Iyene Essien: Nigerian Golf Prodigy Chasing Pro Dreams In America

A file photo of Iyene Essien.

 

What teed off as a chance encounter with golf has turned into a relentless pursuit of a dream for 16-year-old Iyene Essien as she makes the next stop on her road to becoming Nigeria’s second pro golfer on tour.

Introduction To Golf

Iyene was introduced to golf 11 years ago while taking a stroll with her dad and she’s been hooked ever since like a fish on natural bait.

“I started playing golf at the age of five after an encounter with a boy who was learning the game at the IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja. My dad saw how excited I was and decided to hook me up with a coach, some clubs, as well as balls and I have not looked back since,” she said.

Iyene was introduced to golf at 5

 

Representing Nigeria

Although born in New York City, Iyene has been flying Nigeria’s flag since when she was just 9 years old and officially represented the country for the first time at 11.

“My first competition for Nigeria was at the 2015 USKids World Championship and I totally enjoyed the thrill. I loved the fact that I was representing my country and that I was able to compete internationally,” Iyene recalled the event fondly.

Since then, she has gone on to feature at the R & A All-Africa Junior Challenge in Botswana, the IMG Academy Junior World Championship in San Diego and many more.

Iyene poses with the Nigerian flag at the 2019 IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championship.

 

Taft School & Pro Aspirations

Not satisfied with just dominating at junior/amateur level on the local scene, Iyene has made up her mind pretty early to become a professional golfer which has now taken her to the next stop of her development process. In 2021, she enrolled at the prestigious Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, USA where she is a member of the Girls’ Varsity golf team.

“Taft has been an entirely different experience for me, she says. It has taught me to be independent and responsible. It also taught me that proper time management helps as a student-athlete in navigating between academics and sport while maintaining top grades. I have made improvements in my mentality as an athlete,” she added.

Iyene with Taft School teammates during a tryout on Hop Brook Golf Course in March 2022.

 

She’s Got Game

Despite her tender age, Iyene appears to have impressed her school coach Ginger O’Shea with her progress both on and off the golf course.

“Iyene has transitioned remarkably well here as a student-athlete. She has won 7 of her team matches while usually competing against much older girls who are committed to attending Division 1 Colleges and Universities,” said O’Shea. “She has a natural swing with tremendous power as well as balance for someone so petite and can only get better. This is really fantastic.”

By all accounts, Iyene’s talent is not in doubt, but this is only a small part of the equation of transitioning from a top junior golfer to the highest level of the sport.

Iyene tees off for Taft School during the 2022 Spring Golf season.

 

Major Challenges

There is no denying that golf is an expensive sport and a country like South Korea which invests heavily in its junior talents produced the most elite players while Nigeria with little to no investment produced the least.

Consequently, Nigeria has only 1-woman pro golfer on the Ladies European Tour in Georgia Oboh and just like Ms Oboh, Iyene has been lucky to have supportive parents who have been investing in her but there is only so much they can do in their personal capacity which she makes very clear.

Iyene with mother Imeh Okon at the IBB Golf club in Abuja

 

“My parents have supported me a lot in my career by investing a lot of time, effort and money but I need more external financial support,” said Iyene. “Golf is a very expensive sport which involves huge financial resources to pay for flights, hotels, car rentals, equipment replacement, employing swing, putting and mental coaches.”

To buttress the funding issue, Iyene’s parents were still scrambling to raise funds to attend upcoming events when this piece was written.

Iyene pictured with Nigeria’s only Pro Golfer on the Ladies European Tour Georgia Oboh.

 

Upcoming Competitions

The 2022 Youth Olympics would have been a great platform to showcase her improved game but with the competition now postponed until 2026 when she will no longer be eligible, Iyene already has her eyes set on other events.

“I have been invited to represent Nigeria at The R&A Junior Golf Championship in Monifieth, Scotland from July 11-13, 2022. This tournament assembles all the best under-16 junior golfers from many top golfing countries so I’m really looking forward to testing myself against the best in my age category.

“I am also looking to play at The Kerry Cup in Waterville, Ireland from July the 3rd to the 8th, 2022, and then the English Girls’ Amateur Stroke Play Championship from July the 19th to the 21st, 2022,” she said.

Iyene with dad at the 2018 USKids Junior Golf World Championship.

