Laird redeems himself in playoff to win again in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Martin Laird lost a chance to win by making bogey on the 18th hole, only to redeem himself in a three-way playoff by making a 20-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole Sunday to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Laird ended seven years without a victory in a year filled with so much doubt, which included knee surgery right about the time golf was set to resume from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 37-year-old Scot suddenly is flying high.
He needed a sponsor exemption to play the tournament he won in 2009. He ended it with a birdie to beat Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook. It was the third three-man playoff in Las Vegas for Laird, who won in 2009 and lost the following year when Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole at the TPC Summerlin.
Laird contributed a pair of big shots on the par 3.
He had a one-shot lead with two holes to play Sunday when he sent his tee shot on the par-3 17th off a cart path and some 30 yards right of the green with the pin to the right. He hit a chip-and-run over the cart path, under the trees, between a pair of bunkers and then made a most improbable par with an 18-foot putt.
But he missed the green to the right on the 18th and chipped to 30 feet, two-putting for bogey and a 3-under 68 to fall into a playoff at 23-under 261 with Wolff and Cook, who each closed with a 66.
They all made par on the 18th in the playoff, and then Laird ended it on the 17th with his birdie. Laird, at No. 358 in the world, becomes the third winner in the last four regular PGA Tour events to be ranked outside the top 300.
Now he has a two-year exemption, and he’s headed back to the Masters in April and the PGA Championship in May.
Laird appeared to have everything going his way when he caught a buried lie near the lip of a bunker while facing a front pin on the par-5 ninth. He blasted away, turned his head and looked back to see the superb shot trickle into the cup for eagle. That gave him a three-shot lead heading to the back nine.
But he couldn’t hold it.
Cook never really went away, closing within one shot with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th and burning the edge of the cup on his birdie attempt on the closing hole. Wolff was never far away and arrived in a powerful burst with a two-putt birdie on the reachable par-4 15th, blasting a 375-yard drive on the par-5 16th and stuffing wedge to 10 feet for eagle.
Laird never lost the lead, though he was grinding to the finish line. He had to make a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th, the easiest hole at TPC Summerlin. He played away from the flag and water on the par-5 16th to 70 feet and came up 15 feet short, leading to a three-putt par.
And then he made his great escape on the 17th after a tee shot off the cart path. A par on the 18th was all he needed for the victory, and he hung it out to the right, down to a collection area with a drain a yard in front of his ball.
Patrick Cantlay, who shared the 54-hole lead with Laird, was the biggest surprise of the day. Cantlay won the tournament in 2017 and was runner-up each of the last two years. Fourteen of his 15 rounds at the TPC Summerlin were under par. He opened with four bogeys in six holes and didn’t make birdie until the 13th, closing with a 73.
U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau closed with a 66, and that was the worst he could have done. With a helping wind, he played the par 5s on the back nine in 1 over. He also bogeyed the last from a bunker.
He tied for eighth in his first appearance since becoming a major champion at Winged Foot, and he now goes back to the lab — or the gym, in his case — for the next month before resurfacing at the Masters.
Abraham Ancer birdied the last two holes for a 67 to finish alone in fourth. Will Zalatoris closed with a 69 for a three-way tie for fifth, leaving him just short of enough FedEx Cup points to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. His next chance is in three weeks in Bermuda.
Sei Young Kim wins 1st major at Women’s PGA Championship.
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Sei Young Kim lined up for the putt on the 18th hole that would seal her first LPGA major championship and somehow missed by inches. One member of the gallery — in this instance, roughly 75 officials, photographers and course stragglers — even said “she made it.”
The 27-year-old South Korean laughed off the rare misstep, tapped in the winner and shed the unwelcome label of winningest golfer on the tour without a major. Kim raised her arms “Rocky” style, hugged her caddie and, at last, was a major champion.
Kim chewed up Aronimink Golf Club in record style, shooting a 7-under 63 on Sunday to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She was five strokes better than runner-up Inbee Park, never seriously challenged on the arduous course in suburban Philadelphia.
“I’m actually really hiding my tears at the moment,” she said, standing next to the trophy.
