By V. Krishnaswamy, one of India’s leading sports writers, who has covered over 20 Majors and 250 international golf tournaments. Follow him on Twitter via @Swinging_Swamy.
KAEC, Saudi Arabia, Feb 2: Gavin Green, who flew the Asian Tour flag well all week, gave it all, including an eagle-birdie finish in a card of 70 at Saudi International. However, the four bogeys in the seven holes before that ended his hopes of a maiden triumph on the European Tour.
Green finished tied-third with a final round of 70 and 9-under total, which he had reached at the 36-hole mark, but stayed there were 70-70 over the weekend.
Ahead of him, on a windy and tough day, the 40-year-old Graeme McDowell used all his experience and stayed patient to finish at 12-under, two shots clear of defending champion Dustin Johnson (67).
The win ended McDowell’s nearly six-year long title drought on the European Tour. His last win came at the Open de France in 2014. It was McDowell’s 11th European Tour victory and 16thoverall and they have come in 12 different countries.
“I hope this win will do for me what the Abu Dhabi win did for my friend, Shane Lowry last year. It was great of him to be there to congratulate me,” said McDowell.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar had another average day with 71 and finished at 3-over 283 and was Tied-67th. He had two birdies and three bogeys. Shubhankar Sharma missed the cut.
McDowell suffered a stumble with bogeys on ninth and 13thto fall to 10-under before he picked birdies on 14tth and 15thand came to 18thwith a three-shot cushion.
McDowell, who shared the lead with Green on the first day and was in the news on the second day when he was given a ‘bad time’ after taking 84 seconds (as against mandated 50) on his second shot on Par-4 sixth hole, ensured there were no hiccups on Sunday. Despite Johnson jumping to -10 and sole second with an eagle on 18th. It was Johnson’s second eagle of the day in his 67.
McDowell calmly putted out for par on the hole and the round, to complete a fine win and rose to inside Top-50 of the world.
Talking of the time since his last win, McDowell, who now moves into Top-50 of the world, said, “I didn’t realise it had been quite that long here in Europe. I’m very excited. I’m very relieved. This is a difficult golf course this week. It’s unusual to win feeling as uncomfortable as I did on a lot of these holes because it was a tough golf course these last two days, especially with tough conditions. The birdies on 14 and 15 were just huge at the time, and it was nice to have a that little cushion coming down the last couple.
“My big goal this year was to be back in the Top-50 in the world, back competing in the big tournaments. I’m very excited that it’s happened a little faster than I expected.”
Green, whose best has been Tied-second at Hero Indian Open in 2017, admitted, “I knew I was close and I knew I was really close, actually. I just told myself get a good score and have another good back nine, doesn’t matter what it is, just keep hitting good shots. After the short putt missed, I just lost focus a little bit. Something I can learn from and maybe I can do it next time.”
“Overall I had solid day. The finish was strong. I didn’t expect that at all. When my caddie said, just hit two good tee shots and see where that leaves us, finish strong. So I’m happy.”
American Phil Mickelson and Belgian Thomas Pieters finished in a tie for third with Green. Mickelson made a hat-trick of birdies from the second but would not make another until the last to go. He had a bogey on the 16th.
England’s Ross Fisher eagled the last to finish at seven under alongside Dubuisson, Major Champion Sergio Garcia, Mexican Abraham Ancer and Belgian Thomas Detry.
KAEC, Saudi Arabia, Feb 1: Malaysia’s Gavin Green slipped one place down to third, but stayed in contention for his maiden European Tour title at Saudi International. Green, who began the day with a birdie and at one stage held sole lead, carded even par 70.
It was the first time Green has failed to shoot a score in 60s at the Saudi International after shooting 64-67 on first two days and he had all four rounds in 60s, while finishing T-11th last year at the same event. Green’s best at an European Tour event is second at the Hero Indian Open in 2017.
At nine-under, Green is three behind leader Graeme McDowell (66) who is 12-under and second placed Victor Dubuisson (65) at 11-under, who has just one Top-10 in since the start of 2018.
