SINGAPORE – Paula Creamer sank a 75-foot eagle putt on the second playoff hole against Azahara Munoz to win the HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday for her first LPGA title since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. Creamer’s putt curled across the 18th green and then rolled slowly down the slope and directly into the hole. She ran across the green, then fell to her knees and put her head on the ground, laughing and pounding the grass. ”It’s one of those putts where if you just get it in the right spot, it’s going to fall down,” she said. ”But I could stand there all day long and putt that and I don’t think get it within six, seven feet.” Creamer and Munoz finished 72 holes tied at 10-under 278, one stroke ahead of Karrie Webb, who led after every round but bogeyed three of her last six holes to give up a three-shot lead and finish third. Creamer captured eight titles early in her career before getting her breakthrough win at a major at the U.S. Women’s Open. After that title, though, Creamer found it tough to win again. She came close on a number of occasions, only to fall short every time. Two years ago, she lost an LPGA record nine-hole playoff against Jiyai Shin at the Kingsmill Championship. She was also third here in Singapore last year and finished in a tie for third twice to start this season. ”I just was struggling. I was enjoying what I was doing, but I wasn’t loving it,” she said. ”My expectations were way too high.” In December, Creamer got engaged to Derek Heath, which she said put some of her past difficulties in perspective. Then came Sunday’s victory against one of the toughest fields outside the majors, featuring 19 of the top 20 ranked players. ”It might be one of my favorite wins. … It’s been almost three years and so much has happened,” she said. ”Holding that trophy, gosh, it was so nice.” For much of the day, it appeared as if Webb, not Creamer, would take the trophy home. But after avoiding trouble on a tricky Serapong course at Sentosa Golf Club for much of the week, the veteran Australian stumbled late. Photos: Creamer sinks 75-footer, goes wild Photos: Creamer through the years First, Webb’s three-foot par putt on the 13th caught the edge of the hole and curled away. Then she hooked her tee shot left on the 15th, grimacing as it dropped into the water. She settled for bogey on both. She came undone on the 18th when another errant tee shot ended up in a bunker. She took a big swing at the ball and it hit the lip of the bunker, plopping back down into the sand to lead to another bogey. ”I’m a bit in my head right now,” Webb said after the round. ”Just not a lot of good decisions.” Creamer and Munoz, meanwhile, were steady in the closing holes. Creamer, who trailed Webb by four strokes at the start of the day, made a difficult 12-footer for birdie on the 15th to pull even with Webb at 10 under. Then, after hitting into the bunker herself on No. 18, she recovered to save par and headed to the clubhouse to wait for Munoz to finish. The Spaniard, who had trailed by five strokes early in the round, came out of nowhere to join the leaders by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th. She had a chance to win it on the 18th but pulled her birdie putt wide. Webb wasn’t the only one who had a disappointing day. Defending champion Stacy Lewis saw her streak of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes broken with her joint-40th place. She had been closing in on Webb’s LPGA record of 16 straight top-10 finishes, set in 1998-99. ”I played terrible all week,” she said. ”I didn’t hit the ball well or make any putts.” World No. 1 Inbee Park shot a 68 to finish in joint fourth place at 7-under 281 with No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Angela Stanford and Morgan Pressel. Michelle Wie and Teresa Lu were two strokes back in a tie for ninth.
GOLD COAST, Australia – Defending champion Adam Scott and fellow Australians Scott Strange and Wade Ormsby were tied for the lead after three rounds at the Australian PGA Championship, with American Boo Weekley one stroke behind. Scott shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday while Strange and overnight leader Ormsby had 71s for 54-hole totals of 10-under 206 on the Royal Pines resort course. Weekley, playing in Australia for the third time in four weeks, also shot 69 and was tied for fourth with Australian Jason Scrivener, who shot 68. Weekley provided one of the shots of the day when he chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 12th. American Scott Stallings shot 68 and was tied for seventh, four strokes behind. Australian Jarrod Lyle, back playing regularly after recovering from his second bout of leukemia, shot 70 and was in a group tied for ninth at 5-under, five behind. Strange was ahead by a stroke with two to play but a bogey on the 17th dropped him into a tie with Scott. Ormsby made a long birdie putt on the 18th to join them in the lead. Scott failed to convert several birdie chances. ”It was tough conditions so on a day like today it’s less frustrating to see a few slide by because most people are struggling,” Scott said. ”Scoring wasn’t great today … I kind of got away with that. If that’s the case tomorrow, then I’ll probably not win.” For that reason, Scott said he’ll try to get off to a quick start. ”It’s the best thing I can do for so many reasons to give myself the advantage,” Scott said. ”Whether it’s a-crowd cheering perspective or just a rhythm of the tournament perspective. Any of these guys can get off to a good start and there’s no reason why not.”