Her dominance was in plain sight. She finished at 14-under 266. Her final-round 63 tied a tournament record, and her 266 set the championship scoring record.
Kim, who earned her 11th LPGA victory, got the championship push rolling when she matched a tournament record with a 29 on the front nine on Friday. She never really slowed down.
About the only surprise Sunday came when her father appeared on a video chat toward the end of her press conference.
“See you soon,” Kim said with a smile and a wave.
She was, Park said, “really untouchable.”
Park, a three-time winner of this championship, shot a 5-under 65. Park won the Women’s PGA Championship in 2015 and Kim was in the first group of people on the course to celebrate with her.
Five years later, it was Kim’s time to hoist the trophy.
Kim, a 2016 Olympian, was runner-up at the 2015 Women’s PGA Championship and tied for second at the Evian Championship in 2018. Kim held the 54-hole lead at a major once, at the 2015 ANA Inspiration, where she finished in a tie for fourth.
She clinched the championship with a round to remember at Aronimink. Kim’s fifth birdie of the day at the par-3 14th gave her a four-shot lead over Park and put her at 12 under for the championship.
She earned $645,000 for the victory. Kim has at least one win in every LPGA Tour season since 2015.
“It was just so hard to believe that she never won a major before because it felt like she won a few,” Park said.
Nasa Hataoka and Carlota Ciganda tied for third at 7 under. Anna Nordqvist (4 under) and Brooke Henderson (3 under) both played in Kim’s group and finished fifth and sixth.
Kim is the latest addition to a growing list of first-time major winners in recent years, a sign of growing parity. Her victory means nine of the last 10 major champions had never won one before. She joins Sophia Popov (Women’s British Open) and Mirim Lee (ANA Inspiration) as this year’s major champions.
Kim dazzled at another event without the roar of the galleries — though Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry walked the course — and held off a hard-charging Park. Park had three birdies on the front nine as she tried to match Mickey Wright with a record fourth win at the Women’s PGA Championship.
“I thought 65 will definitely do it,” Park said. “I was thinking maybe like 5 to 6 under is a good number to kind of post and just see what happens. But obviously Sei Young was just much better than anyone else out there today.”
As she approached 18, the trophy sitting out near the hole for her to see, pretty much everyone out at Aronimink lined the ropes. She got a big ovation after her tap-in sealed the win.
Kim waved to the crowd and was doused in champagne as she walked off the course.
With Paul Fusco on the bag, Kim matched a tournament record with a 29 on the front nine on Friday and shot a 32 for the front nine on Sunday. Fusco kept it loose, even walking over to compliment a reporter for a story (“really cool”) before Kim teed off on No. 8.
“Before I came to the U.S., I actually saw Paul, and I saw how he prepared for each tournament, and I told myself I want to have him on my bag,” Kim said.
Kim hit the putt of her life last November at Tiburon Golf Club, a 25-foot birdie on the final hole of the CME Group Tour Championship to win $1.5 million, the richest prize in the history of women’s golf.
The money is far less at Aronimink — but the prestige of winning a major means so much more.
“I won’t lie, I did feel the pressure starting last night,” Kim said. “I actually arrived about 30 minutes later than I normally do at the golf course. I really tried to stay composed during the tournament, during the round, and I’m happy that I got it done.”
The tournament was delayed three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, landing its final round smack on a packed sports Sunday. The PGA of America had to get creative with the tee times with NBC having other programming commitments on the weekend and the leaders — including Kim — teed off at 8:49 a.m.
Founded in 1896, Aronimink has hosted a number of significant golf events during its storied history, including the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player. Aronimink’s golf course was designed by Donald Ross in 1926 and is off the major schedule until the PGA Championship in 2026.
Els wins in rain in North Carolina for 2nd Champions title
CARY, N.C. — Ernie Els birdied the final two holes, running in a 40-footer in the rain on the last, for a 6-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over Colin Montgomerie on Sunday in the SAS Championship.
Els made the long putt on the par-4 18th three weeks after missing a 2-foot putt on the final hole of the Pure Championship at Pebble Beach to finish a stroke out of a playoff.
