2014 - WEEK 38: Sep 15 - Sep 21
It took nearly two years, some 41 PGA Tour starts and a disappointing meltdown loss two weeks earlier in Phoenix, but Bubba Watson finally broke through for his first victory since the 2012 Masters, riding some spectacular weekend golf to victory at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. Watson reached the 36-hole mark well back in the pack following opening rounds of 70-71 - somewhat mediocre stuff in a week marked by perfect weather and firm, fast fairways. But his was a very different game thereafter, as Watson became the first man in three decades to play the entire weekend at Riviera without a bogey, his flawless back-to-back rounds of 64 vaulting him over the field and, ultimately, to a two-shot victory. Even after his Saturday effort, Watson began Sunday's final round five behind 54-hole leader William McGirt, but that ground was quickly covered via five birdies in his first eight holes en route to an outgoing 30. One more birdie at the par-5 11th moved Watson to 14 under par, a number which none of his long list of pursuers was ever able to reach. A closing birdie at the famed 475-yard 18th would ultimately clinch a two-shot triumph over Dustin Johnson, who shot a closing 66 and finished second for the second straight week..................Thirty-year-old South African Thomas Aiken claimed his 10th career victory and his third on the European Tour, coming from behind with a closing 67, then defeating England's Oliver Fisher on the first hole of sudden death in the Africa Open at the short but venerable East London Golf Club. Behind opening rounds of 66-65-66, Aiken began Sunday four shots behind Argentina's young Emiliano Grillo, who'd launched himself to the top of the leaderboard with middle rounds of 63-62 over one of the E Tour's easiest scoring courses. Having recently finished second in Dubai, Grillo seemed poised for a breakthrough victory, but those hopes were quickly dashed on Sunday when he stunningly took a nine on the 446-yard 1st hole before limping to the turn in an inglorious 43 strokes. To his great credit, Grillo would ultimately rally to birdie the last five holes en route to tying for fifth, but by this time Aiken had notched key birdies at the 15th and 16th to draw even with the 25-year-old Fisher, who'd carded a second round 63 but on Sunday could manage no better than a 69, which left both players tied on 264. Contested over the downhill 410-yard 18th, the playoff was a brief one as Aiken quickly rolled in a 30-footer for birdie to secure the title. His victory continued a long trend of South African dominance of European Tour events played on home soil, as Aiken was the 10th home-grown winner in the last 13 such tournaments, the 36th overall in 58 all-time E Tour events, and the fifth straight in the five-year history of the African Open.
PGA Tour - Northern Trust Open - Bubba Watson (269)
European Tour - Africa Open - Thomas Aiken (264)
Sunshine Tour - See European Tour (Above)
Australasian Tour - Queensland PGA Championship - Anthony Summers (256)
LPGA Tour - ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open - Karrie Webb (276)
LET - See LPGA Tour (Above)
Champions Tour - ACE Group Classic - Kirk Triplett (200)
Web.com Tour - Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship - Alex Cejka (199)
It took PGA Tour veteran Jimmy Walker 187 PGA Tour starts to claim his first victory, but once he got the hang of it, winning has become a remarkably regular thing. Indeed, Walker claimed his third title in eight starts on the 2013-14 wraparound schedule at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, charging out to a six-stroke 54 hole lead behind rounds of 66-69-67 before barely hanging on over a bumpy final nine at Pebble Beach. Walker seemed in firm command over his first 11 holes on Sunday, coming to the 12th tee with his entire six-shot margin intact. But while Dustin Johnson and Tour rookie Jim Renner charged home ahead of him with rounds of 66 and 67 respecively, Walker stumbled, first bogeying both the par-3 12th (after missing the green) and the par-4 13th (by three-putting). But even as Johnson and Renner charged, Walker still reached the 17th tee two ahead before again three-putting. Then, with two putts to win from 25 feet at the last, he ran his first effort five feet past the hole before coolly holing the comebacker to avoid a playoff. While Johnson and Renner shared second, Jordan Spieth tied Kevin Na for fourth after sharing the 36-hole lead with Walker, then struggling to a windblown third round 78 at Pebble Beach which, due to inclement weather, was actually completed on Sunday morning………………A frequent European Tour contender over the previous two seasons, South Africa’s George Coetzee finally landed his first career victory on the circuit, closing with a six-under-par 66 to claim a three-shot win at the eighth playing of the Joburg Open, in Johannnesburg. The 27-year-old Coetzee began Sunday’s final round four shots behind 54-hole co-leaders Thomas Aiken and Justin Walters but quickly launched himself into the fray via a four-under-par 33 on the outward nine. Two inward birdies (including at the par-4 15th, where his tee shot richeted off a tree and back into the fairway) allowed him to set the bar at 19 under par, and in the end only Walters – who needed an eagle at the last but instead bogeyed – had any chance to catch him. In addition to claiming the title, Coetzee was one of three men to land births in the 2014 Open championship, as he joined Walters and Korean Jin Jeong as the three low finishers among the top 10 not already qualified.
