Who won the first-ever Donald Ross Memorial Invitational boys individual title?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Monday Recap: FedEx Cup Playoffs

Dustin Johnson earlier this year at the Masters. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Services.

With Hurricane Irene barreling north toward New Jersey, PGA Tour officials decided to shorten The Barclays to a 54-hole event.

Dustin Johnson became the benefactor with his scorching three rounds that tallied a 19-under par total on the Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J.

However, DJ has a history of imploding in final rounds (see 2010 United States Open or Bunkergate at the 2010 PGA Championship).

Another 18 holes could have sorted out whether DJ really can close the deal. Sure, the tournament was already announced long before Saturday's round as a 54-hole event. But with an additional round and the Sunday feeling, Johnson needed that scenario to overcome whatever mental block he might have coming down the stretch.

Regardless, the tournament proved Johnson is a top American player, ready to grasp a major sometime soon. Remember, Phil Mickelson took a long time to snag a major championship and several more followed his maiden triumph.

This was the first step in a season-ending playoff format that is supposed to give golf fans a reason to watch the sport after the PGA Championship concluded.

Newsflash: jazzing it up with a title (FedEx Cup) and adding some additional money isn't going to make the late August and September schedules any more enticing to watch than the previous few months.

Those past months gave us four major championships and a bona fide fifth in The Players Championship.

It's football season, anyway, but perhaps the PGA Tour can scrap the playoff idea and push back the PGA or some World Golf Championship events.

The PGA is already the least popular of golf's four majors and isn't tied to a season like the Masters is with spring time at Augusta National.

And frankly, venues for the PGA are still viable later in August or even in September. American sites for the Ryder Cup and President's Cup are in prime condition even as fall begins.

But if officials were to move that last major in September, then it'd have to be in the early portion of the month as to not conflict with possible Ryder Cup scheduling (we don't want another rain-filled edition like Celtic Manor was in October).

Whatever the decision is, though, let's chuck the playoff system into the abyss designed for team sports to utilize. Leave golf tournaments the way they should be, 72-holes and that's it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chris Kennedy won't attend PGA Tour Q-School this year

Chris Kennedy during a West Florida Golf Tour event in July. Photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie/Bradenton Herald.

Following play in Tuesday's West Florida Golf Tour two-day event at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club, Lakewood Ranch resident Chris Kennedy said he won't be going to PGA Tour Q-School this fall.

The pre-qualification stage starts in mid-September, with Lake Jovita's South Course in Dade City as the only Florida venue during that phase.

The deadline to submit the application was Wednesday, and the former Cardinal Mooney standout elected not to play this fall.

Rather, he'll build off his professional debut at the WFGT event, where he placed in a tie for fifth and broke 70 in both rounds.

The momentum from that performance should help heading forward, despite not winning the tournament where former three-time PGA Tour winner Robert Gamez captured after a course record 62 in Tuesday's final round.

To read more about the record-breaking round, check out the full story here.

Kennedy's sparkling amateur career concluded after he didn't qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which is currently in the round of 32 matches. He won the Sarasota City Men's Amateur for a second time in early May and continued his fine form in other top-level amateur qualifying events.

Kennedy also excelled in WFGT events, while still as an amateur - losing a playoff in one tournament at Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club in early July.

Peter Uihlein advances in U.S. Amateur

Peter Uihlein during last year's championship run in the U.S. Amateur. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Services.

Former IMG Academies standout Peter Uihlein is one step closer to etching his name into the same record books as golfer's like the legendary Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods.

Uihlein crushed South Africa's Dylan Frittelli 5-and-4 in the round of 32 matches at the 111th United States Amateur on Thursday. Uihlein, a rising senior at Oklahoma State University, is the defending champion and is trying to become the first player to win back-to-back titles in the event since Woods completed a three-peat from 1994 to 1996.

Jones accomplished the feat twice, winning in 1924-25 and 1927-29.

Uihlein took his first lead on the seventh hole and didn't look back against Frittelli, winning five consecutive holes - Nos. 7-11 - before closing the match out on No. 14 at Wisconsin's Erin Hills layout.

Uihlein is an honorary member at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch and visits Manatee County on occasion for some tune-ups with IMG Leadbetter Golf Academy director David Whelan, who also teaches the LPGA Tour's Paula Creamer, LET rookie Jaclyn Sweeney and Nationwide Tour and former PGA Tour player Casey Wittenberg.

