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Woods goes under knife

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Tiger Woods revealed he underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee, but said he expects to be fit to play at the PGA Tour’s inaugural event in Japan in October.

In a brief statement on Twitter, reigning Masters champion Woods said he had undergone keyhole surgery last week to mend “minor cartilage damage.”

Dr. Vern Cooley, who conducted the procedure, said in the statement he expects Woods to make a full recovery.

“We did what was needed, and also examined the entire knee,” Cooley said. “There were no additional problems.”

Woods said he was already walking following the surgery and expected to return to practice in the “next few weeks.”

“I look forward to traveling and playing in Japan in October,” Woods said.

It is the fifth time since 1994 that Woods, 43, has undergone surgery on his left knee.

In 2008, he famously won the US Open at Torrey Pines despite being informed weeks before the tournament he had suffered two stress fractures of the left tibia.

Woods made a successful return to top-flight golf in 2018, winning the season-ending Tour Championship after missing most of the previous two years through a debilitating back injury.

In April, he won his 15th major after completing a memorable victory at the Masters, his first major win since the 2009 US Open.

Woods however was unable to force his way into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup playoffs who contested last week’s Tour Championship at East Lake.

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Watch out for this girl with golden dreams

She has the focus, determination, skills and talent to pursue what she likes.

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ALL smiles are Celine (left) and coach Carmelette Villaroman during the US Kids European championships in Scotland last year.

Celine Marie Abalos has changed a lot since making her debut in the IMG World Juniors golf championship as an alternate three years ago in San Diego, California.

She has grown accustomed to her swing, rebuilt by coach Carito Villaroman, and moves around the course with the focus of a tiger following its prey.

The youngest child of Benhur and Menchie of the powerful political clan in Mandaluyong is just 11 years old.

“Celine is unlike the young kids we know. She has the focus, determination, skills and talent to pursue what she likes,” said Villaroman who guided Celine during a round of golf Sunday at the Intramuros Golf Club.

The coronavirus pandemic has cut Celine’s hours at the course to once a week, although she has twice-a-week video lessons with Villaroman on weekdays after classes.

She attends online classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a short break in between.

Extremely shy, the Poveda Grade 6 pupil, however, does not lack in humor.

Asked what her favorite subject was, she replied: “Dismissal time.”

Online classes have not dampened her desire to be the best as she gets to hit balls at home while waiting for the weekend.

Villaroman, who is assisted by sister Carmelette, said they always make it a point to bring Celine to different courses on weekends.

“We want her to experience different conditions to test her skills and mental toughness,” he said.

It was during those sorties when Celine scored her first hole-in-one at the Royal Northwoods Golf and Country Club in San Rafael, Bulacan.

She hit an eight-iron from 125 yards to ace the par-3, 12th hole.

Celine had no inkling that the ball dropped into the hole until Dr. Zaldy Carpeso, who was in a flight ahead, began celebrating wildly on the 12th green.

With father Benhur, Celine shows the certificate of achievenent she received during the IMG World Juniors in San Diego, California.

“Dr. Zaldy, a close family friend, was delirious, that’s when we realized that Celine made the hole-in-one,” Menchie said, the current mayor of Mandaluyong.

Two weeks after the hole-in-one, Celine was back on the course with her mother and Maricel Repicio, her nanny for seven years.

To keep Celine company, Villaroman brought his 11-year-old son Zachary Aiden to join the flight.

The rust showed in the first few holes, but as the round wore on, Celine began hitting her shots clean and crisp. She birdied the short, par-4 No. 9.

Villaroman said he lets his young student make decisions on the course — what club to use, where to target and read the lines of her putts.

“We let her decide and tell her if she made the right or wrong decision,” he said.

After hitting the headlines as a three-time world junior champion in the eighties, Villaroman is now one of the most sought-after teaching pros.

CELINE Marie Abalos (center) is flanked by (from left) coach Carito Villaroman, mother Menchie, grandfather Ben Abalos Sr. and Dr. Zaldy Carpeso during the PSA Awards Night last March at the Manila Hotel. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ABALOS FAMILY

Among her present and past students are Bianca Pagdanganan, Jobim Carlos, Yuka Saso and Rianne Mikhaela Malixi.

Villaroman took Celine under his wings three years ago and caddied for her during her first stint in the IMG World Juniors.

After the tournament, Villaroman took turns with sister Carmelette to teach Celine the fundamentals.

“The good thing about it was that she’s still young and easy to change her swing,” said Villaroman who used to coach Celine’s elder sister, Charlene.

Celine said she was scared at first with her coach.

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All eyes on Yuka

Saso is the JLPGA leading money winner with 63,964,000 million yen.