 

For someone still so young, Iyene already has her short-, medium-, and long-term goals clearly mapped out. “I am hoping to get recruited into one of the top colleges to play golf on scholarship while I get my University degree in Electrical Engineering with specialisation in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Afterwards, I’ll try my best to become a professional golfer,” she added.

Although the odds might be long considering the challenges, there is every indication that Iyene will be swinging for the fences until her dreams become reality.

Tiger Woods ‘Recovering’ After Surgery Following Roll-Over Car Crash

US golfer Tiger Woods reacts during his singles match with Europe’s Spanish golfer Jon Rahm on the third day of the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National Course at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, south-west of Paris, on September 30, 2018. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Tiger Woods suffered serious injuries to both legs as his car flew off the road and flipped several times Tuesday near Los Angeles in a crash he was “very fortunate” to survive, law enforcement officials who found the US golf legend said.

Woods underwent surgery to repair “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle, which included the insertion of a rod into his tibia and the use of “a combination of screws and pins” to stabilize his foot and ankle, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer Anish Mahajan said in a statement released on the golfer’s Twitter account late Tuesday.

“He is currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room,” the Twitter statement read, adding there would be no further updates, and thanking first responders and well-wishers.

Woods did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the early-morning incident, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

No other vehicles or passengers were involved in the crash, which occurred on a steep stretch of road known as an accident “hotspot,” where Woods was travelling at “a greater speed than normal,” said the sheriff.

“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first officer to arrive at the scene.

Gonzalez found Woods trapped in his vehicle but conscious, appearing “calm and lucid” and able to identify himself to the deputy as “Tiger.”

“It is my understanding that he had serious injuries to both legs,” said Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby, describing Woods’ condition as “stable.”

Firefighters and paramedics extricated Woods from the wreckage of his SUV and transported him with a neck collar and backboard to a local hospital via road.

The 45-year-old, one of the most successful golfers of all time, has won 15 major championships.

He recently underwent his fifth back surgery, and said he was uncertain if he would be able to complete his latest injury comeback in time to play at April’s Masters.

“On behalf of the PGA Tour and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.

‘True champion’

Woods was in the Los Angeles area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club, and was driving a courtesy car on the morning of the crash.

It happened near the hilly Palos Verdes peninsula, at the bottom of a stretch of road which has runaway truck ramps for drivers who lose control going downhill.

The section has become notorious for fatal accidents over the years.

“Apparently the first contact was with the center median, and from there (the car) crossed into the opposing lane of traffic, hit the curb, hit a tree, and there was several rollovers during that process,” said Villanueva, who did not provide a cause of the crash.

The car ended up several hundred feet from the initial impact, lying on its side on a patch of grass some distance off the road, with its hood badly damaged.

News of the crash spread rapidly around the sports world and beyond, with figures inside and outside golfing swift to send their prayers and best wishes to Woods.

Skier Lindsey Vonn, Woods’ former girlfriend, tweeted: “Praying for TW right now.”

“Sending my prayers to @TigerWoods and his family tonight — here’s to a speedy recovery for the GOAT of golf,” said former US president Barack Obama.

Fellow ex-president Donald Trump, speaking to Fox, urged Woods to “get better and get out there because we all miss him.”

‘Deeply concerned’

Woods was one of the most revered athletes in the world when he became engulfed in scandal in late 2009.

Back then, he smashed his car into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his luxury Florida home, sparking a series of scandalous revelations that doomed his marriage and put his game in freefall.

He later divorced from his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren after a cascade of women came forward to say they had affairs with the golfer, making him fodder for tabloids around the world.

Woods underwent four back surgeries between 2014 and 2017.

In May 2017, Woods was arrested near his home for being asleep at the wheel of his car in a traffic lane.

Woods said he had taken prescription drugs and pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

But he made an astonishing comeback to win the Masters in 2019, his first major title since 2008.

He is the winner of 82 US PGA titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record.

In 2000-01, while aged just 25, Woods became the first man to hold the US Open, British Open, the USPGA and the Masters titles at the same time.

Woods remains three major victories shy of the all-time record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.

“Barbara and I just heard about Tiger’s accident, and like everyone else, we are deeply concerned,” tweeted Nicklaus.

“We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time. Please join us in wishing Tiger a successful surgery and all the best for a full recovery.”