Uihlein tees off at 7:40 a.m. (local time) on Friday, and will face a difficult opponent in his attempt to book a quarterfinal spot for later that afternoon. Uihlein's opponent is Scott Langley, who recorded a 4-and-3 victory over Canada's Mitch Sutton.

Langley wrapped up his collegiate career at Illinois last spring and claimed the NCAA Individual Championship in 2010.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Monday Recap: Paula Creamer

Paula Creamer at last year's CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. Courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Former IMG Academies standout Paula Creamer improved each day in this week's LPGA Tour Safeway Classic in North Plains, Ore.

Creamer fired a final-round 68 to earn over $76,000 for fourth place. The honorary Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club member finished two shots back of Suzann Pettersen, who defeated Na Yeon Choi in a playoff to claim the title.

Other Manatee County players didn't fare quite as well as Creamer.

Jaclyn Sweeney, who shares a coach with Creamer at IMG, and Bradenton native Jessica Korda missed the cut in the 54-hole tournament.

Both rookies struggled to put anything together in their two individual rounds, with the 18-year-old Korda ballooning to an 80 on Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's par-71 Ghost Creek Course in Saturday's second round.

Meanwhile, Creamer didn't just get close to the winner's circle. She was named to the 2011 United States Solheim Cup team.

Creamer earned an automatic berth onto the 12-player team for next month's event in Ireland, which was announced by captain Rosie Jones with her two captain's picks on Sunday night.

Friday, August 19, 2011

LPGA Tour's Safeway Classic First Round

Locals are struggling at the difficult Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Ghost Creek course in North Plains, Ore.

Three players with Bradenton ties are in the field for this week's LPGA Tour Safeway Classic, and all three are over par at the moment.
Paula Creamer is 1-over par through 14 holes, while Jaclyn Sweeney is 4-over par through 10 holes.

The pair are IMG Academy alums with Creamer possessing an honorary membership at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club, while Sweeney still resides in Bradenton.

Both share IMG's David Whelan as their swing coach.

Meanwhile, Bradenton native Jessica Korda is finished with her first round. She fired a 3-over par 74.

The 18-year-old isn't the only to struggle in Friday's opening round.

As of now, only 22 players sit below par on the difficult par-71 layout.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

LPGA Tour's Safeway Classic pairings released

The pairings for this week's Safeway Classic were released Thursday.

The three-day, 54-hole LPGA Tour stop at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Ghost Creek course in the Pacific Northwest (North Plains, Ore.) has a Manatee County flavor to it.

Paula Creamer, Jaclyn Sweeney and Jessica Korda are all in the field.

Creamer, an IMG Academies alum, tees off No. 1 at 12:21 p.m. alongside Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis.
Sweeney, a fellow IMG alum who calls Bradenton home now, also starts off the front nine. Her tee time is 1:05 p.m. and she'll play with the teenage phenom, Lexi Thompson, and Shi Hyun Ahn.

Korda, a Bradenton native, begins bright and early off No. 10 at 7:15 a.m. The 2010 U.S. Women's Amateur runner-up plays with Heather Bowie Young and Allison Fouch in the first round.

Television coverage of the day one starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. on The Golf Channel.

Ericka Schneider and Wendi Golden capture State Four-Ball title

Lakewood Ranch alum Ericka Schneider teamed with Bradenton’s Wendi Golden, who spent last fall as the Mustangs girls golf coach, to capture the Florida Women’s Golf Association’s 21st Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship in Vero Beach earlier this month. The duo turned in a two-round total of 133 for a four-shot victory.

Schneider is heading to the University of Mississippi to continue her collegiate career after spending the past two seasons helping Daytona State College win back-to-back JUCO National Championships.

Check out the rest of this week's noteworthy golf news here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Monday Recap: PGA Championship Edition

Keegan Bradley lines up his winning putt as a dejected Jason Dufner walks off the 18th green at the PGA Championship. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Services.

The PGA Championship always will be the least glamorous of the four majors. It's the second youngest, but it also doesn't possess the aura and mystique that Augusta National and the Masters provides each spring.

The tournament is also the only one of the four major championships exclusively for the pros, meaning amateurs are not welcomed no matter how good they are.

So it wasn't all that surprising to witness Sunday's final round battled between a journeyman and a rookie.

(Spoiler alert: the rookie, in this case Keegan Bradley, won).

Bradley caught fire at the right time and watched as Jason Dufner turned into a duffer befit for once a week duties on the links.

Dufner imploded down the stretch, losing a four shot lead with four to play and then had to square off against the inferno known as Bradley in the PGA Championship's three-hole playoff system.