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THE Classic Golf Club in Miyawaka City will play host to the Japan Women’s Open only for the second time in 32 years. / Photograph courtesy of japangolf.jp

Filipino-Japanese rookie Yuka Saso headlines the cast in the Japan Women’s Open golf championship that kicks off Thursday at The Classic Golf Club in Miyawaka City in Fukuoka, Japan.

It will mark only the second time in 32 years that the 53-year-old major championship organized by the Japan Golf Association will be held in Fukuoka.

The four-day event that ends on Sunday offers one of the richest purses in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA) — 112.5 million yen with the champion bringing home 22.5 million yen.

Saso, the 19-year-old Asian Games champion from the Philippines, is coming off a joint eighth place showing in the 51st Descente Ladies Tokai Classic two weeks ago in Aichi, Japan where she closed with a stirring five-under par 67 to crash into the Top 10.

With two tournament victories, Saso is the JLPGA leading money winner with 63,964,000 million yen. She also tops three categories — the Mercedes ranking, average stroke and the number of Top 10 finishes.

Saso used the one-week break to prepare for the Open that will be held at the 6,761-yard, par-72 course designed by Shoichi Suzuki and was opened in 1990.

Nestled among dense green foliage and sprawling greens, each of the holes brings a unique flavor and challenge.

It features wide fairways that give advantage to long-hitters like Saso, but still require accurate tee shots.

During the one-week break, Saso visited the Showa University Hospital in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo to present her 2,521,332 yen (about P1.158 million) donation to the hospital’s frontliners.

Saso’s twin brothers Ryusei and Ryuji were born in that hospital.

On hand to challenge Saso are the other leg winners Ayaka Watanabe, Sakura Koiwai, Saki Nagamine and last year’s tour champion and Ai Suzuki.

Also in the cast are past winners Mika Miyazato and Teresa Lu.

Saso, who is sponsored by ICTSI, will tee off in the front nine alongside Koiwai and Ayaka Furue at 11:19 a.m.

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Tiger to defend Zozo crown

Woods hosted the World Challenge event at the Sherwood layout from 2000 to 2013, winning five times.

Agence France-Presse

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HONG KONG, China (AFP) — Tiger Woods achieved his record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour win at the Zozo Championship in Japan 11 months ago, but he won’t have to travel as far to defend the title.

Woods this week committed to playing at the 2020 Zozo Championship which has been shifted to Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, beginning 22 October, because of coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.

The 15-time major winner triumphed at the first PGA Tour event to be held in Japan last year to tie Sam Snead’s all-time wins record, and Woods will be back on familiar ground for his defence.

Woods hosted the World Challenge event at the Sherwood layout from 2000 to 2013, winning five times.

If he is to add to that tally he will have to overcome a Zozo Championship field that is shaping to be even tougher than last year’s, the PGA Tour announced Tuesday.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who pushed Woods all the way in finishing runner-up last year, and Rory McIlroy, who finished third, have entered again.

They will be joined by the world’s top two Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, plus Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Ricky Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose for the no-cut, 78-player shootout.

Scotland for the brave
The European Tour this week returns to semblance of normality, at least in terms of prize money, with the Scottish Open carrying a $7 million purse — big enough to attract several big names back from playing for the riches on offer in the US.

Moved back from its traditional slot, a week before the Open Championship in July, the North Berwick venue will see top names braving the October elements on what looks certain to be a blustery week on the coast just east of Edinburgh.

Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, Matt Fitzpatrick and 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett will be among the luminaries arriving from America armed with handwarmers, mittens and rain gear as they go in search of winning one of the European Tour’s “Rolex Series” of mega-money events.

Good luck to them — the forecast for the weekend is bleak, to say the least. Maximum temperatures might only nudge 11C (52F) with rain and 30 kilometers per hour (20 mph) wind thrown in on the exposed links edging the Firth of Forth.

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Saso makes hefty donation

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YUKA Saso aids medical practitioners in Tokyo. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JLPGA

Rookie Yuka Saso has donated 2,521,332 yen (about P1.158 million) to the medical professionals of the Showa University Hospital in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan.

In a report by nikkansports.com, the 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese rookie visited the hospital where his twin brothers Ryusei and Ryuji, now 12 years old were born.

“I’m playing golf overseas and when I go to the United States, all the star players donate, so I feel like giving back,” said Saso who was accompanied by her Japanese father Masakazu and Filipino mother Fritzi.

With two victories, the ICTSI-backed Saso is the leading money winner in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA).

“I haven’t come to the hospital so much, but I’m grateful that I can go to the hospital when I’m in trouble and heal me. I know times are hard because of the coronavirus, so I’m happy to help,” said Saso who thanked the hospital’s frontliners.

There was no JLPGA tournament scheduled for the week.

