Round 4 - Fabian Gomez wins in a playoff
January 17, 2016
Whether he was playing money games with the other caddies in Argentina or playing mini-tours on his long road to the big leagues in golf, Fabian Gomez couldn't recall ever making seven straight birdies. He won't forget Sunday in the Sony Open.
That amazing birdie streak - no putt longer than 12 feet - carried him to an 8-under 62, and the 37-year-old Argentine won with his 11th birdie of the day on the second playoff hole to outlast Brandt Snedeker.
''I felt good all week long and was about to put on a great round today,'' Gomez said through a translator. ''And I had Brandt Snedeker in front of me. I got on a streak with seven putts in a row. And it makes me feel good and feel like I could win the tournament.''
Gomez won for the second time on the PGA Tour, and this one was much tougher.
Starting the final round four shots behind, Gomez seized control with his seven straight birdies starting on No. 6, only to follow with back-to-back bogeys that let Snedeker and Zac Blair back into the game. Gomez closed with a 7-iron to 10 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th, and a 20-foot birdie putt from just off the 18th green.
He finished at 20-under 260.
Snedeker hit a delicate 55-yard pitch to 4 feet for birdie to close with 66 and force a playoff.
On the first playoff hole at the par-5 18th, Snedeker missed a 12-foot birdie for the win. Going back to the 18th tee, Gomez had enough. He had not hit the 18th fairway all week, and it was the hardest fairway to hit on Sunday. He had never made birdie on the par 5 until Sunday in regulation.
So he went with hybrid off the tee to stay in the short grass, drilled a 3-iron to the front of the green and lagged his long putt close for a tap-in birdie. This time, Snedeker couldn't match him. His 10-foot putt had slower pace than he wanted and it peeled off to the right.
''It's frustrating because I couldn't make putts to win the golf tournament,'' Snedeker said. He said leaving his 12-foot putt to win on the first playoff hole ''is going to sting today and tomorrow.''
Zac Blair, who shared the 54-hole lead with Snedeker, had a 10-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to join them, but it missed on the high side. He had a 67.
Gomez won the St. Jude Classic last year by four shots and already was in the Masters. This victory moves him to No. 55 in the world and greatly improves his chances of playing in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
His 62 was the lowest closing round by a Sony Open champion.
Blair nearly joined the playoff with a 3-wood he called the best of his life from 280 yards on the closing hole at Waialae. ''Oh my gosh, that's so good,'' Blair said as he watched it bound forward onto the green to 10 feet. He needed the eagle to join the playoff. It stayed just above the hole.
''One of the best putts I've probably ever hit right there on 18,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, it didn't go in.''
Si Woo Kim, the 20-year-old from South Korea, was part of a five-way tie for the lead briefly. He closed with one bogey and five parts for a 68 to finish fourth.
Kevin Kisner, playing in the final group for the third time in his last four tournaments, ended his streak of 15 consecutive rounds under par at the worst time. His best putts were to save par until a wild tee shot on the eighth led to double bogey, dropping him five shots behind. Kisner still was in the mix until a bunker-to-bunker double bogey on the 17th ended his day. He closed with a 70 and tied for fifth.
Snedeker came out flat with seven pars and a bogey and twice fell three shots behind. But with birdies around the turn, an 8-foot birdie on the 14th and Gomez making those two bogeys, he was right back in the mix.
He took the lead for the first time all day with a gap wedge he stuffed into 3 feet for birdie on the 16th, but moments later, Gomez made his birdie on the 17th.
In the second tournament since the ban on anchored strokes typically used for long putters, Blair was asked to review his stroke on the 17th before signing his card. He used a fairway metal to putt out of light rough, and a television replay made it look as though the end of the club might have been touching his body.
After a brief review, it was determined the club did not touch his body.
Round 3 - Zac Blair & Brandt Snedeker share lead
January 17, 2016
The worst putt of the day for Zac Blair cost him the lead at the Sony Open on Saturday. It probably won't cost him that much sleep.
Blair was still tied for the lead with Brandt Snedeker. He was hitting fairways and greens, the key to playing Waialae. And he has never had a better chance than this to win on the PGA Tour.
Despite missing a 2-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th, Blair had a 6-under 64 after another round of pristine weather on the shores north of Waikiki Beach. Snedeker missed birdie putts of 10 feet and 12 feet on the last two holes for a 66.
They were at 194, one shot ahead of Kevin Kisner (66).
''I feel like if I can keep doing what I'm doing, getting the ball in playing, getting in on the green, make a few putts,'' he said before pausing. ''I've missed a couple of shorter ones, but it's been good.''
The real challenge will be Sunday.
Snedeker is a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour who has been atop the leaderboard after each round. Kisner might be the hottest player in golf not named Jordan Spieth. This is the third time he's been in the final group in his last four starts.
Snedeker remembers his first time in the last group as a rookie at Torrey Pines in 2007.