ORLANDO, Fla. – A few years back a group of on-air pundits were asked who would be the first Swede to win a major championship. Someone picked Carl Pettersson. Another went with Jonas Blixt. Annika Sorenstam’s name may have also been mentioned in jest; it’s hard to remember exactly because of what happened next. Henrik Stenson entered the “Morning Drive” studio for the next segment and glared at your scribe, a member of that misguided group, and said simply, menacingly even, “That was a mistake.” As the golf world inches closer to the year’s first men’s major at Augusta National, Stenson’s admonishment is starting to feel more like foreshadowing. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos On Sunday on a softer-than-Wonder Bread Bay Hill layout, the stoic-looking Swede didn’t win that elusive major or even a mid-major, but he certainly seemed to take a step toward breaking through that Grand Slam ceiling. A half-world away Pete Cowen didn’t watch Stenson’s eventful final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He didn’t see him squander a one-stroke lead late Sunday at Bay Hill. He didn’t need to. After 14 years and endless hours working with him on far-flung practice tees he knows the talent that burns within the 38-year-old. So instead, he watched the Man United-Liverpool tilt. When it comes to Stenson, Cowen knows the fine line between victory and defeat is measured in the moments when things aren’t going his way. “We like to say if he can keep his melon on he can win anywhere,” Cowen said. Whether Stenson’s melon is squarely fused to his broad shoulders permanently is still unknown, as evidenced by his near-miss at Arnie’s invitational. After starting the day with a two-stroke advantage, he dropped two behind the likes of Morgan Hoffmann only to forge ahead with birdies at Nos. 11 and 12. That’s where the line became blurry. It’s the moment when he and Hoffmann, who was paired with Stenson, were put on the clock by a PGA Tour rules official on the 15th hole. It was the second time the group was subjected to the pressures of a stopwatch, and will be documented as the moment Stenson three-putted from 45 feet at No. 15, and then he needed three more from the fringe at the par-5 16th hole. For a player who had recorded just two three-putts his first three days it was the metaphorical fork in the road. “It’s hard when you don’t feel like you can take the time you need,” said Stenson, who would par the final three holes to finish a stroke behind API winner Matt Every. “I just don’t see the point.” Widely considered a “five-tool” player, it’s Stenson’s ability, and at times inability, to deal with adversity that has covered the divide between consensus world-beater and would-be champion. It’s why when Stenson rang Cowen past midnight on Wednesday about a swing that had been blown out of position by winds that buffeted the pro-am, the swing coach calmly worked his man through the moment. “There is one fault that he has with his swing and one fault only,” Cowen said. The two discussed the esoteric elements of Stenson’s swing. Essentially, Cowen walked him through the mechanics of “getting pressure on the ball.” Put another way, predictable contact creates repeatable results, and Stenson responded with three consecutive rounds in the 60s. There was no sense of urgency for either Stenson or Cowen because when it comes to the golf swing he is the quintessential Swede, unflappable and detail driven. It’s an advantage Stenson has come by honestly after a career dotted with peaks and valleys yet defined by quality with Tour victories at a World Golf Championship, The Players and two FedEx Cup playoff stops. “He’s been through two adverse periods and that has given him confidence to know he can handle anything,” said Cowen, referring to Stenson’s swoons in 2003, when he drifted to 502nd in the world, and 2012, when he dropped to 222nd. “His caddie [Gareth Lord] said that if he keeps his head we’ll have chances every week.” So far in 2015 on the PGA Tour Stenson has largely played to that script, finishing fourth in his first two starts of the season and runner-up on Sunday at Bay Hill. It’s likely why Stenson took the long view following his near-miss at Bay Hill. “My goal is to play as good as I can, be up in contention as many times as I can and the more times I’m there the more tournaments I will win,” Stenson said. “It’s still good practice to feel the heat and be out there in contention today.” But for those who know Stenson, and what he is capable of, it’s not practice that he needs if he’s going to finish his major quest. “He’s good enough to win anything, the thing is staying patient,” Cowen said. Whether he maintained that patience on Sunday at Bay Hill is open to interpretation, although he didn’t break any clubs like he’s done regularly in his career, most notably at the 2013 BMW Championship, but he may have broken some china with the Tour official with the quick second hand. What isn’t open for discussion is Stenson’s status as the clear second favorite, behind a slow-starting Rory McIlroy, heading into the Masters. “I think Stenson has played his way to being a favorite,” said Ernie Els when asked about the possible contenders heading into the year’s first major next month at Augusta National. He also moved to No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking with his bridesmaid showing at the API, but then Cowen didn’t need to see any of that to grasp his man’s status as a major championship conversation starter. And now the rest of the golf world is learning it, one misguided pundit at a time.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For the vast majority of potential Olympic golfers, the 2016 Games are still little more than a notation on the calendar, distant milestones akin to retirement or 50th wedding anniversaries. On Wednesday, however, things start to get very real. That’s the beginning of the one-year countdown to the date – May 6, 2016 – when every potential Olympic golfer, male and female, will be subject to the testing protocols of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Golf will return as an Olympic sport Aug. 11, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Those protocols, which make the PGA Tour’s policies look like “testing lite,” include daily “whereabouts tests” requiring golfers to provide their locations so they can be tested any time, anywhere, and blood testing, which is the only method for identifying human growth hormone. The PGA Tour does not include either procedure in its anti-doping efforts. Some anti-doping officials consider the variations between the drug-testing policies of the Tour and the World Anti-Doping Agency to be subtle, yet essentially substantial. The job of shepherding golf into this new world of anti-doping falls to Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s executive director of policy administration who also serves as the executive director of USA Golf, the organization tasked with running golf’s Olympic teams in the United States. In an exclusive interview with GolfChannel.com, Levinson, who is referred to in Tour circles as the circuit’s anti-doping czar, said the education process for potential Olympic golfers already has started. “Olympic anti-doping was a significant topic at the PGA Tour’s annual player meeting in January and it was also a topic of discussion at the LPGA’s first player meeting in January as well,” Levinson said. “We’re going to continue to have one-on-one meetings with players, managers, spouses and player support personnel so that everyone is well aware of what’s involved.” That education process intensified this week at The Players with officials from the International Golf Federation hosting an anti-doping meeting on Monday. Another meeting was held on Tuesday between Tour officials and various player managers to discus the anti-doping differences. Timeline: PGA Tour and drug testing Levinson said there will also be a document issued later this summer and distributed to potential Olympic golfers outlining everything they need to know about the Games from anti-doping to travel and athlete housing in Rio. He said he also expects to have one-on-one meetings with golfers as the May 6, 2016, deadline approaches. “I do anticipate players will have more questions as they focus on it more and we get closer to the Games, and as we sit down with them I fully expect to answer any questions they might have,” Levinson said. The Tour began drug testing in 2008; since then, its testing officials have become as ubiquitous as courtesy cars at Tour stops, and players have become accustomed to periodic sample requests. “Testing is not fun. Nobody likes going through the process, going and peeing in a cup and having guys watch you, but it’s part of the deal. I think most guys get that,” said Matt Kuchar, who currently would be just outside the testing pool based on his position in the Olympic Golf Ranking. What many players probably don’t get is how dramatically testing will change starting next May for those who are placed into the registered pool, which will consist of anyone qualified for the Games according to the Olympic Golf Ranking. Currently qualified for the United States’ men’s team are Jordan Spieth (world No. 2), Bubba Watson (No. 4), Jim Furyk (No. 5) and Dustin Johnson (No. 8). On the women’s side it’s Stacy Lewis (No. 3), Brittany Lincicome (No. 6) Cristie Kerr (No. 7) and Michelle Wie (No. 10). Any golfer who plays his or her way onto those lists would be added to the pool until the