The next event is the Japan Women’s Open scheduled 1-4 October in Fukuoka.

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Clariss fires 68, shares 30th spot

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CLARISS Guce fires three-under par 68 to land on the 30th place of the I0A Classic. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Clariss Guce bogeyed the final hole, but still finished the final round with a three-under par 68 on Sunday to share 30th place in the IOA Classic Presented by Homevalue.Com at the Alaqua Country Club in Longwood, California.

Guce, the 30-year-old Filipina based in California, strung up three straight birdies from 13 after making the turn at one-under par on two birdies against a lone bogey.

But she dropped a shot on the par-3 18th to end up with a three-under total of 210, seven shots behind playoff winner Laura Wearn of the United States.

Dottie Ardina, the other Filipina in the Symetra Tour stop, closed with a 70 on three birdies against a double bogey.

She wound up in joint 35th on two-under 211.

Wearn, a six-year pro with three career victories, shot a 69 on five birdies against three bogeys to draw level with Haylee Harford on 10-under 203. Harford closed with a 70.

In the first playoff hole, the par-3 18th, Wearn scored a routine par to edge Harford who made bogey.

Tied for third place on 9-under 204 were Americans Casey Danielson and Samantha Wagner who each shot a 68.

The next Symetra Tour tournament is the Symetra Classic, another 54-hole event to be held at the LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Ardina and Guce are in the starting field of the $175,000 tournament.

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Late birdie keys Swafford’s win

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Hudson Swafford delivers a putt to win the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. ANDY LYONS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Hudson Swafford followed a big birdie at the 17th with a clutch par putt to win the US PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic.

Swafford, who battled injury since his first tour title at La Quinta, California, in 2017, saw a big lead evaporate but held on to card a three-under par 69 and victory with an 18-under total of 270.

He finished one stroke in front of Tyler McCumber, who had six birdies in his six-under par 66 at the windswept Corales Puntacana resort.

Canadian Mackenzie Hughes had four birdies and an eagle in a two-under par 70, but his fourth bogey of the day at the 18th saw him settle for solo third on 272.

“Man, it’s amazing,” Swafford said.

“Words can’t really describe it.”

“Last two years have been tough. Not family-wise, though. Me and my wife had our first son, life’s great and golf was really hard, and to do this, it’s fun.

“This is why I get up and grind,” he said before turning for an embrace with his wife, Katherine.

Swafford held the 36-hole lead but started the final round two shots behind leader Adam Long.

He charged to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies and an eagle in his first eight holes, reaching 20-under and seizing a four-shot lead.

It wouldn’t be a runaway, however, as a double-bogey at the 13th and a bogey at 17 dropped him back, with Hughes and McCumber applying pressure.

Hughes was 17-under for the tournament after a birdie bomb at the eighth. He answered a bogey at 13 with a birdie a the 14th, but with McCumber in the clubhouse on 17-under Hughes dropped a shot at the final hole.

Swafford, meanwhile, got his nose in front with a birdie at the par-three 17th, firing a perfect six-iron off the tee and draining the birdie putt.

“I actually hit two good shots on 16 and really didn’t hit a great putt and I was kind of bummed out,” Swafford said.

“I was like, man, you’ve got to step up and just hit a good flighted six-iron. I’ve done it a hundred thousand times, love hitting that golf shot. Man, it was a good one and an even better putt.”

It was a tense finish at 18, where his approach left him on the front portion of the green with a ridge to clear to reach the pin.

His first putt was on line but left him a testing par attempt that he confidently rolled in.

“The first putt I thought I hit pretty hard, but it started bouncing,” he said.

The second, he added, “was a solid putt and went right in.”

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Catlin bags second crown in a month

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AMERICAN John Catlin conquers the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EUROPEANTOUR.COM

John Catlin produced a brilliant closing 64 to win his second European Tour title in a month at the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Conditions were the most favorable they had been all week after a frost and fog delay at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Catlin was the man to take advantage, birdieing three of his last four holes on a day when the 54 hole pacesetters failed to find their rhythm.

The American finished at ten under, two shots clear of overnight leader Aaron Rai and three ahead of Australian Maverick Antcliff and Thai Jazz Janewattananond.

Swedish duo Joakim Lagergren and Oscar Lengden were then at six under.

Catlin is a four time winner on the Asian Tour but entered this season without full playing privileges after finishing 155th on the 2019 Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

But after holding off two time Major Champion Martin Kaymer to win his maiden European Tour title at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters earlier this month, he now has a brace of European Tour wins to his name.

Catlin joins Rasmus Højgaard and Sam Horsfield as multiple winners on the 2020 Race to Dubai and moves up to 14th in the Rankings and the top 100 in the world.

