Category: Archive

Golf Roundup Resolute Christy earns trophy, card in Maryland

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Manley

The way Christy O’Connor Jr. has played this year in his limited chances on the U.S. Seniors Tour, it seemed only a matter of time before the former Ryder Cup player would break through with a win. O’Connor took a three-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the State Farm Senior Classic in Columbia, Md., and watched it dwindle to a mere stroke, but he showed a resilience that left no doubt he would prevail.

In the end, O’Connor held on to win by a stroke over Bruce Fleisher, another rookie among the graybeards. There was more at stake at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club than the $195,000 winner’s check and the piece of crystal memorializing his triumph. The victory entitled O’Connor to fully exempt status for the next year. His appearances so far this year, including the State Farm, were all granted through sponsors’ exemptions.

O’Connor, having turned 50 last year, had planned to try earning his card through the Tour’s Q-School in Florida last November. But when his 17-year-old son, Daren, died from injuries suffered in a car crash last September, those plans were shelved. Playing as much for his son as himself, O’Connor has proved a tough customer in just a handful of stateside appearances.

O’Connor led after Friday’s first round, shooting 65. He lengthened the lead to three with a 66 on Saturday. Only Fleisher, three shots back, had a ghost of a chance on Sunday.

When the pair of O’Connor and Fleisher left the fifth green on Sunday, the Irishman’s lead had expanded to five, courtesy of three straight birdies. But while O’Connor parred the next six holes, Fleisher racked up four birds to draw to within a stroke. O’Connor wasn’t about to wilt in the 97-degree heat, and his lead once again expanded to three after sinking a seven-foot birdie putt on 15. Fleisher gave no quarter, birdying 16 and 18, but O’Connor had built enough of a cushion to withstand his rival.

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The final totals showed O’Connor with a five-under 67 on Sunday for an aggregate 18-under 198. The prize money is a career high for him.

"I’m happy for him," said Fleisher, after signing his card on Sunday. "I’d rather have won, but with the circumstances that Christy has gone through, I couldn’t be happier for him."

"I won today for my son," said O’Connor. "I know he helped me. It’s a very sad day and a very happy day."

O’Connor was to be joined by his wife on Sunday evening. Next up is the U.S. Senior Open in Des Moines, Iowa, beginning Thursday.

Murphy’s Irish Open

If you’re a non-Irish touring pro in Europe, you can’t say enough for the hospitality of the natives with whom you’re competing at Druids Glen in Wicklow. For the second straight year, most of them embarrassed themselves in front of the home folks by missing the cut. Where only two Irish (John McHenry and Keith Nolan) made the cut last year, the number was upped to three this year. But of Eamonn Darcy, Des Smyth and Richard Coughlan, only Darcy was in the thick of things, and why shouldn’t he have been? Druids Glen is his home course.

In any event, while galleries in suburban Chicago saw both the present and future of golf in the person of Tiger Woods, their counterparts in Wicklow saw the European version in the form of Sergio Garcia, who, at the age of 19, won his first professional tournament.

Garcia began the final round two shots behind Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, but streaked past him with a putting display in which he sank three birdie putts from over 30 feet. Garcia came in with a 64 for a total score of 16-under 268, while Cabrera shot 69 to finish at 271. Jarrod Moseley had third place to himself at 273.

Setting a course record 62 in Sunday’s final round was Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin, tying him for fourth place with Darcy and Thomas Bjorn. Darcy was in the hunt from the outset, after opening rounds of 68 and 67, but a 71 on Saturday put too much distance between him and the top to expect a serious run on Sunday. That final round produced a 70.

After beginning with a 73, Smyth crept up the leaderboard on Friday with a 69. Saturday’s 67 brought him to within seven shots of Cabrera, but his 73 on Sunday backed him into a tie at 25th place at 282.

Coughlan, who has been a man without a tour after a good rookie season on the U.S. PGA circuit in 1998, made the cut with rounds of 71. But things took a wild turn over the weekend, as he shot 76 and 79 to end up dead last at 68th among those playing all four rounds. He was 13 over par at 297.

Among the Irishmen seen slinking away after Friday’s round was Padraig Harrington, who shot 144 (70-74), thereby missing the cut by two strokes. He had company in the persons of Philip Walton, 147 (75-72), Paul McGinley, 149 (79-70), John McHenry, 152 (75-77), and Raymond Burns, 154 (74-80), among others.

Nike Tour

It looked like John Kernohan was going to make some waves in the Hershey Classic at the Country Club of Hershey in Chocolatetown. He was two shots off the lead at the midway point, but couldn’t sustain his momentum, suffering an awful weekend in the summer swelter. Kernohan finished in a tie for 33rd place at 288 (69-69-76-74), earning $1,283. Keith Nolan just made the cut, then had a pretty good weekend to move up into a tie for 35th place at 289 (74-71-71-73), pocketing $1,058. Edward Fryatt produced the winning number of 275.

Golden Bear Tour

P.J. Cowan brought a one-shot lead into the final round of this tour’s recent SmartSpikes event at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., but shot 73 (one over par) to settle for third place. Cowan opened with rounds of 66 and 70 to go one-up on Danny Ellis, but Ellis came home with a 70 the final time to lead Cowan by two, 207-209. Tjaart Van Der Walt finished second at 208. Cowan collected $9,829.

European Challenge Tour

Francis Howley is another who stood atop the leaderboard after 36 holes. He was low man at the Open des Volcans in Clermont-Ferrand, France with a score of 134 (69-65), one stroke ahead of Philip Golding. But Howley, like Cowan, frittered his advantage the third time around, shooting even par 72, a score he matched in Sunday’s fourth and final round. Howley ended his stay here tied for ninth at 10-under 278, eight shots off Golding’s winning 270. Gary Murphy missed the cut with a 36-hole score of 148 (75-73).

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