fields are finalized on July 11, 2016. DIFFERENCES IN POLICIES “Whereabouts testing” will require players to inform the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) where they are going to be for one hour each day between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. so they can be tested. USADA officials say a smartphone app will allow competitors to report their locations instantly, but the penalty for a missed test can be severe – three whereabouts testing “failures” will count as a positive test. “I don’t know all the details, but for a period leading up [to the Olympics], we understand what other athletes go through,” said Graeme McDowell, who currently would be included in the pool and would fall under the jurisdiction of Irish testing authorities. “They have to account for their whereabouts at all times because they can be tested at any time. We understand that things are going to be different and I think we’ll all accept. I don’t think anyone has anything to hide.” Golfers will also be subject to blood testing, which is not part of the Tour’s anti-doping program but is currently the only way to detect HGH. While steroids will always be the face of anti-doping, many golf fitness experts contend that HGH would be the drug of choice if a professional golfer were inclined to dope. “It’s a big concern, obviously,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the USADA, the organization that will oversee testing next year for America’s potential Olympic golfers. “All you have to do is look at page 28 of their [anti-doping] policy and they ask the question, in the FAQ guide for players, ‘How can hormones be used to enhance performance in golf?’ Then you look back and say, ‘if that does all that good and gives me a performance advantage and I’ve got no chance of being caught for it … That’s a concern.’” HGH dramatically speeds recovery from injury and produces more energy, and since the Tour, unlike the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA, does not conduct blood testing it is impossible to police. “We don’t conduct blood testing and even if we did the detection window for HGH is very limited in the current tests,” Levinson said. “If, for example, we had evidence that someone were using HGH or in possession of HGH or had admitted to using HGH then those would be violations.” Levinson said he regularly meets with officials from the USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to discuss the ongoing development of blood testing, and even as other sports leagues embrace blood testing to combat HGH use, technology advancements are giving anti-doping officials more options. One such test by scientists at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., measures HGH in urine. According to the George Mason team, the USADA-funded project would give testers a larger window to detect HGH – from just a few days using the current blood test to possibly two weeks in urine – and would alleviate athlete concerns that come with blood testing. “Specifically for golfers or athletes who are involved in sports that have fine motor skills involved you just want to make sure that there’s not anything whether it’s sticking a needle in the arm or if someone has an issue with a blood draw of any kind that it won’t impact their performance,” Levinson said. Tygart remains cautiously optimistic that the science is improving but warns that the technology still needs to be developed. “We saw some of the science early on a few years ago and it just wasn’t ready for implementation into the athlete world. We try to continue to help develop it, but it’s just not there yet,” Tygart said. “If it was a realistic possibility [to test for HGH in urine] we’d love to do that. It almost nullifies the need for blood. But it’s not there and our science guys are not convinced it’s going to be there in the near future.” Out-of-competition testing will be another new experience for golfers. Although the Tour considers tests administered on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of tournament weeks out-of-competition, compared with the testing protocols in other Olympic sports it is a much lower threshold than what will become the norm next May. “We’re a little bit different than other Olympic sports, even other professional sports, in we do have access to our athletes on a year-round basis and we do conduct that testing year round,” Levinson said. Potential Olympic golfers will also be subjected to the complete WADA list of prohibited substances, which the Tour deviated from, however slightly, when the circuit introduced testing in ’08, including corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories), certain allergy and asthma medications, and certain forms of pseudoephedrine (a decongestant). Video: Tygart explains the player education process THE TRUTH IN TRANSPARENCY But the biggest difference, at least according to Tygart, will be the introduction of a much more transparent testing program. The Tour’s policy is to announce violations of its anti-doping program involving performance-enhancing drugs, but not recreational violations. Unlike WADA and USADA, the Tour also doesn’t reveal what drug caused the violation – a change the circuit made after the first year – or how many golfers are tested. “There are some slight differences to the WADA code and that’s not unlike any other major professional sports league in the United States,” Levinson said. “WADA has its opinion about its own policy and feels strongly about that, but the PGA Tour was able to develop a policy that is a smart policy and focused on golf and the other professional sports have been able to develop policies to do that as well. “They may not be exactly in line with WADA but that doesn’t mean they’re not comprehensive, good policies.” But for Tygart and the other anti-doping agencies, transparency is a corner that simply can’t be cut. For the USADA chief – who led the investigation into the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, was involved in Major League Baseball’s BALCO scandal and was once described as the “Eliot Ness of sports” – full disclosure accompanied with independent verification are the cornerstones of an effective anti-doping policy. “If you have the obligation to not give a sanction or to stick the file in the drawer and not go forward, I’m not in any way suggesting that’s what [the Tour] have done, but the policy allows for that. Without any accountability elsewhere it’s hard to know for sure,” Tygart told GolfChannel.com. “We’ve certainly seen other high-profile sports, cycling in the past, where in ’99 with Lance Armstrong’s corticosteroid positive, that’s exactly what the sport did. After the report that just came out detailing that sad saga it was clear they did it because it was going to be harmful to them and to the sport. “That’s the pressure and the tension that you have going back to the fox guarding the henhouse. It’s awfully difficult and in our experience impossible to both promote and police your sport because you have this inherent duty to make the brand look good and not have any bad news out there.” Tygart also points out the importance of full disclosure when it comes to testing statistics. In 2014, USADA administered 9,497 drug tests – including 6,292 out-of-competition tests – and publicly discloses all athletes’ testing history. For example, Lindsey Vonn, a U.S. Olympic skier and Tiger Woods’ former girlfriend, was tested five times last year according to the USADA website. The Tour’s policy has no such transparency. “We do not disclose our specific testing details but I can say that we’ve conducted thousands of tests since the program’s inception,” Levinson said. “The players know that they can be tested any time throughout the year with no limit on the number of tests conducted on them throughout the year.” But Tygart says it’s less about player participation than it is public perception when it comes to transparency. “Our athletes came to us and said, ‘look, we want to have this information on our website,’” Tygart said. “We want to show how many times we’ve been tested. We want to remove any doubt.’” The byproduct of the Tour’s silence, however, is confusion when a player – like Johnson last year – takes an extended break. Last August, Golf.com reported Johnson had been suspended for six months after failing his third test for cocaine. The Tour and Johnson denied the report, which cites an unidentified source, and returned to the Tour in February at the Farmers Insurance Open. In March, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem acknowledged the potential pitfalls of the circuit’s policy and the impact innuendo could have on otherwise innocent players. “We reserve the right to [announce violations] but we generally don’t make public comment on it. That’s not to say we wouldn’t ever, depending on the facts,” Finchem said. “If it triggers a situation where a player is stepping away from the game or getting, maybe being suspended but we really don’t know, does that create confusion, and that’s one point that we are giving some thought to on that particular situation.” But the USADA policy has no such ambiguity and Tygart points out that staring next May the names of golfers who enter the Olympic testing pool will be published, just like Vonn’s. “It’s something clean athletes want,” he added. It’s just one of many things that will change in 12 months for potential Olympic golfers as the Games inch closer and that distant notation on the calendar suddenly becomes very real.
