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Leishman wins NGC by six shots


It was as precise an approach shot as you could hope to see, and even though he didn’t believe it at the time, it was the sign that Australia’s Marc Leishman would go on to march to a six-stroke victory on Sunday in the $6.5-million Nedbank Golf Challenge.
He used his long, languid swing to deposit a sand-wedge three metres past the 13th hole, and the ball spun back towards the flag as if being pulled by a piece of string. It stopped just a fraction from the hole, and the tap-in birdie was probably enough to snuff out any remaining faint chance Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had of chasing him down.
“I definitely didn’t think I clinched it then,” he said. “But you never know with golf. Probably when the putt went in on 16 – that’s when I knew that I’d have to do something really dumb to lose it from there.”
The victory brought a tumultuous 2015 to an end on an appropriately high note after things had threatened to become awful in April: His wife Audrey was hospitalised with toxic shock syndrome while he was preparing for the Masters.

Stenson blazes through NGC back nine


Henrik Stenson showed his mettle on Friday when he blitzed the back nine of the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City to ease into the halfway lead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 2008 champion had made three consecutive bogeys ahead of the turn, cancelling out his good start of three birdies in the first five holes, but after a two-hour and 10-minute weather delay as an electrical storm raged overhead seemed to charge him up, and he made five birdies on his homeward journey to card a 67 for a one-stroke edge over Jaco van Zyl.
“I just tried to stay patient and get round, and I’ve done that pretty well so far,” said Stenson, who thought he might not even start the tournament because of a bout of flu.
“I’m getting over the virus, but I was more fatigued this morning than I was yesterday just because of playing yesterday. It takes a lot out of you playing in 35 to 40 degrees Celsius when you’re not physically well.
I’m heading in the right direction, but I’m not getting a chance to rest up much. Tomorrow I’ll probably have very heavy legs again, but being in the hunt for a tournament should get me going and hopefully that will kick-start it tomorrow.”
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Van Zyl was always in the lead until Stenson edged clear of him with a birdie on 17, and, playing in the same group as the Swede certainly motivated him. “It felt a little like a duel between me and Henrik,” he said.
“I looked at the leaderboard and I think we were two or three clear of the rest of the field. It’s always good fun, especially if you’re in the same group. You can kind of keep an eye on each other. There’s good reason why he’s No 7 in the world, looking at the putts he made coming in.”
One stroke behind Van Zyl in third on nine-under-par at halfway was American Robert Streb, who had the round of the day with his six-under-par 66 – and that was achieved despite consecutive bogeys on 16 and 17 – and they came after a run of three consecutive birdies.
And in fourth, Australian Marc Leishman carded his second consecutive four-under-par 68 to keep himself very much in contention at the conclusion of what has been a good year for him.
It’s all setting up for a good weekend, and Stenson, for one, is looking forward to it. “It’s a course that suits my game, I’ve always enjoyed playing here and the fans are very appreciative as well,” he said.
“I would’ve felt really bad if I hadn’t been able to play as I’ve had some messages from South Africans saying they’re coming to watch me play. I couldn’t defend the SA Open in 2013 due to my wrist, so it would’ve been hard not to play. It was nice to get some support, even though most of them are supporting Jaco in the final group.”
Van Zyl is up for it too. “It’s always nice playing in front of your home crowd and it makes it even more special being in such a big event. I’m really looking forward to the next two days,” he said.
© Sunshine Tour

Tiger OK if career is over



Tiger Woods says he has reconciled himself to his golf career possibly being over and told his children about the mistakes that led to his divorce in an interview with Time magazine.
Woods, a 14-time major champion who has chased the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, turns 40 on December 30 and is out indefinitely following a third back surgery. He has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open.
“I’ve had a good run,” Woods said. “I’ve done a lot more in the game than I ever thought I could. And to be in my 30s, and to have done this much, I never would have foreseen that.”
In a rare peek into his personal world published online on Thursday, Woods told Time that, “With all my heart, I do not want to stop playing golf.
“It’s not what I want to have happen, and it’s not what I’m planning on having happen. But if it does, it does. I’ve reconciled myself to it.
“It’s more important for me to be with my kids.”
Woods recounted a tale of a nerve twinge after hitting a chip shot that left him crumpled on the ground and unable to move until his daughter, Sam Alexis, found him and went to get help.
Woods had his children, Sam Alexis and son Charlie, with ex-wife Elin Nordegren. They were married from 2004 until 2010, months after his infidelity with multiple mistresses led to divorce.