He also becomes just the third American to win this event and the first for 43 years after victories for Major Champions Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green in 1976 and 1977.

“To be listed with those names is something truly special and I’m very honored,” he said.

“I’m so happy. I was talking to someone earlier about where I was at four years ago and to be here is so surreal and a testament to my coach and all the hard work we put in. It’s so awesome to just be here.”

“There are so many years of hard work that have gone into this moment. It was my goal to win again at the start of this week so to accomplish that is to do something truly, truly special.”

“You never know if you’re going to win or not and to get that monkey off my back at Valderrama really freed me up today to know that I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself honestly that I’ve been here before and I can do it again.”

“I’ve always wanted to play in the Majors, that’s the only level of golf that I haven’t played at and hopefully one day I can win one of those as well.”

Rai surrendered his solo lead with a bogey at the first but bounced straight back with a gain on the second, a feat replicated by playing partners Antcliff and Lengden at the driveable par four.

Lengden added another birdie from 20 feet at the fourth to make it a three-way tie but he fell back after finding sand on the fifth and long grass off the tee on the seventh.

He was replaced in the leading group by Janewattananond, who put his approach to six feet at the fourth and holed a 15 foot left to righter on the sixth.

Catlin was another man who had made the most of the second and he added a gain on the fourth before holing a long putt on the eighth to sit just one shot back.

The back nine is bookended by the only par fives on the course and Catlin hit the green in two on the tenth and got down in the same number to make it a four way tie.

Janewattananond made a two putt birdie of his own on the tenth to take the solo lead and while Rai also took advantage after getting up and down from a bunker, the Englishman gave the shot straight back after a poor chip on the next.

Lengden had holed a monster putt for eagle on the tenth and he was in a share of the lead at eight under when Janewattananond failed to get up and down from sand on the 12th.

All the contenders were beginning to make hard work of it, and Antcliff dropped shots on the 11th and 12th, Lengden bogeyed the 11th and Catlin dropped a shot on the 13th.

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Long leads Puntacana golfest

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Adam Long takes charge in Puntacana. ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Adam Long fired an eight-under-par 64 to open up a two-shot lead at the PGA Tour Corales Puntacana Championship on Saturday.

The 33-year-old American carded eight birdies and 10 pars in a flawless bogey-free round at the Corales Puntacana resort in the Dominican Republic.

Long, who is chasing only his second career PGA Tour title after victory at the Desert Classic last year, had started the third round three off the lead.

But Long began moving up the leaderboard after reeling off four birdies over the front nine to reach the turn at four under, 13 under overall.

A brilliant second shot from the fairway on the par-four 10th left him with a three-footer for his fifth birdie of the day which he duly converted.

Long then went on a run of three consecutive birdies on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes to move two shots clear of the pack on 17 under overall.

Second round leader Hudson Swafford will lead the pursuit of Long in Sunday’s final round after a battling three-under-par 69.

Swafford had started his second round with a wobble, bogeying the par-three second to drop a shot.

But he regained his momentum on the fourth with a birdie, and then rolled in a 20-foot putt for eagle on the par-five seventh.

Another birdie on the eighth took Swafford to 15 under but his momentum faltered thereafter, finishing his round with 10 consecutive pars to end the day in second place on 15 under.

Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes is alone in third place on 14 under after a five-under-par 67.

Hughes opened with a bogey but then climbed the leaderboard on the back nine with three consecutive birdies, chipping in from off the green on both the 15th and 17th holes.

China’s Zhang Xinjun is four off the lead on 13 under after a four-under-par 68, one ahead of Nate Lashley and Sean O’Hair, who are tied for fifth on 12 under.

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Ardina, Guce avoid elimination in California

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Dottie Ardina and Clariss Guce safely made the cut in the IOA Classic Presented by Homevalue.Com at the Alaqua Country Club in Longwood, California Saturday.

The 26-year-old Ardina bucked a double bogey on 14 and bogey on 8 with three birdies to finish the second round with even-par 71.
She is tied for 38th place on one-under, nine shots behind solo leader Min-G Kim of South Korea who shot her second straight 66.
Ardina continued to putt well, making just 28 to offset the six greens she missed.

The 30-year-old Guce, on the other hand, had a mixed bag of four birdies against three bogeys to shoot one-under 70 for a two-day total of even par, one shot above the cut line.

Guce shared 47th place with 10 others.
Min-G, who had six birdies against a lone bogey, will enter the final round on Sunday with a one-stroke lead over Paula Reto of South Africa and American Haylee Harford.
Reto shot one of the day’s best rounds — a 65 — while Harford returned with a 66.
Alone in fourth spot was American Laura Wearn who collected six birdies against a solitary bogey for 66.
The event, held for the eighth time, offers a prize fund of $175,000.

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