This Week in Golf – April 22nd through April 25th

April 21, 2010

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PGA TOUR

ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS, TPC
Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana –

The PGA Tour heads to the Big Easy this week for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

World No. 3 Steve Stricker headlines the field this week, which is nothing new for him. He is teeing it up for the 12th straight year at this event.

Stricker, who tied for seventh last year, skipped the Verizon Heritage last week after tying for 30th at the Masters. He has four top-10s this season.


Steve Stricker has four
top-10 finishes this season.

Ian Poulter, the world No. 6, joins Stricker as the only two players ranked in the top 10 in the world competing this week on the PGA Tour.

Five PGA Tour winners from this season are also in the field. Poulter and Stricker, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play and Northern Trust Open respectively, are joined at the TPC Louisiana by Sony Open in Hawaii winner Ryan Palmer, Farmers Insurance Open champ Ben Crane and Puerto Rico Open victor Derek Lamely.

Last year, Jerry Kelly broke a six-year winless drought by fending off Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi by a single stroke.

Kelly, who hadn’t won since his two-win 2002 season, managed just a one-under 71 in the final round, but it was enough for his third PGA Tour title.

He opened with three rounds in the 60s, including a six-under 66 in the second round, then held on for his second win in seven tries when holding at least a piece of the 54-hole lead.

Golf Channel and CBS Sports split the coverage this weekend.

The PGA Tour heads to North Carolina next week for the Quail Hollow Championship, where Sean O’Hair was victorious last year. That event will also mark the return of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who will both be playing their first event since the Masters.

EUROPEAN TOUR

BALLANTINE’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Pink Golf Club, Jeju Island, Korea –

The field battled through tough scoring conditions last year and there was a three-way playoff to determine the winner.

Thongchai Jaidee, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Sung-Hoon Kang finished at four-under 284, then needed just one extra hole to get a champion.

Jaidee birdied the first extra hole to collect his fourth European Tour title, including his second in as many months.

The 41-year-old from Thailand shared eighth place last week at the China Open, a week after withdrawing from the Masters in the middle of the second round because of an elbow injury.

Other than that withdrawal, Jaidee is having a solid season as he has finished outside the top 13 just twice in seven starts and has four top-eight finishes.

This event is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Korean PGA.

Jaidee faces a tough challenge to successfully defending his title this week as the field boasts a pair of major champions, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang, as well as American Anthony Kim, who took third place at the Masters. Yang is coming off a win at last week’s China Open.

The Golf Channel has tape-delayed coverage all week.

The European Tour returns to Europe next week for the Open de Espana, where Thomas Levet was a two-stroke winner last year.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

LIBERTY MUTUAL LEGENDS OF GOLF
Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, Savannah, Georgia –

This week’s tournament, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, is the event that led to the creation of the Champions Tour.

There are three different divisions of play — the Demaret Division, age 70 and up, which plays Monday and Tuesday; the Raphael Division, which is contested Friday and Saturday; and the Legends Division, which is the official team competition Friday through Sunday.

All three divisions will use a two-man better-ball format.

The event marks the return of Ken Green, who was seriously injured in an RV accident last June. The accident killed Green’s brother and girlfriend, while the lower part of Green’s right leg was amputated due injuries he sustained.

Green is believed to be the first amputee to compete in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

The event has changed formats several times over the years and is now in the third season of its current team format.

Last year’s final-round battle included an awkward, premature celebration between eventual champions Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer.

The German poured in a 35-footer for birdie and seemingly for the win. Lehman then tried a leaping chest bump, while Langer when for a high-five. As awkward as that was, it seemed worse when Craig Stadler made a birdie putt from a similar length to extend the playoff.

Stadler and his partner, Jeff Sluman, headed back to the 18th with Lehman and Langer. All four players were unable to make birdie, but they all had less than seven feet for par.

Stadler missed a seven-footer then Langer could not convert a five-footer. Sluman was up next and he missed from about four feet. Lehman finally converted as he knocked in his three-footer for the win.

Both teams return this year, as do 2008 winners Andy North and Tom Watson.

Among the new faces in the field this week are U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, 2008 and 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup captains Paul Azinger and Corey Pavin, Michael Allen, Hal Sutton, Bob Tway and David Frost.

Combining the players in all three divisions, they own 880 PGA Tour titles, including 82 major championships, and 16 are World Golf Hall of Fame members.

Golf Channel will show Friday’s action before CBS airs the final two rounds.

There is a new event on the Champions Tour next week, the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

SOUTH GEORGIA CLASSIC
Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, Valdosta, Georgia –

Garth Mulroy collected his first Nationwide Tour title at this event last year.

Mulroy, who has missed the cut in each of six starts on the PGA Tour this season, is coming off a tie for 30th at the Fresh Express Classic. When the European Tour started its 2010 season in December, Mulroy tied for 12th the first event, then ended 67th at the other.

Mulroy is back on the PGA Tour this week in New Orleans, but the previous two South Georgia Classic winners are playing at Kinderlou Forest.

John Kimbell, who won in 2007, and Bryan DeCorso, the 2008 champion, are both playing this week as are five of the six winners from this season. Robert Gates, Jim Herman, Steve Pate, Fabian Gomez and Kevin Chappell are all playing this week, while the other winner from this season, Fran Quinn, is playing alongside Mulroy in New Orleans.

Golf Channel will have tape-delayed coverage all week.

The Nationwide Tour remains in Georgia next week for the Stadion Athens Classic, where Patrick Sheehan was a playoff winner last year.

CANADIAN TOUR

RIVIERA NAYARIT CLASSIC
Litibu Golf Club, Nayarit, Mexico –

The Canadian Tour remains in Mexico this week and offers up the Riviera Nayarit Classic for the second time since October.

Actually, this event was scheduled for earlier in the 2009 season, but had to be postponed because of the Swine Flu outbreak.

Once the event was contested, James Hahn closed with a four-under 68 to claim his second Canadian Tour title of the 2009 campaign.

The Canadian Tour is off until late May when the tour hosts its Spring Qualifying School. The first weekend of June, the tour is in Canada for the first time this season for the Times Colonist Open, where Byron Smith won last year.


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