Green playing with college roommate, Victor Perez, admittedly struggled at times in difficult, windy and brutal conditions for an even par 70 round, that looked way better at two-under till he bogeyed 14 and 15. Green stayed where he started at nine-under.
Perez, like Green birdied the first and added another on second to forge ahead. Then he dropped a double on third, and struggled a lot through the rest of the round, except for birdies on 10thand 18th. He bogeyed 12th, 13thand 17thand in between double bogeyed 16thfor a day’s work of 73 that saw him drop to Tied-fourth with Renato Paratore (70) and Dustin Johnson (68) at seven-under.
In the fourth and final round Green will play with defending champion Dustin Johnson, one group behind the leaders, McDowell and Dubuisson.
Jazz Janewattananond (76) plummeted to tied-47 after being tied-fifth with Dubuisson at the halfway stage. “It was very tough conditions out there and with Victor (Dubuisson) playing so well, I looked even worse,” said a smiling Jazz, ranked 38thin the world.
Justin Harding began in style reaching four-under through 10, before dropping a shot on 12thand finishing with six pars and a card of 67. He is now 2-under and T-27th.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar could not find any putts on the greens and finished with one-over 71 and was Tied-68th.
McDowell has won just once since 2015, while his former Ryder Cup partner Dubuisson of France has not won since 2015. On Sunday, they go against each other in the final round of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf and Golf & Country Resort.
McDowell and Dubuisson will play together, just as they did at the Ryder Cup in 2014. That time, McDowell, a veteran of three Ryder Cup teams, was asked to mentor rookie Dubuisson. Then, they were both trying to help each other win for Europe, but this time, they will be trying to win, something that has become difficult for both.
Both brought back old memories and Dubuisson added to it, revealing that he was once again playing with an old set of clubs he had put away long back, but brought out only recently.
On Saturday, the moving day, when conditions were most testing, McDowell was on fire on the back nine with 4-under 66 that included three birdies in a row from 12thto 14thand another on 18thto get to 12-under 198.
Dubuisson confessed he would have been happy with one or two-under for the day in such windy conditions, came in with a 5-under 65 for second straight day to reach 11-under.
McDowell summed up the final round camaraderie saying, “We shared a car up to the course this morning and I was chatting with him and I always look out for him, great experiences with him in 2014 at Gleneagles. He’s such a great guy, he hasn’t had the best form the last few years and I’m really, really happy to see him at the top of the leaderboard and looking forward to being with him tomorrow. It’s going to be tough to try and play tough against him, but we’re both competitors and we’ll go out there and try and do our job.”
Green shares opening honours at Saudi International
KAEC, Saudi Arabia, Jan 30: Gavin Green led a group of Asian Tour stars to a fine first day at the European Tour’s Saudi International.
The 26-year-old Malaysian, who was out in the first group in the morning carded eight birdies, including a flawless five-under 31 for the front nine, against two bogeys on back nine for a six-under 64.
He held sole lead till late in the afternoon before the 2010 US Open champion, Graeme McDowell joined him at the top.
With Gavin Green, the 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, co-leading, a group of Asian Tour Order winners, Jazz Janewattananond (2019), Shubhankar Sharma (2018) and Scott Hend (2016) were all tied at 21st place on two-under 68 after the first day. Two-time Asian Tour champion Justin Harding also returned with a 68.
Green set the morning pace with 64. Zipping through the front nine in five-under 31, he was six-under through 10. Green overcame two three-putts on the back nine and compensated with birdies on 16 and 17.
In tough afternoon winds, only 2010 US Open champion McDowell, came in with a low round. His 64 included four straight birdies from thee second and another three from 16th. He had one other birdie and a double bogey on Par-3 11th.
Sharma handled the tough and windy conditions in the afternoon well as he returned with a quality two-under 68 in the first round of the Saudi International. With a very strong blowing through the Royal Greens, running along the Red Sea, Sharma stitched together a round with five birdies and two bogeys for 68.