Severe Storm Postpones Finish Of US Women’s Open

A detail of a weather warning as play is suspended due to inclement weather during the final round of the 75th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Champions Golf Club Cypress Creek Course on December 13, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

 

Dangerous weather halted play for the day in Sunday’s final round of the 75th US Women’s Open before leaders could even tee off, setting up a Monday finish to the year’s last major golf championship.

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 Women’s British Open champion, led on four-under-par 209 after three rounds with American Amy Olson one stroke back at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

US Golf Association officials stopped play 25 minutes before Shibuno was set to tee off in the final group and called off play for the day about 3 1/2 hours later “due to course conditions and anticipated inclement weather.”

Shibuno, 22, is trying to win her US Women’s Open debut as she did her major debut last year. The “Smiling Cinderella” won four times last year on the Japan LPGA Tour.

Golfers were in threesomes and tee times had been moved up to try and finish by sunset, but the final three lead groups never reached the first tee.

The event was rescheduled from June due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also kept spectators from attending.

Olson, seeking her first LPGA title after 147 starts, would be the first player to make the US Women’s Open her first LPGA title since Hilary Lunke in 2003.

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn and South Korea’s Kim2 Ji-yeong were the only other players under par after 54 holes, each on 212.

Moriya, whose only LPGA title came at the 2018 Los Angeles Open, could join her sister Ariya as a US Women’s Open champion, becoming the first siblings to each capture the crown.

Kim2 made the cut on the number and fired a bogey-free 67 on Saturday to charge into contention.

Ariya Jutanugarn, a two-time major winner, joined a pack on level par by opening with a birdie just before play was halted.

Also on level par yet to tee off were New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and Americans Yealimi Noh, Megan Khang and Kaitlyn Papp.

AFP

Trump Again Hits The Golf Course A Day After His Defeat

US President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club on November 7, 2020 in Sterling, Virginia.  Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Donald Trump returned Sunday to his golf course in a Washington suburb, a day after news media announced his defeat in the presidential election at the hands of Democrat Joe Biden.

For his part, the former vice president attended Mass along with family members at a Catholic church near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, as he regularly does.

Trump was also golfing at his course in Sterling, Virginia on Saturday when US networks declared that Biden had definitively amassed the electoral votes needed to be sworn in as president on January 20.

The president has yet to concede or congratulate Biden; rather, he again on Sunday posted messages on Twitter to suggest, with no evidence, that the election had been “stolen.”

As his motorcade headed to Sterling, protesters along some streets held signs hostile to him.

Upon his arrival, reporters saw two people greeting him with “Trump 2020” signs while two others carried signs reading “Orange Crushed” and “Trumpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall.”

News of Biden’s victory brought thousands of joyous supporters to the streets of American cities on Saturday.

AFP

Nigeria’s Oboh Receives Invite To Compete At Scottish Open

A file photo of Nigerian teenage golf sensation, Georgia Oboh.

 

Nigeria’s teenage golf sensation, Georgia Oboh, has been invited to compete at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open taking place next month, Aug 13 – 16 at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick.

This comes as professional women’s golf returns to Scotland for the first time since Europe’s remarkable triumph in the 2019 Solheim Cup last September.

Oboh, the first Nigerian golfer to win her card on the Ladies European Tour (LET), was selected for a coveted tournament invite by the title sponsor, both for the accolades she has received in her short professional career and to provide inspiration and opportunities for the next generation of talented women to participate in events of this importance.

The invitation excites the 19-year-old Nigerian golfer.

In her reaction, the teenage golf sensation said, “I’m really grateful to receive this invitation into such an important event on the LET and LPGA Tours.

“I have been working very hard to be ready to play amongst so many of the world’s best players and I think it will give me invaluable experience as I work towards achieving my dream of being the first Nigerian to win on the professional golf circuit.”

The other beneficiary of the final two invitations is Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh.

Dryburgh is Scotland’s highest-ranked player at No.227 on the Rolex Rankings and, with two back to back wins on the recent Rose Ladies Series, she has undoubtedly proven herself to be Britain’s most in-form player.

Clearly thrilled to be given the opportunity to compete at home, Dryburgh appreciated the sponsors for the opportunity to feature.

She said, “I would have hated not being able to play in what is one of my favourite events of the year, especially when I have been playing so well lately.