PGA Tour - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - Jimmy Walker (276)
European Tour - Joburg Open - George Coetzee (268)
Sunshine Tour - See European Tour (Above)
Australasian Tour - Victorian PGA Championship - Gareth Paddison (272)
LET - Volvik RACV Australian Masters - Cheyenne Woods (276)
Champions Tour - Allianz Championship - Michael Allen (198)
Thirty-three-year-old Kevin Stadler claimed his first PGA Tour victory in 239 starts at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his 268 aggregate proving good enough to edge 54-hole leader Bubba Watson by one. Stadler, the son of 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler, initially moved into the final round lead with a birdie at the par-4 9th but fell behind again with a double bogey at the 11th. He remained one back through the par-5 15th (where both he and Watson scrambled for par after hitting it in the water), then drew even when Watson bogeyed the short 16th from a front-left bunker. The pair each carded two-putt birdies at the driveable par-4 17th before Watson handed Stadler the victory by bogeying the 438-yard 18th after driving in the rough. The bogey dropped Watson into a tie for second with Canada’s Graham Delaet (who closed with a pair of weekend 65s), while Hunter Mahan and 21-year-old Japanese rookie Hideki Matsuyama shared fourth. Though he is a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour, this was Stadler’s first major circuit triumph since taking the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Classic (played in Australia) in 2006. The victory made the Stadlers the ninth father-son pair to win on the PGA Tour and, with Kevin’s resulting ticket to Augusta, sets them up to be the first father-son team ever to appear in the same Masters...................Thirty-nine-year-old Stephen Gallacher became the first man to successfully defend his title at the Dubai Desert Classic, winning the event's 25th anniversary playing in a hotly contested shootout which at one point late in the final round saw 18 players within two shots of the lead. Indeed, the crowded nature of Sunday's competition created much late drama as one man after another posted ever-lower finishing scores, beginning with Finland's Mikko Ilonen, who continued his strong form by closing with 64 to post a 13-under-par clubhouse total. Next came France's Romain Wattel, whose birdie-birdie finish (for a 66) lifted him to 14-under-par - a number soon eclipsed by 21-year-old Argentinean Emiliano Grillo, who reached 15 under via a closing eagle that included an approach ricocheted off the spectator pavilion, followed by a 60-foot putt. But the resolute Gallacher, who began the week with a rock-solid 66 in the company of superstars Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, authored the biggest stories on both Saturday and Sunday. In many ways, Gallacher's Saturday work was the most impressive, for after seemingly drifting out of contention through 45 holes, he tied the all-time European Tour record by playing the back nine in nine-under-par 28, a stunning run that included seven birdies and an eagle. Thus vaulting himself into a two-stroke 54-hole lead, Gallacher then staggered out of the gate with two bogeys Sunday and ultimately turned in four-over-par 39. But birdies at the 11th and 13th got the ship righted, and when he added clutch birdies at both the 16th and the driveable 17th, he had climbed back to 16 under, allowing him a routine par 5 at the last to clinch the title. Less happy, certainly, was a recently rejuvinated Rory McIlroy, who played spectacular golf en route to an opening 63 but stumbled thereafter, ultimately closing with a very disappointing 74 to tie for ninth.