Jordan Spieth has already landed two big prizes this season. He reeled in a third (and a fourth) last month in the Caribbean, where he was vacationing with friends following his stirring victory at the U.S. Open. One afternoon in the Bahamas, Spieth and his buddies were out on a boat snorkeling when they threw in a few lines, just to see if they could catch anything. He wound up in a two-and-a-half-hour game of tug-of-war with a 12-foot-long, 300-pound black tip shark that had eaten the tuna he’d hooked. A 2-for-1 deal. “I had to take a break,” Spieth told reporters Tuesday. “My arm couldn’t move anymore.” His pals offered to take over for a while, but Spieth, ever the competitor, didn’t dare lose his catch. “I’m like, ‘You bet your ass you’re not taking over,’” he said, laughing. “’This is my fish. There’s no way you’re stepping on this. You’re going to lose it.’” His arm was sore a few days after the trip but is fine now. Good thing, because after the unfortunate injury news surrounding world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the sport can’t afford another star on the disabled list – especially one with as much on the line as Spieth, who is trying to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same season. But how Spieth has prepared for that shot at history has come under scrutiny. Some suggested that he should have headed over early and logged as many practice rounds as he could at St. Andrews, a course he has played only once, while on his way to the 2011 Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. Others argued that he should have teed it up at the Scottish Open, because then he would have gotten adjusted not only to the five-hour time change but also the weather, conditions and links golf. Instead, Spieth stayed true to the John Deere Classic, the down-home Tour stop in Silvis, Ill., that features one of the smallest purses on the calendar but is a place that holds special meaning to him. The tournament first offered him a sponsor exemption the summer after his freshman year at Texas, a crucial time when he was deciding whether to make the jump to the pros. A year later, he holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole and won the first of what is now four Tour titles. “It never really crossed my mind to drop out,” he said. Assuming Spieth makes the cut this week, he will board the Sunday-night charter that the Deere provides for players who are also in the Open. That leaves him only two-and-a-half days to prepare for the most pressure-packed tournament of his life. Yet to hear Spieth on Tuesday, his decision to play the Deere isn’t because of nostalgia, or simply because he made a commitment months before he won two majors. He’s playing the Deere because he believes it gives him the best chance to be successful in the year’s third major. And doesn’t Spieth know his game best? “I think this is good preparation for me to get good feels, to get in contention, and to find out what’s on and what’s off when I’m in contention,” he said. “I’m here because I believe I can win this week. I believe that it’s advantageous for me to try and win this week and to continue the momentum into the Open Championship.” That formula seemed to work during the first two majors of the year. He prepared for the Masters by finishing second in San Antonio and losing in a playoff in Houston. He prepared for the U.S. Open by tying for third at the Memorial on the strength of a closing 65. Now, he is preparing for the third leg of the Grand Slam at a place that has produced at least a 19-under-par winning score every year since 2009. Besides, it’s a familiar routine. After his win in ’13, he flew across the pond for the Muirfield Open. Playing his fourth tournament in a row, he ran out of gas after an opening 69 and faded to a top-45 finish. Last year, he didn’t have his best stuff and still recorded a T-7 at the Deere, but then continued his mid-season swoon with a pedestrian showing at Hoylake. “I just want to get in contention here,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where it is. I will certainly have enough energy. I will certainly have enough rest, and I will be as prepared as I can be by the time I tee it up at St. Andrews.” Spieth’s biggest challenge the past few weeks has been blocking out all of the “noise.” He can’t avoid the Grand Slam talk, but he’s trying his best to minimize it, whether that’s staying off of his phone or changing the channel when the topic comes up. “I’m ready to just get inside the ropes and start playing,” he said. After his recent fishing adventure, a fifth big prize awaits.
LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic – Alejandro Tosti’s story can come full circle this week at the Latin America Amateur Championship. The winner here at Caso de Campo receives a spot in the Masters – a tournament Tosti has been itching to play ever since he was 5 years old, when he watched the telecast on TV, grabbed a barbecue stick and smacked a deodorant ball around his family’s home in Rosario, Argentina. “I was hitting the ball all over and breaking glasses,” he recalled Friday. “My mom would scream, ‘Stop doing that!’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I want to go play golf.’” Tosti’s parents didn’t play, and his mother, Patricia, asked why he didn’t want to try soccer or tennis or rugby – the popular sports in their home country. He still wouldn’t budge. His parents flipped through the Yellow Pages to find a spot to practice. The nearest course was in Perez, about 10 miles away. Tosti started playing there on the weekends, but with his parents’ busy work schedule – his father, Juan Carlos, was an electronic engineer and his mother a secretary – the 8-year-old often walked seven blocks to the bus station and took the one-hour ride to the club, alone. “I was loving the sport and nobody was telling me to go practice,” he said. “I went because I wanted to.” Echavarria takes 3-shot lead Tosti won his first national junior title when he was 8, on a short course with 120-yard par 3s, 200-yard par 4s and 250-yard par 5s, and with seven mismatched clubs gifted from his first swing coach, Lincho Romero. A few years later, Tosti joined the Argentina Golf Association and attended a high-performance institute in Buenos Aires. At age 15, he took his first trip to the U.S., but his English was so limited that he couldn’t even ask for a Coke. Several college golf coaches still extended scholarship offers, even though Tosti hadn’t even considered the possibility of playing in the States. “But then I started looking at all the guys in my country who were playing really good amateur golf and turning pro at 18, after high school,” he said. “They really struggled, because it’s a profession. You have to work and know the world, know how to speak English. Those guys had a problem at the age of 22 without a plan B in their life.” With a year off between high school and college, Tosti spent every afternoon with a tutor to learn the language. He passed the SAT exam and chose to play at the University of Florida, largely because of his relationship with Gators assistant coach John Handrigan. In June 2014, J.C. Deacon was one day into his tenure as Florida’s head coach when he reached out to Tosti to gauge whether he was still interested in coming to Gainesville after the coaching change. Tosti never answered the call, instead sending back a text: “I don’t speak English.” Not surprisingly, then, it was a turbulent freshman year. He struggled with the language barrier and expressing himself with his teammates and coaches, with the balance of golf and coursework, with his parents being a 16-hour flight away. “It was really difficult to keep up with everything,” he said. Yet his fortunes appeared to improve at last year’s Latin America Amateur, in his home country of Argentina. One shot off the lead with two holes to play, with a Masters berth on the line, he missed a 4-foot par putt on the 71st hole and failed to birdie the last even after eventual winner Matias Dominguez made bogey to open the door. Tosti was devastated, but he found solace in his college coach. In the 2005 U.S. Amateur semifinals, with a Masters berth on the line, Deacon held a 1-up lead with two to play against Dillon Dougherty. He dropped the last two holes and lost the match. “I’ve felt those feelings, of getting the Masters snatched away from you, and it was fun in a way to tell him that story,” Deacon said by phone Friday. “He understood. But I told him: ‘It’s what you make of it now.’” Tosti’s game was trending upward after the LAAC, but a tooth infection that went untreated sent him to the hospital during the NCAA postseason. Suffering from severe headaches, vomiting and fatigue, Tosti’s doctors determined that he had encephalitis – essentially, swelling of the brain – which required nine days in a hospital bed with a catheter, and 20 more days at home where he administered the IV himself. When his health finally improved, his game wasn’t nearly sharp enough to contend for any of the major titles over the summer. In fact, Deacon said, “it wasn’t until the last three events this fall [which included a win at FGCU Classic] that we started seeing the Tosti that we all know.” Now he has returned to the Latin America Amateur, where the memories of last year’s near miss are still fresh. After a rocky opening-round 75, Tosti improved 10 shots on Friday, making nine birdies during a 7-under 65 that moved him into a share of second place, three behind leader Nicolas Echavarria of Colombia. “I feel the other guys are going to ask themselves how he did that with a double bogey,” Tosti said. “It is the round at the right moment for this tournament.” “None of his coaches or teammates are surprised by any of this,” Deacon said. “He has no fear on the golf course. He thinks he can hit every shot and, honestly, he can. He’s so explosive. He’s very powerful and has a great touch. He’s really the whole package, and when he gets in a rhythm there’s almost no one that can hang with him.” Tosti has one of the most natural swings Deacon has ever seen – a powerful, efficient action that was groomed by watching the Masters, by whacking around a deodorant ball with a barbecue stick, and now has improved with the help of Hernan Rey, a member of the Argentina Golf Association who teaches at the Gary Gilchrist Academy in central Florida. “What he can do with the golf ball and the technique and kind of form he’s learned somehow, some way, it was like he was touched by the golf gods,” Deacon said. “He has the talent and ability with the short game that no one else can do. I’ll ask him how he hit a shot, and he’ll say: “Coach, I just do it.’ He puts that picture in his mind and his body creates it. It’s truly a gift that he has.” The next step – the only step left – in his progression is to win a major amateur title, to gain more exposure on the global stage. Perhaps after learning the hard way last year, Tosti has expressed little interest in talking about what a spot in the Masters would mean until he holes out on the 72nd hole, until he lifts the trophy. “But trust me, it would mean everything to him,” Deacon said. “Every time he practices or plays, it’s with that Masters logo in the back of his mind.”
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Rocco Mediate played the first 13 holes in 9 under and closed with five pars for a 62 to match the Senior PGA Championship and Harbor Shore records Thursday. Taking advantage of greens softened by overnight rain, Mediate matched the marks set by Kenny Perry in the 2012 final round. ”It wasn’t wet, as far as soaking wet. A couple wet spots. But it was fine,” Mediate said. ”Greens were good. Soft. They received pretty good. … I know it rained like heck last night. I heard it last night. But the golf course was fine. Greens were good. Everything was good. A little softer.” The 53-year-old Mediate capped a front-nine 29 with an eagle on the par-5 ninth and added birdies on the par-3 11th and 13th holes at Jack Nicklaus-designed Harbor Shores. ”Solid stuff,” Mediate said. ”A lot of fairways. A bunch of greens. When I missed it was in the right spot. … I hit it close, so I had a lot of short putts for birdie. I didn’t really make a long one. It was one of those days. I just drove it really well. I hit a lot of solid irons.” Mediate has two victories on the 50-and-over tour after winning six times on the PGA Tour. ”Stuff I’m working on is coming around,” Mediate said. ”I’m just trying to get back to what I used to do and that’s hit the ball in the middle of the face most of the time. It’s been a few years since that’s happened. So it was a lot of fun. A lot of fun.” Gene Sauers had a bogey-free 63. ”I like being up early in the morning. It was nice,” Sauers said. ”You get fresh greens and I hit the ball really solid. Just tried to concentrate on just where I wanted to place the ball and just not have too many long putts, because you can get some really pressure putts out here.” Mike Goodes shot 64, and Kenny Perry, Kirk Triplett and club pro John DalCorobbo were another stroke back. Perry played alongside Mediate and two-time defending champion Colin Montgomerie, who had two late bogeys in a 67. ”We were all feeding off each other,” Perry said. ”Rocco shot 29 on the front nine and drug us all along in there. He hit it close and made a lot of putts. It kind of set the tone for the whole group. ”The whole group played nice until the last couple holes, I don’t know if we got tired or what, but they’re hard holes, 16, 17 and 18 are tough holes. I bogeyed 17 and I think Colin bogeyed 16 and 17. But Rocco parred them all. So he had an amazing round.” Bernhard Langer, fresh off the 100th victory of his career – at a major, no less, at the Regions Tradition in Alabama, opened with a 69. The 58-year-old German is going for an unprecedented sweep of all five PGA Tour Champions majors. In Alabama, he won his sixth major championship as a senior and joined Nicklaus as the only players to win four different senior majors. Nicklaus had largely retired when the Senior British Open was added to the major rotation. He only played that once in its first year as a major in 2003. John Daly struggled to a 75 in his second senior major start. He had a 9 on the par-4 16th, a double bogey, three bogeys and six bogeys. Daly tied for 15th and 17th in his first two senior starts since turning 50. Montgomerie played the first 10 holes in 6 under, with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10. The Scot won in 2014 at Harbor Shores and last year at French Lick Resort in Indiana. DalCorobbo holed out with a 9-iron from the fairway for an eagle on the par-5 18th. A PGA assistant professional at Brickyard Crossing in Indiana, he won the Senior PGA Professional Championship in October. ”For not playing in a competitive event for quite some time, I think that the focus, really, the plan was, to not so much to score, but can I handle my mental routine and stay within that. So for the most part I think I did a good job. I hit a tremendous shot on 18 and a lot of that is luck, but I hit some good shots during the day and really happy about that.”