“I know that Aberdeen Standard Investments, Visit Scotland and IMG have had to work really hard to put all the health and safety protocols in place to ensure the tournament can go ahead and we are all very grateful and excited to get back to The Renaissance Club.”

The organisers are thrilled to welcome Gemma and Georgia into the Ladies Scottish Open field and Jill Maxwell, Head of Brand Activation explained the reason for the selection in a statement.

Maxwell said, “Gemma has been in hot form of late and inviting Georgia as one of the highest-ranked African golfers means that our sponsorship of the Ladies Scottish Open is an opportunity for the development of talented players and that golf, as a sport, is increasingly accessible to everyone.

“Both Gemma and Georgia are great female role models, paving the way for other girls from all backgrounds to achieve their dreams too.”

The field for the 2020 event is even stronger than last year with three of the world’s top 10 ranked players on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in the field – Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (No.4), America’s Danielle Kang (No.5), and Australia’s Minjee Lee (No.8).

There are 22 players ranked within the World’s Top 50, seven of the top 10 players currently leading the LPGA Race to CME and all of the top 20 on the final 2019 LET Order of Merit.

The other two tournament invitations were awarded last week to Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, the AIG Women’s Open’s defending Champion and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, a two-time winner of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open in 2011 and 2013, and a Women’s British Open winner in 2009.

The decision to move forward with the 2020 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open was taken only once organisers and stakeholders could ensure delivery of an event with all relevant safeguarding and protocols in place.

The tournament has a robust operational plan, which has been established with medical and health and safety specialists to make sure that all appropriate measures were in place and met the high standards required by the Scottish Government, as well as adhering to all World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Woods Cautious About Return Ahead Of Memorial

 

File photo: Tiger Woods of the US tees off at the 18th hole during the final round of the PGA ZOZO Championship golf tournament at the Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba prefecture on October 28, 2019. TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP

 

Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday that concern over the coronavirus delayed his return to the PGA Tour as he prepares to play his first event since February at this week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

The former world number one has not played since appearing in the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February but will tee off at Muirfield on Thursday chasing a sixth victory in the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event.

The 44-year-old 15-time major winner said Tuesday he had contemplated returning to the tour earlier but had wanted to see how the first few events of the post-coronavirus shutdown fared before coming back.

“I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe,” Woods said Tuesday.

“I’m used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people.

“Coming back and playing the tour, in my case over the 20-some-odd years I’ve been out here, that’s really hard to say, that I’m used to having so many people around me or even touch me, going from green to tee.

“That’s something that I looked at and said, well, I’m really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea.”

Memorial organisers had initially planned to allow fans on the course at this week’s tournament, but abandoned that idea as COVID-19 cases across the United States began to skyrocket.

– ‘Going to be different’ –

On Monday, PGA Tour officials confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-2020 season would take place without fans.

It means Woods will tee off on Thursday alongside world number one Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka without the customary horde of spectators that usually follows him around a course.

“It’s going to be different, there’s no doubt about it,” Woods said.

“For most of my career, pretty much almost every competitive playing round that I’ve been involved in, I’ve had people around me, spectators yelling, a lot of movement inside the gallery with camera crews and media.”

Woods, who is making only his fourth tournament appearance of the season this week, said he has improved his health during the long layoff.

A stiff back hampered his performance at the Genesis in February, but Woods said he had not been troubled since.

“I feel so much better than I did then,” Woods said.

“I’ve been able to train and concentrate on getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed.

During Woods’ layoff, the United States was convulsed by nationwide protests against racism following the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis on May 25.

Woods said he applauded efforts of Black Lives Matter activists to bring about change.

“I think change is fantastic as long as we make changes without hurting the innocent, and unfortunately that has happened. Hopefully it doesn’t happen in the future, but a movement and change is fantastic,” Woods said.

“That’s how society develops. That’s how we grow. That’s how we move forward. That’s how we have fairness.”

‘Couldn’t Wish For Better Year’ – Woods Completes Road To Redemption

USA team member and captain Tiger Woods holds the Presidents Cup after their win over the International team following the golf tournament in Melbourne on December 15, 2019. SIMON BAKER / AFP

 

Two years ago the future for Tiger Woods looked bleak to the point of darkness.

Four back surgeries, countless knee operations, marital strife and run-ins with the law meant Woods had not won a major since 2008, had no tournament victories since 2013 and had seen his world ranking plummet to 656.

