Jan
17
2016
Everything you need to know from Sunday
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

For most people, you were probably watching football, but the games ended in time so that you could’ve caught the finishing holes of the Sony Open! In case you didn’t, we did our best to watch for you (and stayed awake for most of it). Spoiler: You didn’t miss that much — well, the 18th hole was intriguing, but up until then, I thought the most interesting thing was eventual champion Fabian Gomez using the bathroom three times in 11 holes, per Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz.

The drama all took place on the par-5 18th hole, starting with Fabian Gomez rolling in a monster 22-footer for birdie from the fringe in regulation. That putt vaulted him to 20-under, which Brandt Snedeker, who was playing int he final group, ended up at, as well, after he holed a five-footer for birdie. Gomez and Snedeker went into a sudden death playoff, with both extra holes being played on the 18th.

On the first playoff hole, Snedeker led the way, pulling his drive to the left, while Gomez hit it out to the right in the rough in front of a fairway bunker. The 37-year-old Argentinian, then, striped an awesome 3-wood just next to the greenside bunker to the right. He had a chip, which he knocked to 12 feet, but then missed the putt.

It was a similar story for Snedeker, whose second shot clipped the tree, taking a lot of the momentum and distance from it. Snedeker was left with a long pitch in the fairway and hit it to about 12 feet, as well. Gomez missed his first and Snedeker looked like he thought for sure his putt was good, but it just slid off to the right. Both settled with tap-in pars.

Snedeker had the honor and pushed his drive right into the bunker on the second extra hole. Meanwhile, Gomez decided to take driver out of play and teed off with a hybrid, nailing it right down the middle of the fairway and putting him in perfect position. Snedeker laid up with an iron from the bunker, leaving him with a wedge shot. Gomez striped his fairway wood onto the front of the green, leaving him with a good look at eagle. He missed just barely and tapped in for birdie. Snedeker was unable to get up-and-down for birdie. He had a look from about eight feet, but couldn’t get it to fall.

Gomez clinches his second PGA Tour victory at the Sony Open.

The Argentinian started his round hot, making birdies on nos. 6-12 for seven consecutive birdies. He was eight-under for the day at that point and held a two-shot lead. Nerves got the best of him for a moment, leading him to two straight bogeys on the following two holes. But he managed to steady the ship and rolled in two clutch birdies on the last two in regulation to eventually beat Snedeker on the second playoff hole.


 SECOND GUESSING?

Golf Channel’s Peter Jacobsen questioned Snedeker’s decision to go with driver on the second extra hole, but Snedeker wouldn’t second guess it afterwards.

“Probably the worst swing of the week on the tee shot there,” he said. “I hit four great drives there — five great drives there, just trying to get it to the fairway. I don’t like hitting 5-wood there because if you miss it at all, you can’t really get home in two.

“I pulled off, I had 7-iron in my hand, or 8-iron in my hand. If I don’t end up in the rough, I can chase it and end up on the green. Obviously a horrible tee shot in playoff. But 8 or 10-footer for birdie and didn’t make it.”

Snedeker, however, was extremely frustrated with his putting.

“Pretty frustrated, to say the least,” he said. “I feel like I got about as little out of my round as I possibly could have for a couple of days, as good as I played. I hit so many quality golf shots, had so many good looks at birdies, and if I putt the way I did last week, I’m at 25 or 26-under par. And this is a normal week, and I putted so poorly I couldn’t give myself a chance to get any separation at all.”


ANCHORING?

On the par-3 17th from just off the green, Zac Blair chipped with a hybrid. The question of whether or not he anchored the club against his body came into question. Turns out Blair did not commit a rules infraction and he was actually confused when an official approached him about it after his round.

“I was a bit in shock when (the official) even asked,” said Blair. “I was asking him, what is he talking about. But I honestly don’t know what to say, other than I’m not even sure what happened until I guess I saw it. I definitely wasn’t anchoring it on purpose.”

Wish I had a video of the shot-in-question — I’m sure one will pop up. Please send me the link if you see one first.

Blair finished solo third for his career-best finish on the PGA Tour.