Sharma was pleased with the day, said, “I was happy with my play, even though dropping a shot on the last hole (ninth) was disappointing, but the hole was playing difficult.”
“I hit pretty well. Starting on 10th, I had a birdie on the difficult 13th hole where I hit it to six feet. I three-putted on the 16th which was annoying. But on the 18th hole, I hit a wedge to four feet for a birdie.
“On the front nine, on second I had a good birdie from 12 feet but missed a short putt for one more on third. On sixth I missed an up-and-down and ended with a bogey, but had a great birdie on seventh while coming out of the rough. Then on eighth I hit to 15 feet for another birdie to get to three-under.
“On the tough ninth, I went to the right in the desert and was in a tractor track. I did not have a great shot but hit it to 30 yards short of green to finish with bogey. Still happy with the day and hopefully in calmer conditions tomorrow I can do better.”
After the 64, Green was willing to forget the two disappointing three-putts on the back nine. The 26-year-old, said, “I played solid. Really a few mistakes here and there, which is pretty normal. A couple of pretty big par saves, and a couple of mistakes, a couple of three-putts, which was tough to take in because I was playing well and solid.
“(Still) I forgot those mistakes and got back birdies on 16 and 17. On 18 had a nasty little lipout but it is what it is.” He had some nice saves, too.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, playing with co-leader, Green, had an off-day and shot 74.
Sentosa, Singapore, January 19: American Matt Kuchar put up a inspirational performance that demonstrated his mental fortitude when he overcame a calamitous triple-bogey on the seventh hole by charging back with three birdies in his back-nine to win the SMBC Singapore Open on Sunday.
Despite a host of Asian Tour stars including defending champion and 2019 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Jazz Janewattananond piling the pressure on him, Kuchar showed he has the resilience to bounce back on the day that matters most at the Serapong course, Sentosa Golf Club.
Holding a three-shot lead at the start of the day, Kuchar extended his lead to four with his first birdie on four. However, the American ran into trouble on the par-five seventh when his tee shot came up against the root of a tree and he missed the ball on his first attempt to punch it out from the trees.
The nightmare continued when his approach shot flew left of the green, hit a cart path and went out of bounds. After hitting his sixth shot onto the front of the green, Kuchar eventually managed to hole a crucial putt from 10-feet for a triple-bogey eight.
But Kuchar mounted his comeback in his back-nine with birdies on 11 and 16 as his closest rivals fell by the wayside. The galleries then roared in unison as he went on to sink a birdie putt from almost 20 feet to win the iconic Singapore event with a final round one-under-par 70.
Former world number one Justin Rose of England finished in second place after posting a four-day total of 15-under-par 269 while Jazz took outright third place with a closing 71 at the US$1 million event which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).
Korean teenager Joohyung Kim signed for a 71 to take fourth place along with one of the four tickets to The Open at Royal St. George’s in July. The other three spots went to Canada’s Richard T. Lee, Thailand’s Poom Saksansin and Japan’s Ryosuke Kinoshita.
SINGAPORE- L-R – Joohyung Kim of Korea, Poom Saksansin of Thailand, Richard T.Lee of Canada and Ryosuke Kinoshita of Japan Open Qualifiers pictured on Sunday January 19,2020, during the final round of the SMBC Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore. The USD$ 1 million event is co- sanctioned with the Asian Tour and Japan Tour, January 16-19, 2020. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Lagardére Sports.Did you know?
