Loves recently bought another home in the same area and will take time to decide their next move.

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Golfers playing through bizarre is new normal

Players at the Charles Schwab Challenge who participated in virtual press conferences on Tuesday stated they accept and support the conditions imposed for the first PGA Tour event since the abbreviated Players Championship in mid-March, protocols that involve both testing for coronavirus and restrictions on the golf course. Still, the “new normal” is likely to take some getting used.

After arriving in Fort Worth, all 148 players in the field (and their caddies) had to undergo a nasal swab test. Players, caddies and others then received a temperature scan of their foreheads and answered a series of questions about COVID-19 symptoms in order to gain entry to Colonial Country Club—a routine that will be recurrent daily throughout the entirety of the tournament.

Once on the grounds, Tour officials have encouraged everyone to keep space between themselves and others, creating some unusual breaks from the routine found at most tour events. “You’re getting your own range balls,” said Jordan Spieth, the 2016 champion at Colonial. “You’re scooping your bucket.”

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The PGA Tour enacted these sweeping regulations and recommendations in order to ensure the safety of everyone involve in staging a return after its longest break—March 12 to June 9—since World War II.

As one of the first professional sports to resume play, golf has a chance to set an example about how sports can return to some form of responsible competition and entertainment.

To do that, however, the participants must take ownership, Speith said.

“A hundred percent. I totally think we all as players have responsibility for it to go off very smoothly,” he said. The Tour has limited the number of people who can be on the grounds, allowing no spectators or family members of the players to be in attendance. There is none of the usual infrastructure you find at a Tour event, no grandstands or hospitality areas or fitness trailers. What there are plenty of, however, are hand sanitizers stations throughout the course.

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