On a Sunday which, for the first time in two decades, included neither Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods, 28-year-old Scott Stallings charged from a three-stroke 54-hole deficit to claim his third PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. Stallings made up much of his ground with a run of three birdies from the 11th through the 14th before nearly being derailed by a bogey at the par-3 16th. But under the gun, he logged the critical birdie he needed at the par-5 18th by reaching the pond-fronted green with a 4 iron, then two-putting from 40 feet. This last birdie then held up as the margin of victory when a long list of erstwhile contenders – at one point nine players were tied for the lead - eventually fell by the wayside. This list was headed by Gary Woodland, who stood eight-under-par before a crushing double-bogey at the 17th left him unable to utilize his length to tie at the last. Australian Marc Leishman then came up one shy when he could only birdie the last – a circumstance matched earlier by Jason Day, Graham Delaet and area native Pat Perez. Also sharing second was K.J. Choi, who finished well before the leaders with a 66, the week’s low South Course round. Less happy with their weeks were Mickelson (who withdraw Friday night with a back injury) and Woods, who failed to make the 54-hole cut after crashing to an ugly Saturday 79...................Sergio Garcia spent the first three days of the Qatar Masters flying almost completely under the radar, his opening rounds of 71-67-69 leaving him seven, seven and three shots off the lead respectively. But in a Saturday finale played under ideal conditions, the 34-year-old Garcia raced home with six birdies over his final 12 holes to card the day's co-low round (a seven-under-par 65) and charge into the clubhouse lead. Unfortunately, Garcia missed an eight-footer for birdie at the 72nd, and thus left the door ajar for Finland's Mikko Ilonen, who promptly holed a clutch 18-footer for birdie at the par-5 finisher to join Garcia on 272 and force a playoff. The pair were nearly joined by Denmark's 24-year-old Thorbjørn Olesen, who arrived at the last trailing by two but, after reaching the 589-yarder in two, he narrowly missed a 15-foot eagle putt to tie. Returning to the 18th for sudden death, Garcia too missed a makeable eagle putt on the first playoff hole, and both he and Ilonen birdied the hole on its second playing. But Ilonen was unable to match Garcia's birdie on the third go-round, and with a total of 10 birdies in 21 Saturday holes, the Spaniard clinched his 11th career European Tour victory. Olesen would share third place with third round leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain, who closed with a more-than-respectable 69.
Twenty-three-year-old Patrick Reed labeled himself one of American golf’s up-and-coming stars by winning for the second time in his first 46 PGA Tour starts, cruising to a two-shot victory at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California. Though Reed’s closing round of 71 left the door ajar enough for a few moments of semi-interest down the stretch, the victory margin was misleadingly close, for he had begun Sunday’s final round with an imposing seven-shot lead, and runner-up Ryan Palmer eagled the 72nd hole to pull within two. Reed’s first three days, however, were epic, as he became the first man ever to better 64 for three straight PGA Tour rounds by carding a trio of 63s over the events three course rota. His 189 total not only built what proved to be an insurmountable lead but also set a Tour record for the lowest 54-hole score relative to par at an eye-popping 27 under. Playing conditions in the Southern California desert were ideal throughout the week, thus when Reed barely bettered par on Sunday, both Zach Johnson (the Tour’s hottest player, who closed with a scorching 62) and veteran Justin Leonard (65) were able to at least creep within shouting distance. But only when Palmer scored his final eagle (for a 63 of his own) did Reed’s lead ever lip to less than three strokes………………Battling down to the wire against the two highest ranked players in the field, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal claimed his third career European Tour victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, edging Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy by one. Though Larrazabal played solid, steady golf en route to a closing 67, he had a bit of help down the stretch, especially from Mickelson who double-hit a recovery shot on the 13th hole and posted a triple-bogey seven, dropping him rather abruptly from the tournament lead to three shots in arrears. The world number five nearly managed a spectacular comeback, however, recording three birdies over the final five holes before ultimately coming up one shy. McIlroy too had chances to win, failing to hole a number of makeable birdie putts on the final nine, then finally carding a birdie at the par-5 finisher when it was an eagle that was required. McIlroy’s prospects had already been dimmed on Saturday evening when a two-stroke penalty assessed after the round for an illegal drop at the 2nd hole moved him from one to three shots off the lead, a deficit he was ultimately unble to recover from. Larrazabal, for his part, proved himself quite capable under pressure, logging birdies at the 11th and 13th to move into the lead, then recording a clutch two-putt birdie to close the door on his pursuers at the 567-yard par-5 18th………………Local Hua Hin native Prayad Marksaeng scored a popular hometown victory by rallying from a three-shot 54 hole deficit to win the King’s Cup behind Sunday’s low round (a six-under-par 66) in a January event that closed out the Asian Tour’s official 2013 schedule. Also a winner of his nation’s Queen’s Cup earlier in the 2013 season, Marksaeng’s completion of the Thai royalty double also represented his eighth career victory on the Asian circuit. After making the Sunday turn in two-under-par 34 but still trailing Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg by two, Marksaeng birdied the par-4 10th and chipped in for eagle at the par-5 13th, the latter combining with a Karlberg bogey to finally move the 47-year-old Marksaeng into the lead. He would later add an insurance birdie at the 17th, a gained stroke that would prove important when Karlberg finished birdie-birdie to pull within one.
PGA Tour - Humana Challenge - Patrick Reed (260)
European Tour - Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship - Pablo Larrazabal (274)
Asian Tour - King's Cup Golf Hua Hin - Prayad Marksaeng (276)
Champions Tour - Mitsubishi Electric Classic - Bernhard Langer (194)