Dustin Johnson remains top dog, Rory McIlroy shows signs of promise, Phil Mickelson escapes as only he can, a new course shines and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: He came to Mexico as No. 1, and he’s leaving as No. 1. Much of the early-round fanfare went to other players, but when the last putt fell it was Johnson who had separated from the other elite contenders, strengthening his spot atop the world rankings. Johnson showed plenty of power at Club de Golf Chapultepec, hitting par-4 greens with irons and launching missiles that may still be in orbit. But this tournament was won not with his braun, but with his touch. Johnson made a number of critical up-and-downs from tough spots during the final round, including one for birdie on No. 15 that ultimately provided the winning margin. Then, clinging to a one-shot lead on the final hole, he produced a fairway bunker shot from an awkward lie that would’ve made Tiger Woods blush. The delineation between any of the top six golfers in the world is razor-thin at the moment, but Johnson seems to have been on cruise control for the better part of a month. That doesn’t bode well for the other five in the upper echelon. 1. Johnson’s win might have been even more convincing had his putter made the trip south. DJ missed a total of 16 putts inside 10 feet for the week, including several during an opening-round 70 that left him chasing the pack. That mark tied Vijay Singh for the most close-range putts missed by an eventual tournament winner in the last decade. Granted, Johnson made more than his fair share from long range – 10, to be precise. But his ability to win in spite of a number of short misses shows how much his game has grown in recent months. 2. Among the many accolades to come his way, Johnson now joins a prestigious list of players to win their first start as the No. 1-ranked player in the world: Ian Woosnam (1991 Masters) David Duval (1999 BellSouth Classic) Vijay Singh (2004 RBC Canadian Open) Adam Scott (2014 Dean & DeLuca Invitational) Dustin Johnson (2017 WGC-Mexico Championship) 3. While Johnson’s win was impressive, the true standout performer this week was the Club de Golf Chapultepec. Little was known about the host site entering the week, but it provided an exacting test for the game’s best players. What’s more, it created compelling, can’t-look-away shotmaking at every turn. Just months before the USGA hosts the U.S. Open at one of its biggest ballparks ever, Chapultepec showed that short, tight and tree-lined is still a winning combination. Players were forced to improvise with nearly every errant shot, and the yardage conversions at 7,500 feet of altitude meant tons of play was dictated by feel. It’s unfortunate that Doral no longer has a spot on the Tour’s schedule, but Chapultepec proved to be a worthy – and more entertaining – replacement. 4. He didn’t win, but MIckelson certainly gave the Mexican fans their money’s worth. No one embraced the shotmaking challenges of Chapultepec quite like Mickelson – partly thanks to his imagination, and partly out of necessity because he couldn’t keep his tee shots on the planet. It’s a skill set that has won five majors, and it was on full display during a third-round 68 that included nearly as many free relief drops (three) as fairways hit (four). And it was all capped by an “I know it looks bad” discussion with an official before taking a drop from an above-ground sprinkler head while buried in the middle of a shrub. Never change, Phil. 5. A T-7 finish for McIlroy out-performed even his own expectations. McIlroy made his much-anticipated return from a rib injury and didn’t appear to lose a step, opening with rounds of 68-65 before slowing down over the weekend. It’s easy to lose sight of the Ulsterman, what with Johnson’s convincing ascent to No. 1 and wins by Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler in his absence. But McIlroy more than held his own in his attempt to kick off the rust, and that bodes well with the Masters in sight. This season is already filled with plenty of major storylines, but the trip down Magnolia Lane won’t be the same without McIlroy firing on all cylinders as he chases the career Grand Slam. 6. The back-nine rally came up short this time, but Jon Rahm offered another example as to why his stock remains red-hot. The Spaniard turned pro less than a year ago, but he’s already won on a beastly track (Torrey Pines) and contended on several others. Sunday he was the only player to give Johnson a run for his money, briefly overtaking him for the lead before a pair of three-putt bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. Many casual fans will cite Rahm as a Masters sleeper next month, but that label doesn’t even fit anymore if you’ve been paying attention. 7. The USGA and R&A announced this past week a proposal to lighten the rule book, and we’re all better for it. There will be plenty of time to analyze the new rules before they go into effect in January 2019, and the debate will rage on over why a spike mark can be fixed but a ball must still be played from a divot. But golf’s two governing bodies did well for both the amateur and the professional with one word: simplify. After so many recent headaches with seemingly miniscule infractions and complicated decisions, a little dose of common sense will go a long way toward making the game easier – and faster – to play. 8. While most of the rule changes were well-received, a few LPGA players bristled at the notion that their caddies will soon not be allowed to line them up. There is no limit to the list of skills required to play golf at a high level, but one of them surely is the ability to gauge your own alignment. What once served as a helpful confirmation at address has become, for many, a crutch. It’ll be an adjustment for some top players, sure, but it’s no different than the one several top men endured when adjusting to the anchoring ban. 9. Welcome back Queen Bee. Inbee Park has been largely on the sideline since her gold medal-winning performance in Rio, but the former No. 1 showed in Singapore that when she’s on her game, she’s almost impossible to beat. Park entered the final round amid a crowded leaderboard that also included top-ranked players Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn. But Park left them all in her dust with five straight birdies en route to a final-round 64 and a one-shot win. It was just her second start since the Olympics, an event that itself was preceded by a long injury layoff for Park. But if she’s as healthy as she seemed during Sunday’s finale, the rest of her peers will need to step up their games. 