Matt Kuchar (USA) Final round 70 (-1) Total 266 (-18)
This is fantastic to travel around the world and come to a great city like Singapore, and to play a great golf course that you have here, to play against a great field and test my game against some great, great players that we don’t often see in the United States. There are certainly a lot of great players here on this Tour, so it feels fantastic to come out on top. I’m awfully proud of being able to bounce back from adversity and being able to not let hard things get the best of me. And seven was a disastrous hole to make triple bogey there. I felt like I was cruising along and had a four shot lead that point and it was awfully comfortable. I played a tee-shot that I thought was a conservative shot, just a little up the left side, and it ended up finding its way between a few roots. I swung and missed as the ball was wedged among the roots, then had to step up and actually try to swing and hit that ball on the next shot. I got it out. Next one hits the cart path and goes into the leaves and I have to take a penalty drop. Finally put it on the green and lining up an 80-footer up to 10 feet for a triple knowing that Jazz is about to make birdie, and if he makes birdie I need to make triple just to tie with him. So, I think that 10-footer was a big, big putt to make. A 10-footer is an easy one to miss and a great putt to make. It was a bit of a wake-up call, but I was playing good golf then all sudden you’re all square. I was pleased, really pleased to be able to bounce back. There is another par-five the 18th where I as playing conservative with the water on the left, my ball went to the right and found the bunker which I thought was a fine place to be. But I could only play a standard greenside blast out of the bunker and then be faced with a shot of 230-yards. I knew I only needed a bogey to win and of course I hit a fantastic shot to about 20-feet.
Justin Rose (Eng) Final round 67 (-4) Total 269 (-15)
I played some good golf and made some good putts. I was just disappointed with the (way I played around the) turn, really. I did not realise Kuchar had made a mistake somewhere on the front nine and I bogeyed eight and nine and missed a short birdie putt on 10. That is where I lost the tournament. When I walked onto the ninth I could see that Kuchar had given a couple back and I was a little frustrated but I was still only four back on the 10th fairway, which was two better than the start of the day, so I tried to reset and I played great golf coming in and (mounted) a chase. I got close, you know. Kuchar made a good birdie at 16 and every credit to him. (If i had known earlier he had triple bogeyed) my intensity might have been different, yeah. You never know. I felt my best and played my best when I had a chance to win. For me, it is a good first week of the year. Four rounds in the 60s, consistent golf, got into contention, felt some of those nerves, which is great. A lot to take from the week.
This is a nice start and I feel I can build some momentum from it. Some second places hurt, some second places you feel good and this is more of a feeling good second place finish.
Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) Final round 71 (Even) Total 270 (-14)
Matt was amazing you know, after that eight he still recovered and won with class. I mean, it’s just amazing to see what top players in the world can do, and really good to experience it up close. I got a lot to learn you know. There are many things to improve and after playing alongside Matt Kuchar I can see that I need to do a lot of things. It’s really good opportunity to play with these guys and see what it takes to step up to the next level.
Joohyung Kim (Kor) Final round 71 (Even) Total 271 (-13)
Obviously today wasn’t the round that I would have hoped for. Still, I played really good in these conditions. I wish I could have four rounds under par, but even in the final round in the wind wasn’t too bad with these pins.
I’m definitely really happy, and really excited that I took the ticket to The Open. It was my goal to try to qualify for a major, and for it to happen the second tournament of the year, and to be The Open, is a dream come true.
Richard T. Lee (Can) – Final Round 72 (+1), Total 272 (-12)
I may not have won the tournament but I got myself a ticket to The Open! I kind of struggled today with my shots and my putts but how I turned things around on the back nine pretty good and I am very glad about the way I finished. The Open is going to be the second Major that I will play in so I am definitely going to work really hard and get ready for it in July. I love playing links courses so I will try to find my best. I worked really hard over the off season which was only like two weeks and a half. I am pretty impressed with how I played although I still need to work on a few more things. Putting especially. But overall, I am glad about how I played today.
Poom Saksansin (Tha) – Final Round 65 (-6), Total 273 (-11)
I am happy I gave myself a chance to qualify for The Open. It’s going to be my first time playing in a Major tournament. I think it would be nice! I came into this week with no confidence because I have been trying to fix my swing in last three months. But this week, I played really well and I think I have regained the confidence with my swing. This is a long course for me. It doesn’t really suit my game. But the greens are nice here and I putted well. I am looking forward to the experience of playing in a Major already. It’s going to be the biggest stage that I have ever played so I am very excited.
Sentosa, Singapore, January 18: Matt Kuchar of the United States showed his star power by signing for a nine-under-par 62 to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the SMBC Singapore Open on Saturday.