 

LINED UP

Oh, I wish I had a GIF of Si Woo Kim being lined up on *every single shot,* including putts, by his caddie. This was distracting from the 20-year-old South Korean’s pretty sick swing and game. I’m trying to think hard of another time I’ve seen a player get lined up in the men’s game and you’d think I’d remember, so I’m going to chalk this up to the first time. (But I could be wrong.) As we know, watching this at the pro level is extremely painful and doesn’t help any pace of play issues.

I’m not going to lie — as an amateur that doesn’t practice ever, I find it reassuring at times when my caddie or fellow playing partner checks my alignment from time to time, but the key word is “amateur.” If you’re a pro, line yourself up. After all, what else is all that practice for?

Anyway, you may remember Kim’s name from the last and final PGA Tour Q-School in 2012. OK, probably not. If you do, then you’re a major golf geek and I give you mad props. That week Kim became the youngest ever to get through Q-School at 17 years, 5 months and 6 days. Great job, right? Well, yeah, but it was complicated. However, the issues could have been avoid altogether had Kim checked the “amateur” box instead of the “professional” box on his entry form. Had he played as an amateur, he would’ve been able to defer his membership to the following season after he had turned 18.

Because of several components all conspiring together — the fact that you need to be 18 to be a PGA Tour member, the condensed 2013 season, etc. — Kim wasn’t going to get a lot of starts. Here’s what I wrote back in 2012:

Kim doesn’t turn 18 until June 28, 2013, so he can’t become a PGA Tour member or Web.com Tour member until then. He can play no more than 12 Tour events as a non-member on sponsors exemptions (maximum of 7); top-10s (if you place in the top ten at an event, you earn a spot into the next regular tournament); or special exemptions prior to the date he becomes a member. Monday qualifiers do not count toward the 12 maximum starts mentioned above (probably because it’s extremely difficult to do unless your name is Patrick Reed).

The age restriction applies to Special Temporary Membership, so this eligibility category isn’t relevant to Kim’s situation.

Unlike the LPGA, the PGA Tour doesn’t have a provision for a player to petition to join the Tour earlier than his 18th birthday.

Kim turns 18 on June 28, so he’ll get to play in July and August (instead of through October due to the condensed 2013 schedule and the switch to the new split-calender year season), right?

As of now, because of the reshuffles of the Q-school/Web.com Tour category, once the player becomes a regular member he will be placed in the category with the amount of money earned on the Official PGA Tour Money List on the date of the next reshuffle.

However, Kim will miss the one that occurs on the Monday of the U.S. Open and upon joining as a member, he would be placed in the category with $0 and would need to wait until the next reshuffle–which is the week of the British Open–for any money earned as a non-member to count retroactively.

In the Tour’s special info sheet regarding Kim’s situation, it states that the Player Advisory Council will review this subject further in 2013. Hopefully they will change the current rule, so that Kim doesn’t have to wait until the end of July to get starts (only 3 events left). With some luck, he could receive around five (not counting exemptions and Monday qualifiers).

Get all that? Don’t worry if you don’t. Basically, he’s kind of screwed, but since he’s a young phenom, maybe he’ll get sponsor’s invites. Then again, because of the condensed schedule, there are a limited number of invitations with a lot of “big-name” players petitioning for them.

Good news is in light of the condensed season, the Tour has decided to reserve spots that will go to the 2012 grads (so they don’t get totally screwed). According to a player who spoke on condition of anonymity, regular full-field tournaments will have eight invites to hand out. Four of the eight are specifically for Web.com Tour/Q-School grad category and will be given based on the list of the priority rankings (aka a player’s “number”).

The tournament directors will dole out the other four invites. Two of these will be unrestricted (meaning the player doesn’t have to be a member or in one of the gazillion different eligibility categories), while the other two will be granted to two member of the Tour. There will not be any special Commissioner’s foreigner exemptions in the condensed 2013 season. So he won’t be eligible for those spots.

Go here for the full post.

Looks like things turned out OK for Kim. He ended up getting eight starts on the PGA Tour in 2013, where he missed every cut, and seven on the Web.com Tour, where his best finish was T11 at the Mid-Atlantic Championship. He played his way through Web.com Tour Q-School in 2013 and 2014. He graduated back to the PGA Tour after a solid season in 2015, including a win at the Stonebrae Classic.

Ultimately, it was probably for the best that Kim spent a few years honing his game on the Web.com Tour. He might have gotten eaten up and shot out if he had spent an entire season struggling on the big boys tour. Everything happens for a reason, right? Right.