“It’s a crazy game,” Els said. “A couple of weeks ago I missed a very short putt to get in a playoff and today I make a 40-footer. Figure that one out.”
Jim Furyk missed a chance to become the first player to win his first three PGA Tour Champions events, closing with a 70 to tie for ninth at 8 under — four strokes behind Els. Furyk won at Warwick Hills and Pebble Beach.
Els won for second time in his first 10 starts on the 50-and-over tour. The South African star, a four-time major champion with 19 PGA Tour titles, finished at 12-under 204 at Prestonwood Country Club. He pointed to putting help from fellow player Mark O’Meara.
“Just by chance I saw him on the putting green the other day and we just started chatting a little bit,” Els said. “He uses the same putter that I use, so we started talking a little bit and I said, `Hey, have a look here.′ I didn’t have a great experience at Pebble obviously a couple weeks ago. He looked at me, and he’s a great putter and knowing a man that long, he gave me a nice assist. He told me what he felt I should do and here I am. So, I owe Mark O’Meara.”
Els tied Montgomerie, playing three groups behind, with the birdie on the par-5 17th and pulled ahead on 18.
“I had 64 in mind,” Els said. “Especially on the final round, the guys, there were so many guys bunched. I was coming from 6 under, I reckoned 14 under was maybe a good score, but then the conditions helped out and it became really tough. So, 66 just squeaked in there.”
Montgomerie, tied for the second-round lead with Darren Clarke and Woody Austin, parred the final four holes — giving himself little chance on 18 when he hit his 190-yard approach 50 feet left. He shot a 70.
Vijay Singh (70) was third at 10 under. Austin (72) was 9 under with Gene Sauers (67), Robert Karlsson (68), Kirk Triplett (69 ) and David Toms (71). Clarke (74) tied for 11th at 7 under.
Hatton completes career goal by winning BMW PGA Championship
VIRGINIA WATER, England — Tyrrell Hatton held off a final-round challenge by Victor Perez to win the BMW PGA Championship by four strokes on Sunday, giving the English player a first victory on home soil at a tournament that inspired him to become a professional.
Hatton shot 5-under 67 to finish on 19-under 269 overall, capping a week when he shot in the 60s every round around Wentworth’s storied West Course.
It is the biggest win of his career, even topping his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March that marked his breakthrough in the United States, where he has been playing for the past nine months either side of golf’s hiatus for the coronavirus pandemic.
Hatton used to attend this tournament — the elite event on the European Tour — as a child, and recalled this week the time he came to Wentworth as a 5-year-old with his father and was nearly struck by an errant tee shot from Vijay Singh.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hatton, who acknowledged in a walkalong TV interview during the round that he was nervous. “This was a goal of mine, to win this tournament in my career.”
Hatton, who has sparked debate this week by wearing a hoodie, came into the final round with a three-stroke lead and was only really challenged by Perez, who moved into a share of the lead with Hatton after an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole.
Bogeys at Nos. 13 and 17 ended the challenge of the Frenchman, who didn’t pick up a shot in his final six holes and shot 68.
Hatton gave Perez a glimpse of an opportunity by bogeying No. 13 — his only dropped shot of the round — but bounced back by making birdie on Nos. 15 and 18 to ultimately ease to the win.
Hatton was unaware of the state of play and almost sent his second shot on the 18th into the water.
“They had turned off the leaderboard on the 18th tee so I did not realize the position I was in,” Hatton said. “I was pretty nervous on the fairway and it’s the worst shot I’ve hit for a long time, probably the worst second shot by a winner in the history of this tournament, and I was very lucky it ended on the fairway.”
It is Hatton’s third victory at a Rolex Series event and he is set to move into the top 10 in the world for the first time.
“Part of me is sad I didn’t get to experience the crowds, but it’s just amazing to win this trophy,” Hatton said. “There are a lot of fantastic players whose names are on the trophy and it’s a huge honor to add my name.
“To be in the top 10 was also a goal of mine and I am delighted they have come in the same week.”