Two tournaments without a win was enough for Lorena Ochoa.
Ochoa closed with a final round 1-under 71 Sunday to win her third consecutive Sybase Classic and her sixth victory of the season. Ochoa is quickly approaching her win total from last year (8) when she ascended to the #1 world ranking and was named Player of the Year. The victory is Ochoa's 22nd since April 2006 and the first place check made her the fastest player on the LPGA to reach $12 million in career earnings.
Ochoa was pursued all day by a group of players but managed to maintain her lead despite cool, wet conditions that shortened the tournament to 54 holes. With her lead cut to one on the 18th tee, Ochoa reached the par five in three shots. When her closest pursuer missed her putt to tie, Lorena calmly two-putted to victory.
Ochoa once again relied on her customary white custom Classics golf shoes as well as the FootJoy Performance Light Jacket during her victory.
FootJoy player Ryuji Imada claimed his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday, winning the AT&T Classic with a par on the first playoff hole after his opponent hit his approach in the pond fronting the 18th green. It was a complete turnaround from last year at the same tournament when Imada got into a playoff with Zach Johnson at the TPC Sugarloaf, only to lose when he knocked his second shot into the same pond (43 balls found the pond this week). Imada has been a runner-up three times on the PGA TOUR, including earlier this season at the Buick Invitational and the PODS Championship.
Imada, who wore a pair of black Classics Dry Premiere during the final round, needed a birdie on the 72nd hole in regulation just to get in the playoff. Trailing by a stroke, he was right of the green on his second shot with a 3-wood, but chipped up to 4 feet and made the putt for a 5-under 67. Imada averaged 27.25 putts per round this week, the best among all the players.
A native of Japan, Imada had plenty of fans cheering him on at TPC Sugarloaf; he attended the nearby University of Georgia. As he walked off the green after his winning putt, a few fans woofed it up. He's certain to receive another warm welcome when he returns to the area about a year from now...not only to defend his first Tour victory but when he walks to the first tee at Augusta National for the first time.
"I know I get invited to the Masters now," he said, breaking into a big smile. "I always dreamed of playing there since I was a kid. I can't wait to see what it's like."
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The European Tour is at the Irish Open this week and we sent a couple of our local sales reps out to play in the Pro-Am. Read their personal tales of playing a Tour-caliber course with Swede, Pelle Edberg. Pelle, known for his signature headband and for a pre-shot habit of licking his right pinkie finger, was a great teammate for the guys! More players are wearing FootJoy golf shoes (69%) at the Irish Open than all other brands combined.
Team FootJoy got a taste of life on tour Wednesday when Stuart, Adrian and Keith from the Acushnet Company Ireland office played in the Pro-Am before the Irish Open at Adare Manor. Our Professional was Pelle Edberg from Sweden, easily recognizable as he wears a large headband every time he plays. We were all smartly turned out in new DryJoys P.O.D.S. (Stuart and Adrian), while Keith was a little more adventurous in a pair of Ian Poulter-esque purple and white Classics. Pelle was more conservative in his white Classics...not often the Irish outdo the Swedes in the fashion department!
The format for the Pro-Am is the best single net score of the four players, which wasn't good news for a team whose handicaps are scratch, 3 and 6. However we did O.K., Adrian making a fantastic birdie 2 on the tough par three 16th, Stuart hitting the longest drive of the day on the 9th (a mere 310 yards) and Keith holing a ridiculous 40 foot putt on the 18th hole which was going into the river if it had missed. We finished in the middle of the pack with a 66, 6 shots behind the winners, but pretty good for three guys who work as hard as we do to get around the course. Pelle was great to play with, very helpful and keen to learn more about our shoes and gloves. His wedge play in particular was excellent, and it can only be a matter of time before he wins on tour.
After the game, we spent time on the range with our Tour team, congratulating the recent Irish Tour winners Peter Lawrie, Damian Mc Grane and Graeme McDowell, and catching up with the many Irish caddies, journalists and officials who are very much part of the European Tour circus. We also helped out our Club Professionals who are playing this week, making sure they had enough gloves, shoes and balls for the tournament.
We really enjoyed our day on tour, it was fantastic to experience a European Tour event from inside the ropes, and great to rub shoulders with some of the worlds finest players. Wonder who we will draw next year!
An absolutely fantastic day out on a magnificent golf course! Pelle was an excellent pro to be paired with and I think was quite glad to have a pro-am team that could hit it forward and in the air at the same time!! The course was in superb condition with the greens rolling extremely fast. It certainly took us all a little time to adjust from the green speed we would be used to. Great to get access to the tour truck and practice area and get a chance to see close up what goes on at a tour event. One thing which Pelle did mention which I was amazed with was that he uses an average of 9 balls per round!!
I would say the best hole is the 18th - par 5 over water but the fun really begins when you start navigating all the slopes on the green (as I found out). Probably the toughest hole for the pros will be the pa- 3 11th (at around 230 yds into a narrow green). The rough is also long and very difficult to control the ball from, so I think this weeks winner will have to be very straight off the tee with a silky putting stroke!! ( Really no different to any other week!)
Overall, it was an incredible experience. Something I will remember for a long time!
We caught up with several FootJoy players recently to ask them about their overall style and how their FootJoy shoes reflect that style. As you can imagine, we heard some very entertaining responses!
Very unique situation on the Nationwide Tour this week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Not only are the pros joined by a large number of stars from sports and entertainment, but the tournament is actually played in two states - North and South Carolina. While Thornblade Club (Greer, SC) is the base of activity, the contestants also play at The Carolina Country Club (Spartanburg, SC) and Bright's Creek Golf Club in Mill Springs, NC. Onsite this week we had Drew Morris in the locker room and Bill Hughes, Lee Oyer and Greg Shaw in the Tour Van. Julian Taylor, the local Titleist/FootJoy Sales Rep, was also onsite to lend a hand. Click here for a list of celebrities playing in the event and click on the slideshow below to see some shots from behind-the-scenes.
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