“It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife,” Woods said about what he would change.
“Having the relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.”
Woods has explained the break-up as best he can for now to the children.
“I’ve taken the initiative with the kids and told them up front, ‘Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof is because Daddy made some mistakes,'” Woods said. “I just want them to understand before they get to Internet age and they log on to something or have their friends tell them something.”
Woods said he enjoyed his relationship with US ski star Lindsey Vonn but her training and competition schedule combined with his time with children and US golf events left little time together, so they broke up last May.
“It’s a relationship that was fantastic, but it just can’t work on that level,” Woods said. “It was doing an injustice to both of us.”
Woods said he would rather not risk more back surgery, having spoken with NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning about his neck surgery and recovery methods.
“That’s a hard mind-set to go through. Because I’ve always been a goal setter,” Woods said.
He won’t watch golf, noting, “I can’t remember the last time I watched golf. I can’t stand it.”
Woods isn’t giving up on getting back to competitive golf levels, however.
“I have to get healthy in order to do it, though,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent healthy, but as close as you can, that would be nice.
“I will probably play through a little bit of pain, aches and pains. But I don’t need another surgery, period. No more surgeries. Seven is enough. Four knees, three backs, that’s enough.”
Asked about his legacy, Woods said, “The greatest thing that could happen is to not be remembered,” saying he already sees kids who attend his learning centres that have no clue he is a golfer.
“Kids go through it and they don’t know who I am. They don’t know what I’ve done.”

Nedbank Golf Challenge: Henrik Stenson shares lead in Sun City


Nedbank Golf Challenge round one leaderboard
-6 J van Zyl (SA), H Stenson (Swe); -5 D Willett (Eng); -4 B Grace (SA), M Leishman (US)
Selected others -3 R Knox (Sco), R Fisher (Eng) M Fitzpatrick (Eng); -2 MA Jimenez (Spa), L Oosthuizen (SA); Level K Bradley (US), L Westwood (Eng)
Henrik Stenson overcame illness to take a share of the lead on six under after round one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.

The Swede, who has “been in bed with flu for three days” said he had “only a five per cent chance of playing” after pulling out of Tuesday’s pro-am.

Stenson leads with South African Jaco van Zyl after both had bogey-free 66s.

Defending champion Danny Willett of England is third after having five birdies and no bogeys in his 67.

Willett, who finished second to Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai, said: “I don’t think he (Stenson) can be ill. He played brilliantly.

“You’ve got to think that if you can stay close to him over the next few days you’ll be doing well. Not too close though, he can keep his virus away!”

However, Stenson, who had all six of his birdies in his opening 10 holes, said: “From the 14th onwards my legs were like jelly and it was a real struggle.

“I completely ran out of energy. I missed a couple of chances coming in, but I would’ve taken one under standing on the first tee.”

South Africa’s Branden Grace and Open runner-up Marc Leishman are two shots off the pace in the 30-man event on four under, while last year’s runner-up Ross Fisher, his fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick and Scotland’s Russell Knox are on three under.

Knox, who is making his first appearance as a full European Tour member and hoping to qualify for his first Ryder Cup appearance in 2016, said: “The number one reason I’m here is because I’ve had a great season, so it’s nice to reward myself.

“It’s a huge bonus and I’m not going to stress out.”

Tee-times for Nedbank Golf Challenge Round 1


Cape Town – The tee-times for Round 1 of the 2015 Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Players Golf Club at Sun City have been announced.

The first tee time on Thursday for the 30-man field will be at 10:10, while the final three-ball will tee off at 11:49.