10. While she didn’t win, it was refreshing to see MIchelle Wie’s name again on an LPGA leaderboard. Wie reached the pinnacle of the game at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, but she’s barely been heard from since and entered last week ranked No. 179 in the world. An opening 66 gave her an early lead, and she ultimately tied for fourth. Wie leaned all week on the mantra that she had once again found a way to have fun on the golf course. Her career has already had more than its fair share of twists and turns, but at age 27 Wie still has plenty of script left to write. 11. The rankings giveth and the rankings taketh away. Last week Charles Howell III was bumped out of a spot in the WGC-Mexico at the last minute, passed by both Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland at Honda. This week Ross Fisher – who finished 20th in the Race to Dubai standings when only the top 20 qualified for Mexico – made the most of his opportunity and tied for third after a final-round 65. The result should allow Fisher to go from one WGC to the next, as he’s now 55th in the world with the top 64 next week qualifying for the WGC-Dell Match Play. What’s more, he now has a chance to earn a spot in the Masters with a strong run through the bracket, given that the top 50 on March 27 will earn trips down Magnolia Lane. As for Howell, he heads to Tampa firmly on the match-play bubble at No. 65, and a return to Augusta National remains barely out of reach as a result. 12. Thomas Pieters’ T-5 finish in Mexico shows his game can travel. The Belgian bomber has already been discussed as a player to watch at the Masters and U.S. Open at Erin Hills, but his result this week – and his runner-up at Riviera – shows he does not need a big ballpark to thrive. The former NCAA champ has found his footing on the global stage, thanks in large part to his coming-out party at Hazeltine. With his PGA Tour privileges now secured for the rest of the season, don’t be surprised if a win soon follows. The reviews this week in Mexico were largely positive, save perhaps for the food. A number of players were stricken with some form of stomach bug or food poisoning, ranging from McIlroy to William McGirt and including Henrik Stenson, who withdrew after only 11 holes. But the gastrointestinal issues also extended to the caddies, notably Mickelson’s bag man, Jim “Bones” Mackay. Mackay appeared to struggle for much of the week, and even had to tap out during the second round at which point Mickelson’s brother, Tim, took over as caddie. Mackay was back on the bag for the weekend, but you know it had to be bad considering the fact that Mackay had double knee replacement surgery in October and didn’t miss a start. This week’s award winners … Steering Clear of the Snake Pit: Jordan Spieth. Spieth’s win at the Valspar Championship sparked his 2015 season, but he has opted to skip the event for the first time as a professional. He’s also unlikely to play Bay Hill, meaning Spieth will have skipped the entire Florida swing and will instead use Austin and Houston for his final Masters prep. Freefall of the Week: Lee Westwood. Westwood birdied two of his first four holes Sunday to reach 11 under and get within a shot of the lead. He then played the rest of his round in 9 over, including four doubles, to finish in a tie for 28th. Ouch. Turnaround of the Week: Brandt Snedeker. Snedeker was on the other side of the coin, opening with a 75 before going 14 under across his final 54 holes to snag a share of seventh. Head on a Swivel: Justin Thomas’ frustrations got the better of him Sunday, including at one point when a club toss off the tee nearly sent his driver into the gallery. Thomas took the result in stride, and at least it led to a memorable Twitter exchange between him and McIlroy, who has been known to toss a club or two in his day. Turnabout is Fair Play: Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman beat Johnson by a shot in Abu Dhabi in January, but this week Johnson was able to edge him by a shot in Mexico. It’s still a strong result for Fleetwood, whose recent turnaround continues to impress. Obligatory Tiger Stat: Johnson’s win moves him into second on the all-time WGC victories list with four. But the only man in front of him on that list is Woods, who has 18 trophies on his mantle. That’s a record that will still be standing long after we are gone. Still Seeking Momentum: Danny Willett. The reigning Masters champ missed the cut at Honda, then shot four straight rounds over par in Mexico to finish 69th out of 76 players. Still, there’s no better place to limp in for a title defense (and celebratory dinner) than Augusta. Tweet of the week: Tour rookie Grayson Murray, who believes a rising social media tide would lift all boats: Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Stenson. In a no-cut event you always expect your players to make it through 72 holes at the very least, but the Swede’s abrupt first-round exit doomed many a lineup. Alas.