''I can definitely relate,'' he said. ''The one difference was I had Tiger Woods teeing off right (in front of) me, so that was a little bit disconcerting, to say the least. And I don't think Zac views me as Tiger Woods, so I think he'll be OK. The nerves are going to be there. He's got a great caddie in Andy Martinez to kind of help him get through it, and the golf course sets up really well for him. So I don't see him having too many issues.''
Si Woo Kim, the 20-year-old from South Korea, finished strong with a birdie and an eagle for a 65 that put him two back.
Blair, whose father played briefly on the PGA Tour in the 1980s, wasn't the only player to struggle on the 18th. Jeff Overton was poised to shoot 62 when he took four shots to get in from a greenside bunker on the 18th and made bogey for a 64.
He was five shots behind. Fabian Gomez of Argentina had a 65 and was four back.
Saturday at least produced a little separation. Two dozen players were within five shots of the lead when the third round began. Now there are 12. That includes Matt Kuchar, who closed with six straight birdies for a 62 - a card that included two bogeys.
Snedeker started the third round with a one-shot lead and kept at least a share of it until Blair, playing in the group in front of him, rolled in an 18-foot birdie on the 15th hole. By then it appeared to be a three-man battle among Snedeker, Blair and Kisner.
Blair stayed near the leaders all day, catching Snedeker briefly with a birdie at the ninth and another at the 13th.
''I obviously don't hit it as far as most of the guys out here,'' Blair said. ''But at the end of the day, I think it just kind of comes down to getting the ball in the hole, and if you're able to do that, you obviously seem to be finding yourself at the top of the leaderboard more often than not.''
Kisner knows that better than most.
He was in the final threesome at the HSBC Champions that Russell Knox won in Shanghai, and then won with a three-shot lead going into the final round at Sea Island. He tied for the lead with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th and stay there with a tough par save at the 15th.
It was 5-iron at the 17th he would like to have back. Kisner tried to play a cut into the wind and it didn't cut. It wound up over the hospital tents, and it led to his only bogey of the round. A birdie from behind the 18th green at least put him in the last group, and that's where he wanted to be.
''I think it's huge tomorrow so you know what's going on,'' he said.
With 87 players making the cut, there was a Saturday cut of top 70s and ties that knocked out Davis Love III and 12 others. Love was among three players who are in the Champions Tour season debut next week on the Big Island, and the other two nearly missed the cut. Fred Funk, who turns 60 this year, birdied his final hole to make it on the number. Vijay Singh, who started four shots out of the lead, was on the cut line until making a long birdie putt on the 17th.
Singh, who turns 53 next month and could have become the PGA Tour's oldest winner in history, shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.
Round 2 - Brandt Snedeker leads at halfway
January 16, 2016
A new driver, a new swing and Brandt Snedeker is starting to feel just like new.
Coming off a great weekend at Kapalua, Snedeker played bogey-free Friday and rolled in a couple of long birdie putts that carried him to a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner midway through the second round of the Sony Open.
Snedeker was at 12-under 128.
''I feel like I'm playing great, so it should be fun,'' Snedeker said about the weekend at Waialae.
Kiser kept his wits even as his putts kept missing. He missed three birdie chances inside 10 feet in his opening 11 holes, and had several others in the 15-foot range that caught part of the lip. But he hung in there long enough to stick his approach 4 feet below the cup on No. 6, and he ended with a 12-foot eagle putt for a 66.
Kisner was a runner-up in the HSBC Champions and won the RSM Classic at Sea Island in his final two tournaments of 2015, and he started the new year by finishing ninth at Kapalua on a weekend where his putter went cold.
British Open champion Zach Johnson had a 66 and was two shots back, while Scott Piercy had a 66 and was three shots behind. The top four on the leaderboard all began the new year at Kapalua last week.
Dating to his final two rounds on Maui - 65-67 to tie for third - Snedeker is 26 under over his last 72 holes. That beats the way he finished the up last year. He went to the Australian PGA Championship and opened with an 84.
He made a full commitment to an overhaul of his setup, and Snedeker said he worked hard with Butch Harmon and then showed up in Maui early, playing a couple of practice rounds with Jordan Spieth. And it helped that Kapalua's fairways are among the widest in golf.
''Maui being wide open off the tee a little bit helped me get comfortable with it,'' Snedeker said. ''And then I realized this week ... how it feels, what should happen, and when I do hit a bad shot, I kind of know where it comes from. So I feel way more comfortable with it this week and excited about it, because the bad shots haven't been near as bad as they have been.''
Two-time defending champion Jimmy Walker finished with nine straight pars for a 68 to finish on 3-under 137, which appear to be assure him making the cut. He was nine back.
Vijay Singh, who opened with a 63 for part of a five-way share of the lead, played in the afternoon.
Kisner and Snedeker also opened with 63s and they remained tied through 11 holes. And both were right of the fairway on the par-4 third, having to punch out low to avoid the palm trees. Kisner's shot caught a frond and came down short of the green, and he pitched to 5 feet and missed the par putt. Snedeker's shot ran all the way onto the green, and he holed a 35-foot birdie putt for a two-shot lead.
