Garcia Gives Bjorn a Ryder Cup Headache as Snedeker Secures Wyndham Title
SERGIO GARCIA has given Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn a huge headache by failing to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs after a disappointing weekend at the Wyndham Championship. The tournament was won by Brandt Snedeker, who led from day one after opening with a 59 and fending off the challenges of CT Pan and Webb Simpson, but the real story for European golf is Garcia’s failure to make the playoffs for the first time in his career.
He began the week in 131st place, know that he required a top-20 finishing to climb into the top 125 and get himself into the Northern Trust. For three rounds he looked to be well on his way, but a disappointing final round of 70 meant that he finished the tournament in a tie for 24th place and ended the PGA Tour season in 128th place in the standings - only the top 125 make it to the first tournament in the playoffs. It means that Garcia has been unable to improve his position in the Ryder Cup points table and will now have to depend on Bjorn choosing him as a wild card. Many will believe it should be a formality, but the Spaniard missed the cut in all four majors in 2018 and has played poorly on both the PGA and European Tours.
Snedeker may have given Jim Furyk, the American captain, food for thought too. This time last year he was out of the game because of a rib injury, having missed The Open and the US PGA Championship. It has been a long road back but he finally reached his destination to record his first victory since 2016. And he did it the hard way. Snedeker led after that remarkable 59 (joining these names with that achievement) and was actually caught during the final round, but he was determined to finish the job and eventually sealed the deal by three shots.
Afterwards, he spoke of how hard it had been to cope with the injury and revealed that he still is not fully recovered. “To be injured, to be away from the game for five and a half months, to not know what the recovery was going to look like, to not know if you're going to be 100% and still dealing with it to this day,” Snedeker said. “I am still not 100%, but I'm way better than I was. I guess it's the facts of life as you get older out here, you're going to have to deal with certain nagging injuries all the time.”
Snedeker had to play 29 holes on the final day. He came back in the morning and finished off a 68 in the third round, then shot 65 over the final 18 holes on a hot afternoon. The victory didn’t come easily, though. Pan gave chase with a 66, taking the lead on the back nine, while Simpson closed with a 62. At one point, all three were tied for the lead.
But Snedeker came up with a clutch chip from a “horrible” lie at the 15th hole to within three feet for birdie and then holed a 20-footer for another birdie on the 18th hole, which Simpson bogeyed and Pan doubled, to seal the win.
The comeback was complete. “When you don't have your health out here and you're trying to fight through it, it's really tough because you know what you're capable of and your body's not letting you do what you think you should be able to do.,” Snedeker said. “Fortunately enough, I felt good enough to be able to practice and put the time in and it came through today. Today's when you find out, OK, am I going to hold up, is the stuff I'm working on working, and it was great to hit some quality shots down the stretch.”
Snedeker, a nine-time Tour winner, said the week was the “most stressful” he’s ever had as a professional golfer because of that dream start. The 59 in the first round, just the ninth ever shot on the PGA TOUR, sent his expectations “through the roof.” His wife and two young children decided to come in for the weekend and he didn’t want to disappoint. His father and brother were here, too.
“It means the world to me that I have not failed them finally,” Snedeker said. “It's a great teaching lesson for them. They've seen how hard I've worked. They've seen the amount of time I've spent away from them trying to get to this point, so it's good for them to see, hey, it works, pays offIf you keep your head on straight and do stuff the right way and keep working your tail off, you do get rewarded. So I think more than anything else, I'm more proud of that fact.”
And now he heads to the playoffs, wondering if he just might cap it all off with a Ryder Cup call from Furyk.
THE Ryder Cup also dominated the sub-plot at the Nordea Masters, with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen moving into the final automatic qualifying spot in the world points list after finishing fourth in a tournament won by Paul Waring, who defeated Thomas Aiken to secure his first European Tour title.
It is a dream come true for Waring, who has suffered two serious injuries since coming through qualifying school 11 years ago. A wrist injury saw him miss large parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, while a shoulder problem meant he could only play 12 events over 2015 and 2016. He achieved a career-best finish of 60th on the Race to Dubai last season and is now in position to go better than that in 2018.
Waring and Aiken began the final round at Hills Golf Club tied for the lead and could not be separated over 18 holes as they both fired rounds of 68 to get to 14 under on a damp afternoon in Gothenburg.
When they returned to the 18th tee, Aiken put his first shot in the water and a par from Waring saw him claim his maiden win at the 200th attempt. German Maximilian Kieffer finished with three birdies in a 65 to sit at 13 under, one shot clear of Olesen.
Olesen in ????— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) August 20, 2018
With a top five in Sweden @ThorbjornOlesen has moved up to 8th in the World Points List and replaced @IanJamesPoulter in the projected team.#RyderCup #TeamEurope pic.twitter.com/IU4mYtFpxG
Not surprisingly, Waring was thrilled to have finally broken his duck. “I'm ecstatic,” he said. “I wasn't ever sure this day would come in total honesty. I've tried so hard for many years to get to this point and it's nice to finally cross the line and be holding the trophy. It feels like it's all worth it. I've had a couple of operations along the way and it's nice to finally have got to this point. I'm sure that everyone back home will be absolutely thrilled for me. This is all for everyone back home as well.”
Aiken, who has three European Tour victories to his name, has endured a rotten season, with just a solitary top-10 finish. “There are a lot of positive things to take to the next few weeks,” he said. “The ball just didn't find the hole. I am obviously disappointed with the play-off but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes and we've got a lot of positivity to build on in the next two months.”
Waring hit his tee-shot to 10 feet on the par-three tenth to open up a two-shot lead and while Aiken cut the gap with a birdie after driving the 12th, the man from the Wirral hit another excellent first into the 13th to re-establish his cushion. A first bogey of the day on the 15th cut the lead to one and Aiken got up and down from the sand on the last for a birdie to set up the play-off
Kieffer bogeyed the first but played a wonderful recovery for a birdie on the par five third to turn in 36. Another birdie came on the 11th and when the 28 year old drove the 12th and holed from ten feet for an eagle he was on the charge. A bogey-birdie-bogey run stalled his momentum but he picked up another shot on the 16th, holed a 20-footer on the 17th and then got up and down from the sand on the 18th to set the target just one off the lead.
Olesen got in trouble on the third to drop to eight under but an approach to five feet on the eighth helped get him back level for the day before he also birdied the 12th, 17th and 18th.
Australian Lucas Herbert picked up six shots in his last seven holes to get to 11 under, two shots clear of Thai Jazz Janewattananond, Italian Andrea Pavan, South Africa's Haydn Porteous and Englishman Robert Rock.
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