10:10 – Marc Leishman (Australia), Søren Kjeldsen (Denmark), Webb Simpson (United States)

10:21 – Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand), Robert Streb (United States), Scott Piercy (United States)

10:32 – Russell Knox (Scotland), Bernd Wiesberger (Austria), Andy Sullivan (England)

10:43 – Tommy Fleetwood (England), Thomas Aiken (South Africa), Martin Kaymer (Germany)

10:54 – Matthew Fitzpatrick (England), Ross Fisher (England), Keegan Bradley (United States)

11:05 – Shane Lowry (Ireland), Lee Westwood (England), Emiliano Grillo (Argentina)

11:16 – Steven Bowditch (Australia), Byeong Hun An (South Korea), Branden Grace (South Africa)

11:27 – Miguel Angel Jiménez (Spain), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Chris Wood (England)

11:38 – Jaco van Zyl (South Africa), Victor Dubuisson (France), Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)

11:49 – Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Danny Willett (England)

Tiger Woods says he has ‘nothing to look forward to’


Former world number one Tiger Woods says he has “nothing to look forward to” in his recovery from back surgery.

The 39-year-old 14-time major winner has not swung a golf club since operations in September and October.

Asked about his return, he said: “I’ve no answer. Neither does my surgeon or physio. There’s no timetable.

“There’s nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards. Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.”

Woods had two operations to alleviate pain from a pinched nerve.

Revealing that he has spent most of his time playing video games, the American said he had not had not done any rehabilitation work on his back and that physical activities were limited.

“I walk and I walk. I’m just walking, and that’s it,” said Woods, whose last major victory was at the US Open in 2008.

Analysis: BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter
“This is the bleakest picture Woods has ever painted of one of his injuries. He just has to wait for it to heal and it’s clearly not done that so far.
He’s still saying that he wants to be there at the 2016 Ryder Cup as a player, but with no timetable with regard to his rehabilitation you have to wonder when, and if, he’ll come back from this.
“If I was a betting man, my money would be on him sitting on a buggy and not having his clubs anywhere near Hazeltine, not just on fitness but on form as well. It’s going to be an awful long way back if he’s going to make any kind of comeback.”
“It’s different from the other surgeries I’ve had in the past. For nerves there are really no timetables.”

Woods, who turns 40 on 30 December, missed the cut at three of the four majors this year and played in only 11 events. He remains on 79 PGA Tour victories.

He played only seven tournaments in 2014, having missed three months of the season after surgery on a pinched nerve in his back in March 2014.

“For my 20 years out here I achieved a lot,” he said. “I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy. If that’s all it entails then I’ve had a pretty good run. But I’m hoping that’s not it.

“I’m hoping I can get out here and compete against these guys. I really do miss it.”

He has been named as one of United States captain Davis Love III’s assistants for the 2016 Ryder Cup, but said he still hopes to make the team.

Woods has played in seven Ryder Cups, the most recent in 2012 under Love’s captaincy.

Woods’ major victories
Masters (4) 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005
PGA Championship (4) 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007
US Open (3) 2000, 2002, 2008
Open Championship (3) 2000, 2005, 2006

Schwartzel makes history with Alfred Dunhill victory


t took him two days short of two years, and when victory came again for Charl Schwartzel in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club on Sunday, it was fitting that it came at his favourite golf course in the world.
He pieced together a workmanlike two-under-par 70 in the final round, giving him a four-stroke edge over runner-up Gregory Bourdy of France, with two other Frenchmen in third and fourth in Benjamin Hebert and the up-and-coming Sebastien Gros.
‘I was battling a lot of demons out there,’ said Schwartzel after he raised in arms in relief as much as in triumph when he made par on the island green on the 18th of a course where he has won four times and been runner-up on four other occasions – and that’s in 11 starts.
But he spent two years wondering if he was ever going to win again, and those were dark times for the 2011 Masters champion. ‘Sometimes I wasn’t sure it would ever turn around,’ he said. ‘If people realised the amount of work I have put in to the game over the last 18 months, they might understand why it means so much to me.
‘From playing while not seeing how I could ever win again to coming back while still fighting a lot of demons to get it done – I’m pleased to have worked hard and been able to have pulled this off.’
It’s one for the record books, too, in many ways: Schwartzel became the first South African to win the same European Tour tournament four times; he became the latest South African to win 10 European Tour titles after Ernie Els and Retief Goosen; and he now tops the list of South African winners on tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour with seven wins, one more than Els.
‘I felt more comfortable today,’ said Schwartzel. ‘I didn’t play much better, but I chipped and putted well and that’s where scoring lies.’
He reached the turn at one-over for the round, and he was able to get things going on the back nine. ‘I needed to get at least two- or three-under on the two par-fives to give myself a really good chance of winning and I was very pleased to go three-under on the back,’ he said.
He made birdie on 11, and then back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14, and that catapulted him clear of the French pursuers and afforded him a degree of comfort coming home.
‘From a personal point of view, I think being able to win again and finding my feet slowly again – that’s been the biggest thing for me today,’ he said. – See more at: http://www.sascoc.co.za/2015/11/30/schwartzel-makes-history-with-alfred-dunhill-victory/#sthash.imct4QhO.dpuf