Even though Dufner three-putted the second extra hole to fall two shots behind with one playoff hole remaining at the Atlanta Athletic Club, he still provided the everyman pro some hope.

His incredible week was marred by that finish, but he still hit a deft approach on the first playoff hole to generate excitement among the thousands in attendance.

Of course his Wanamaker Trophy bid went almost as soon as that putt was pulled left.

Then there's Bradley, who birdied Nos. 16, 17 and almost curled in a bomb on the difficult par-4 18th.

If he had made that putt, it would have marked the first time all week that any player birdied three straight holes at any point during the 72-hole tournament.

But alas, he birdied the first playoff hole and routinely parred out to claim a two-shot playoff victory and net his maiden major triumph in his first ever major start.

Bradley's historic day put him in an exclusive club. Only Ben Curtis (2003 British Open) and the legendary Francis Ouimet (1913 United States Open) claimed a major title in their first time playing a major.

The only question from Sunday's thrilling end was, did anyone bother to watch?

I have to admit, before Sunday's end, I probably watched about five minutes of action. Five minutes in total. All week.

With Tiger Woods looking like he should call it quits before he hits 40 years old, the viewership numbers shouldn't be eye-popping.

Woods missed the cut badly, and with him off the weekend coverage a decrease in audience figures is almost a guarantee.

But golf won this week, regardless. We had a dramatic ending, and an American won the tournament.

That's saying something, since the fourth different major champion this year (Bradley) ended an American drought in the majors. Not since the 2010 Masters, when Phil Mickelson won another green jacket, had an American hoisted a major championship.

But the question still remains: did you watch the PGA Championship? Vote in the new poll located on the right-hand side.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sarasota's Pope Golf to run Manatee County courses

Pope Golf won the bidding war to manage the Manatee County and Buffalo Creek golf courses after the county commission voted its approval Tuesday night.

Pope Golf currently runs Bent Tree Country Club and Sarasota Golf Club.

Both courses are off Bee Ridge Rd. in Sarasota and have improved since Pope's arrival as the management company.

Pope Golf's contract with the county is for five years.

The full story on the winning bid can be found here. And here's another story on some of the details within the contract, as well as where you can find the commission's agenda items from Tuesday's meeting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Monday Recap: Steve Williams

Steve Williams congratulates Adam Scott after the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

So I guess Tiger Woods wasn't the one who had the magic touch around Firestone all those years.

Looks like it was Steve Williams, Woods' longtime caddie.

Williams and Woods partnered to win the World Golf Championship event seven times.

But Woods made is return to golf from injury without Williams, having fired the caddie in late July.

Enter Adam Scott, who cruised to a four-shot victory at the historically Woods dominated venue.

Williams was toting the bag, and made the no bones about where the victory stacked up.

"I’ve caddied for 33 years ... and that’s the best win I’ve ever had,” Williams told CBS Sports after the round.


The 13 majors, including the record-setting performance at the 2000 United States Open or the 2001 Masters that capped four consecutive major titles, alongside Woods wasn't considered?

Even at Firestone, where Woods won in 2000 with a ridiculous shot-in-the-dark and had countless other impossible shots pulled off during his reign as the best golfer in the world, which seems like it happened in the Stone Age wasn't considered?

Man, what a messy divorce.

But so far, it looks like Williams is the benefactor. With Scott's $1.4 million victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Williams stands to make $140,000 as a 10 percent fee for caddying.

Meanwhile, Woods limped to a tie for 37th and $58,000.

So Williams made more than Woods did without hitting a single shot.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

West Florida Golf Tour announces groove change

Logo provided by the WFGT.

The West Florida Golf Tour is a developmental mini-tour that gives players in the Bradenton/Sarasota area the chance to hone their games in preparation for the fall's PGA Tour Q-School.

Now the WFGT will go another step in that direction, having announced on its website that the groove rules change will take place for the 2012 season.

Players will have the remainder of 2011 to upgrade their equipment to comply with the USGA regulations.

Paula Creamer joins Natalie Gulbis in Malaysia visit

Paula Creamer at last year's CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

On Wednesday, it was announced that LPGA Tour star and IMG graduate Paula Creamer will compete in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia scheduled for October 13-16 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Creamer, who won the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, joins fellow American star Natalie Gulbis to confirm participation in the event, which Creamer withdrew from last year's event following her thumb injury.

Both players are taking a five-day tour of Malaysia as part of the tournament’s activities.