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Through 54 holes, Keegan Bradley had done enough to secure an invite to the Tour Championship. He was three off the lead, hunting his first win in six years. But when two days worth of rain threatened to cancel the final round of the BMW Championship, part of him thought, maybe that’s just fine. “Truthfully I was really fixated on making the Tour Championship, and I kind of knew if we didn’t play today, I was in it,” he said Monday, sitting next to both the BMW Championship trophy and the FedExCup. “It was the weirdest couple of days because I knew in the back of my mind if we didn’t play, I was in Atlanta. It was my goal to start the year. It was difficult to get ready to play because I was like, ‘Man, if they call it, I’m good.’ But I was only three back.” Luckily for Bradley, the Tour was able to stage the final round outside Philadelphia. And when it finally ended, a day late, with rain still falling on Aronimink Golf Club, it was Bradley celebrating on the 18th green, raising his arms in victory after defeating Justin Rose in a playoff. Updated FedExCup standings Full-field scores from BMW Championship A winner for the first time as a husband and a father, Bradley said he had to avoid looking at his wife Jillian and son Logan on his return trip up 18. He was struggling to maintain his emotions. Once it was over, he was able to do what he’s seen so many of his colleagues do so many times before – embrace his family as a champion. “I’ve been dreaming of doing that with my wife for – we’ve been together for a long time. To have my son there, it’s just like – you see it on TV so much, and as a dad and as a husband, you think, ‘Geez, that would be the most incredible feeling.’ … “I was just so happy to see them run out. To win and to put everything together when I didn’t know if I was going to win again, to get to the Tour Championship, to have them here and have what’s going on in my life is just so amazing. I’m so lucky. This is an upper-echelon tournament to win. It’s a great win to come back after six years. So I’m very proud of that.” Monday’s victory marks the end of a six-year slump for Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, who dipped as low as 122nd in the world in 2016. That year’s anchor ban was not kind to Keegan, leaving him to alternate between shorter and longer putters, to figure out how to hole putts with the grip of his club no longer pressed against his body. He became so fixated on his performance on the greens that he soon lost track of his golf swing. And it was only once he fixed every other part of his game that he could once again focus on his putting. On Monday, Bradley credited his friend Webb Simpson, who went through a similar post-anchor transition, for inspiring him to rededicate himself to arm-lock putting. “A lot has happened to me over these six years,” Bradley said. “The belly putter was a tougher transition than I thought, and I kind of fell off the radar there for a little while. It’s tough to go from being on Ryder Cup teams, being on Presidents Cup teams, to outside the top 100 in the world. “It was about two years ago, maybe. I had missed over 10 cuts. … It’s scary when I look back because I didn’t know I needed this much improvement. But to put it all together, especially with the putter the way it was this week and the way it’s becoming, is so gratifying. Because for a little while, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back to this spot, and today I did it.” By virtue of his return to East Lake – his first trip since 2013 – Bradley will once again reap the benefits of being a top-30 player on Tour. Atlanta invitees are exempt into all four of the following year’s majors in addition to the season’s first two World Golf Championships. Bradley hasn’t made the Masters since his exemption for winning the PGA ran out, but he’ll be back at Augusta next April. That kind of scheduling certainty is why he was so focused on qualifying for the Tour Championship, and why he really gave some thought to the benefits of what could have been a rain-shortened event. “It’s a game changer for a player like me that’s not in the top 50 to get in the Tour Championship,” he said. “You’re in all the WGCs, or most of them. You’re in all the majors. And that’s so huge for a player where I am at this point because then I can play my way back into the top 50. “So thankfully we got out here and played, and I made it to Atlanta and more now.”
WOBURN, England – When Morgan Pressel showed up at Woburn Golf Club Saturday to get ready for the third round of the AIG Women’s British Open, she chuckled seeing her caddie. Barry “Rock” Cesarz, a hulking presence who looks like he doubles as her bodyguard, was coincidentally clad in the exact same color ensemble she was wearing. Blue shorts, white polo and white Callaway cap. “Really?” Pressel said with her hands on her hips. Yeah, everything appeared to be in sync in Pressel’s game as she made a hard climb to the top of the leaderboard. With a 6-under 66, the former teen wunderkind rekindled major memories that her career was built upon. She is just four shots back of Hinako Shibuno, a Japanese prodigy making her own thrilling introduction to a global audience. Shibuno is 20, playing in her first major championship. Pressel? She qualified for her first major when she was 12, played in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles after turning 13, making her the youngest qualifier at the time to compete in the championship. She nearly won the U.S. Women’s Open as a 17-year-old amateur and later became the youngest woman at the time to win a major when she claimed the Kraft Nabisco at 18. Pressel is 31 now, a veteran relishing the chance she’s giving herself again. It’s been a struggle the last few years, but she’s rebuilding the kind of game that helped her become a staple on major championship stages early in her career. “I put myself in great position all day,” Pressel said. There’s more than a major championship riding on Sunday’s finish for Pressel. She would love to be on the team U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster will take to Scotland next month. “Maybe giving Juli something to think about,” Pressel said. Pressel is on Inkster’s radar as a possible captain’s pick if she doesn’t rally to make the team on points. “It would be amazing,” Pressel said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be on five teams. I missed it last time and that was difficult. I really am happy that I’m playing well, playing much better this year, even for myself, and, obviously, to have the opportunity to wear red, white and blue would be great.” Full-field scores from the AIG Women’s British Open Full coverage of the AIG Women’s British Open Pressel is making this run with the assistance of the coach who helped her burst on to the scene as a teen phenom. Ten years after she left Martin Hall to see if she could find more length with a new coach, she came back to him. They’ve been working together since, after her struggles at Kingsbarns at the Women’s British Open two years ago. “I was quite upset, and just really struggling there,” Pressel said. “That’s when I called Martin to ask for help.” Hall was her coach when she was 12 and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, when she was 17 and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and again when she was 18 and won the Kraft Nabisco. “It’s been a great two years being back together,” Pressel said. “He has been tremendously helpful getting me in a better position with the club and playing better golf. “He has given me 200 percent of his effort, and that really means a lot to me.” Hall, who is based at Ibis Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., is English and still spends summers here. He was at Woburn on Friday helping Pressel. “When a young player has success, it’s not unusual to change coaches when you get on tour,” Hall said. “I think the world of Morgan as a player and a person, so I was glad when she called to get back together.” Pressel said she was struggling with her swing plane when she called Hall, getting stuck inside the line, and swinging too much inside to out. He has helped with that. “As a coach, I think you see it getting better before the player does,” Hall said. “It’s hard work and it comes bit by bit, but she is very talented and she is playing a lot better now.” Cesarz sees more than the swing coming around. “It’s about confidence, too,” he said. “She’s driving it so well. It’s going right where she’s looking.” Pressel is raving about her new Callaway Epic Flash driver. “I was struggling for a couple years, and driver was definitely plaguing me,” she said. “It’s tough scoring from the trees, but I’m putting myself in position from the middle of fairways now.” And in position on the leaderboard on a Sunday again. “I gave myself a chance,” Pressel said.