In the fall portion of the 2015-16 season, Kim notched three top-25 finishes. He adds his best finish on the PGA Tour with solo fourth this week at the Sony Open. Someone get him to line himself up before his 21st birthday, though!


OLE OLE OLE

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Team Europe dominated from start-to-finish to secure a 13-point victory over Asia in the second annual EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Europe was led by Darren Clarke at the helm — Clarke will also lead the Europeans in the Ryder Cup this fall.

Englishman Danny WIllett clinched the winning point with eight matches left on the golf course. He started slow, going two-down against Byeong-hun An after seven holes, but bounced back by winning four of the next five holes to take a two-hole lead. Willett birdied the 15th to go three-up before An fought back with a birdie of his own on the next hole. However, Willett drove the 17th green and An failed to post a birdie, which ended the match with another point to Europe.

Willett carded Europe’s fourth point of the day in Sunday singles, following Ian Poulter, Andy Sullivan and Lee Westwood’s lead, who all won their matches, as well.

Fellow Englishmen Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood also beat their opponents. So did Swede Kristoffer Broberg, Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. England’s Ross Fisher tied with Jeung Hun Wang. Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Irishman Shane Lowry were the only Europeans to lose on the final day, to KT Kim and Anirban Lahiri, respectively.

“If your players don’t play and don’t perform then you can be the best captain in the whole world and you’re not going to win, so the credit doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the players,” said Clarke.

“The quality of the golf they have played this week has been brilliant.”


 

PURA VIDA

On Sunday, 16-year-old Paul Chaplet, of Costa Rica, won the second Latin America Amateur Championship. With the victory, he earns an invitation to the 2016 Masters Tournament in April, as well as exemptions into The Amateur Championship (conducted by The R&A) and the U.S. Amateur Championship (conducted by the United States Golf Association). He also earns spots in final qualifying for The 145th Open Championship and the 2016 U.S. Open.

In April, he’ll become the second youngest competitor in Masters history and the first from Central America.

From the press release:

On Saturday, when Paul Chaplet, 16, of Costa Rica, briefly took the third-round lead in the Latin America Amateur Championship with an eagle on the 14th hole, he did not look at the leader board, and promptly triple-bogeyed the ensuing hole. On Sunday, as he came down the final stretch of seaside holes at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog Course, he knew exactly where he stood.

“I realized that I could win this tournament when I looked at the 14th-hole leader board,” said Chaplet, who will enter his senior year at St. Mary High School in San Jose next month. “I was 3 under, and I knew that if I could just get that birdie on 14, and have a little cushion on the last four holes, I might have a chance – and Chaplet executed a delicate chip shot that led to a tap-in birdie on the 485-yard, par-5 14th to take a one-stroke lead, then outdueled a tightly bunched group of players down the stretch to capture a one-stroke victory with a winning total of 3-under-par 285.

Jorge Garcia, of Venezuela, who was tied with Chaplet as he played the par-4 17th hole, hit his approach shot into a fronting bunker and made bogey. Garcia played a brilliant approach shot to the final green, but missed a 10-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff and finished at 2-under 286.

With the victory, Chaplet earns an invitation to the 2016 Masters Tournament in April, as well as exemptions into The Amateur Championship (conducted by The R&A) and the U.S. Amateur Championship (conducted by the United States Golf Association). He also earns spots in final qualifying for The 145th Open Championship and the 2016 U.S. Open.

By the time he returned on Sunday to the daunting closing stretch of four holes that he had played in 4 over par in Round 3, Chaplet had long shrugged off his Saturday struggles.

“I finished that round with a smile because, however you finish, you’re still under par,” said Chaplet, who stood at 1 under, in a tie for fifth place entering the final round. “Compared to last year, when I had an 81 in that third round, you can’t do better than 71. And I knew that it was a good position. I didn’t have the lead, so I didn’t have that pressure.”


FOLLOW THE MONEY

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are all playing in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship this upcoming week. It should make for some interesting TV, particularly if McIlroy and Spieth are in contention coming down the stretch.

Following his debut in Abu Dhabi, Spieth continues to the Singapore Open. Then, he returns stateside for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera before heading to Florida for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and his title defense at the Valspar Championship.