Spieth crowned PGA Player of the Year


Jordan Spieth capped his trophy-laden season with more silverware on Monday, winning the PGA of America Player of the Year award as well as the prestigious Vardon Trophy.
Spieth, 22, became the second youngest player to win the awards in the same year after Tiger Woods achieved the feat as a 21-year-old in 1997.

Jordan Spieth earns £7.5m with Tour Championship victory


America’s Jordan Spieth hit a final-round 69 to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta, earning £7.5m by also securing victory in the FedEx Cup.
The 22-year-old finished on nine under to claim a cheque for £977,000 to add to his £6.5m bonus for winning the end-of-season play-off championship.
Spieth has earned more than £14m this season and is the new world number one.
He beat New Zealand’s Danny Lee, England’s Justin Rose and Swede Henrik Stenson by four shots at East Lake.
Englishman Paul Casey was among those a shot further back on four under.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished on one over after a final-round 74, while Australia’s Jason Day ended tied 10th on two under.

Amazing’ Ko, 18, hailed over major record


New Zealand’s prime minister led the congratulations Monday after 18-year-old Lydia Ko made golfing history as the youngest winner of a women’s major title.
“Amazing stuff,” tweeted John Key. “Congratulations @lydiako on your win at the Evian Championship and becoming the youngest ever major winner in women’s golf.”
New Zealand’s Ko also became the youngest player to claim the world No 1 ranking in February, when she was still 17, although she is now second behind Park In-bee.
And she holds the record as the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour with the first of her nine victories coming as a 15-year-old amateur at the 2012 Canadian Open.
Ko’s legendary coach David Leadbetter described her final round of 63 at Evian, the best round of this year’s tournament, as almost perfect.
“She hit basically every green. I think she missed two fairways, just by a yard or two and she putted phenomenally well.
“Her strategy was good – it was her time basically.”
“It was pretty much a perfect round of golf.”
Leadbetter added: “At the age of 18 it’s incredible what she’s done … The floodgates will really open now that she’s won her first major and got that so-called monkey off her back.”
Popular news website stuff.co.nz saw Ko going on to become one of New Zealand’s finest sporting heroes.
“The stage is now set for Ko to dominate her field and become one of New Zealand’s greatest sports stars in the process,” it said.

Monday Finish: Day joins rotation of golf’s elite


Jason Day is the best player in the world.
Four weeks ago, Jordan Spieth was the best player in the world.
Four months ago, Rory McIlroy was the best player in the world. Four weeks from now, any of them could be. The top three players in the world rankings are turning golf into a weekly Mad Lib.
“This week _______ proved he’s the only player in the world who can _______.”
And that’s what’s beautiful. This is what the game of golf looks like today, Monday, August 31, 2015.
We’ve seen this coming for the past two years. Even if your Big Three looked a little different, you knew it was where we were headed. We have been told time and again that it’s tougher than ever to win on the PGA TOUR, that Tiger has pushed the next generation of golf to reach new heights. The cream still rises to the top (there’s just more cream) and this generation’s 10 best players was trimmed to five or six. This summer, we’ve seen it trimmed to three.
Since Woods’ dominant five-win campaign in 2013, we’ve seen these three players, Day, Spieth and McIlroy snatch up 14 PGA TOUR victories and five of nine majors. Compared to Tiger’s dominance, what we’re seeing is parity, but it’s not really. If you think the field is equal when any of these three are playing their best golf, you’re kidding yourself (unless your transmission has an extra gear like Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson).
The best part of all of this is seeing what happens next, which is good news for the FedExCup Playoffs. For the next three events, we’ll see all three, Day, Spieth and McIlroy, in action. Spieth is coming off a missed cut, McIlroy is coming off an injury and Day is coming off a dominating six-shot victory.
The rankings, and the previous sentence, may say one thing, but make no mistake, there are no favorites among golf’s new Big Three. Just fill in your Mad Lib and enjoy.