On the par-3 fourth, Snedeker made a 20-foot birdie putt, and then finished with a good chip out of the rough to 4 feet for birdie on the ninth.
Kisner's frustration was starting to get noticeable when he bent over so far that his hands nearly touched his shoes on the fifth, but with that eagle on the ninth, he still was only one shot out of the lead.
''I was proud of the way I stayed patient all day,'' Kisner said. ''That round could have been a few more bogeys if I'd have let not holing any of the putts get to me, but stayed patient, kept hitting good shots and good way to finish it on 9.''
Round 1 - Vijay Singh turns back the clock
January 15, 2016
Vijay Singh had his best opening round in more than three years, good enough for a five-way share of the lead Thursday in the Sony Open.
And it was just enough to beat players in his own age group.
Singh, who turns 53 next month and could be the oldest PGA Tour winner in history with a victory at Waialae, narrowly missed an 8-foot eagle putt on his final hole and still posted his best score in 19 years playing the Sony Open.
Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Kisner caught him in the afternoon. Snedeker holed out a long chip for eagle on the short par-4 10th and made two birdies late on the back nine. Kisner got up-and-down from a bunker for a birdie on the par-5 18th.
Ricky Barnes, winless in 205 starts on the PGA Tour as a pro, and Morgan Hoffmann also shot 63 in the morning.
Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III and Si Woo Kim were one shot out of the lead.
Even so, it was difficult to ignore the performance of the seniors in the opening round.
Fred Funk, who turns 60 this summer, made a late bid for the lead until a bogey on the 16th hole. He wound up with a 65. Davis Love III, who won the Wyndham Champion last August at age 51, birdied the last hole for a 66.
Singh, Funk and Love are sticking around next week for the Champions Tour season opener on the Big Island. It will be three straight weeks in paradise for Love, who opened his new year on Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Jerry Kelly is nearly in that group at age 49. He shot 65 in the morning and saw Funk headed to the first tee in the afternoon.
''He says, 'Hey, for the old guys, play good.' I go, 'What did you shoot?' He said 5 (under),'' Funk said.
Kelly told him that was two shots behind Singh.
''Yeah, the old guys are showing they can do it,'' Funk said.
So can the younger set.
Snedeker started his year at Kapalua with a new golf ball and a new driver, found something in his setup over the weekend and closed with 65-67 to tie for third. Kisner played in the final group on Saturday, found a slight glitch in his swing caused by wind and figured it out over the last two days.
Kisner won the final PGA Tour event of 2015 and finished ninth at Kapalua despite his 71-71 weekend. And he's right back in the mix.
''I really didn't work on much on offseason,'' Kisner said. ''We stayed with our plan, and the game has been great. I was striping it today, and that's what you need to do at this place.''
Snedeker wouldn't know. He hasn't been to Waialae in eight years and left with a bad taste in his mouth. That was in 2008, when the PGA Tour started a policy that when more than 78 players made the cut, the cut would be closest number of players to 70. It later was changed to a Saturday cut to help trim the field.
''I'm glad I came back,'' he said. ''It's a good golf course for me.''
Singh won the Sony Open in 2005 when he was No. 1 in the world, a year after the former Masters and PGA champion turned in a nine-win season on the PGA Tour. But he hasn't won since the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008, which effectively wrapped up the FedEx Cup.
The big Fijian has been around long enough to realize that a good start is nothing more than that.
''I've been playing really well,'' he said. ''I just haven't produced the scores. I feel I'm playing well, and see what the next three days bring.''
It helped to hole some long putts, and Singh knocked in a 50-footer for birdie on his third hole. He added a pair of 20-foot birdie putts and a 30-foot birdie putt. More than a good day on the greens, and some solid scrambling at the start, was a book.
He said his body feels better than it has in years, which certainly helps. But he found a book that he has carried with him for the last 20 years that he began reading.
''I haven't read it for the last 10 years,'' he said. ''So I picked it up yesterday and started reading a few things that I've been doing, and it's just a different mindset. Golf swing has been the same (so) become a lot more aggressive this year. That's the plan, to attack the golf course instead of just trying to put it in the fairway and trying to make a good swing.''
The name of the book?
''I can't tell you,'' he said. ''I'd have to kill you.''
Yes, he laughed.
Jimmy Walker opened with a 69 in his bid to win the Sony Open for the third straight year.
|4||KOR||Si Woo Kim||-16||64||67||65||68||264|
|T13||USA||Charles Howell III||-12||64||69||67||68||268|
|T13||USA||Harold Varner III||-12||69||68||66||65||268|
|T33||ZIM||Brendon de Jonge||-10||67||69||69||65||270|
|T64||RSA||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-6||68||69||66||71||274|
|MDF||USA||Davis Love III||-3||66||70||71||-||207|
|CUT||RSA||Drikus Van der Walt||1||69||72||-||-||141|
|CUT||ARG||Miguel Angel Carballo||5||74||71||-||-||145|