Kuchar’s third round superlatives would have been the course record if not for the preferred lies ruling in play at the Serapong Course, Sentosa Golf Club where the US$1 million event, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO), is being held this week.
Kuchar, the 2016 Olympic Games bronze medalist and a nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR, kept the galleries enthralled from start to finish with four birdies in his front-nine, followed by another five in his inward-nine for a three-day total of 17-under-par 196.
Defending champion Jazz Janewattananond returned with a 67 to share second place with Philippines’ Miguel Tabuena, who posted a 66 to remain on course to surpass his previous best finish of tied-fourth at the 2016 edition of the Singapore Open.
Korean teen sensation Joohyung Kim remained steady under pressure as he sunk a 15-footer to save par on the last hole to keep himself in contention for his second Asian Tour title.
The 17-year-old’s third round 67 meant he will start his final round four shots back of Kuchar in a share of fourth place with Canada’s Richard T. Lee, who posted a 65 for a 200 total.
Did you know?
Matt Kuchar (Usa) – Third round 62 (-9) Total 196 (-17)
It was a great day. I had a good time as I got off to a great start with birdies in the first 2 holes. Continued to play some good steady golf, took advantage of the par fives again and it was a great day. That was a great way to start, back to back birdies, kind of tied for the lead there and just kept playing some good golf, it was fun. The whole group played really good golf; it was a fun day out. I really enjoyed being able to share the medal. Being an Olympic medalist, being able to bring around and share it with people. It’s been a real source of pride and something I really enjoy being – an Olympic medalist.
Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) – Third round 67 (-4), Total 199 (-14)
I’m happy with the back-nine for sure. A very slow start today as nothing was really going my way in my front-nine, but I am still happy with four-under. It would be great (successfully defend title), but Kuchar’s in for it right now and I see his score and it will be fun tomorrow. Let’s see if I can perform my best tomorrow. I am really excited to play with Matt. Last year I was up against many world class players and I win this event. This year, he’s (Matt) world class too. It will be interesting to see how he does too.
Miguel Tabeuna (Phi) – Third round 66 (-5) Total 199 (-14)
It was pretty solid, I mean I’ve been hitting the ball great which helps. You know when whenever I don’t play my best round or good round, it’s because I cannot hit a good shot off the tee, which my problem. The biggest problem, every time. I worked a bit last week on the range and I found something and I’m sticking to it. I’ve been here before. I’m expecting the nerves to be there and I welcome it. You know when you’re playing with nerves that means you are doing the right thing.
Joohyung Kim (Kor) – Third round 67 (-4), Total 200 (-13)
That last putt was very important indeed. Just hit one bad drive the whole day I think. Came at the wrong time but that putt to save par on the last definitely gives me the momentum for tomorrow. To not finish with a bogey on a par-five and saving that crucial par putt definitely gives me the energy to even play even better tomorrow. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, obviously. I think anyone in the top-six right now can win the tournament, so I don’t want to really get too hard on myself tomorrow. I will just stick to my game plan and hopefully it goes my way. There will be a lot of pressure thinking about The Open spots. I have to not think about that and just stick to shot by shot. I know if I can execute the way I did today, I can take care of these things. I would be lying if I say I’m not thinking about it (pressure). It’s always going to be at the back of your mind but you have to try not to think about it and stick to your game plan. Just trust your team and keep going.
Richard T. Lee (Can) – Third round 65 (-6), Total 200 (-13)
I just had a weird feeling today. I was pretty focused out there, but in a way I wasn’t focused, I don’t know. I was pretty zoned out but I made a lot of good putts out there and my shots were pretty solid today to make seven birdies and one bogey. It’s pretty good playing. It was definitely nice playing with Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar today. I wasn’t really trying to outplay them. I didn’t really notice them too much. I was more worried about myself, you know from shot to shot. I felt like I was sending my shots pretty solid and making lots of the putts. I am not really thinking about The Open spots for now. If I make it, I make it. I am just trying to play well and do my best to get that title instead. I mean I’m not really thinking about I’m just trying to play well and try to get that title instead.