But on Sunday, US player-captain Tiger Woods capped a year that has seen one of the most memorable comebacks in sporting history by driving his team to a 16-14 victory over Ernie Els’ Internationals in the 13th Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

The second coming of Tiger began with a drought-ending victory at the Tour Championship 15 months ago and accelerated with a 15th major and fifth green jacket at the US Masters in Augusta.

Having returned to the world’s top 10, Woods needed yet more surgery to his troublesome left knee in August before writing another remarkable chapter of his storied career.

In his first tournament appearance after the arthroscopic operation, Woods equalled Sam Snead’s record of 82 US PGA Tour wins when he won the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan.

“It’s been an amazing year,” a beaming Woods told Golf TV in Melbourne. “I’m speechless.

“To have won a major championship, a green jacket, to have tied Sam and to have won a cup with all these guys, I couldn’t have asked for a better year.”

The road to redemption began with his long-awaited win at the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup finale, at East Lake, Atlanta, in September 2018.

Woods had endured two years out of the game and  shuffled out of the February 2018 Dubai Desert Classic, his tournament return, with back spasms, causing observers to question whether he could compete again at the highest level.

 ‘I don’t think I’ll play again’ 

The thought had also crossed the mind of Woods.

Less than a year earlier he had hobbled into the Champions Dinner on the eve of the 2017 US Masters nursing yet another back injury, telling those assembled: “I’m done, I don’t think I’ll ever play golf again.”

But two-and-a-half years later, Woods was unsurpassed at Royal Melbourne as he won all three of his matches and overtook Phil Mickelson for the most wins in Presidents Cup history.

“How about that? I like that stat,” smiled Woods, after being told his win-loss-tie Cup record was now 27-15-1 against his great rival Mickelson’s 26-16-13.

It left Els, not for the first time in his career, having to pick up the pieces after a defeat to Woods.

The big South African, widely praised for his captaincy which saw the Internationals lead after every session until Sunday when it mattered, might also regret his words on the eve of the tournament.

“I don’t think today (Woods) has the same kind of aura he had in the past,” Els had said.

Young Mexican Abraham Ancer is another player who might want to be careful about what he says in future.

“I would like to play against Tiger,” Ancer said before the Presidents Cup began. “Winning a match in the singles would be very special.”

He came up against a ruthless Woods who won 3 and 2.

“Abe wanted it,” chided Woods. “And he got it.”

Woods will fly home today to celebrate Christmas and then his 44th birthday on December 30.

Soon it will be 2020 and the continuation of the second coming of Tiger, with no one doubting more majors can follow to put him closer to Jack Nicklaus’s all-time mark of 18.

There could also be a crack at Olympic gold in Tokyo.

But first he can be forgiven for putting his feet up. “I am now retired for the year,” laughed Woods, before heading off to join the US team’s celebrations.

AFP

Nigeria’s Georgia Oboh Aims To Make History At British Open

Georgia Oboh

 

Nigeria’s Georgia Oboh is aiming to become the first Nigerian to feature in the prestigious Women’s British Open when she competes with 107 golfers across the world in the final qualifying tournament for the 44th edition of the tournament on Monday July 29 at the Ashridge Golf Club, in Little Gaddesden, England.

The Edo State-born golfer has continued to put Nigeria on the global map and she is aiming for one of the places available in the qualifying tournament.

Oboh played a score of 75 (3over par) at the Pre-Qualifying tournament held at Sandy Lodge Golf Club on July 15 to secure her place in the final qualifying competition. A confident Oboh said she is unfazed by the challenges she had faced so far since turning professional earlier this year, as she is following her dream of becoming the first female Nigerian to win a major title.

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The one-day tournament will decide the players that will join the elite players that had already been listed by the organizers for the championship holding at Woburn Golf Club in Buckinghamshire, England.

The teenage sensation has been undergoing her apprenticeship with the PGA of Nigeria (PGAN) under the tutelage of Mathew Lawrence of Ikoyi Club.

Even before making it to the main event which tees off on August 1, the former World Teen Champion has become the first Nigerian to get to the final Qualifying tournament of the most established and historic major championship in women’s golf.

The venue of the British Open, Woburn Golf Club has a rich affiliation with the event and professional golf tournaments having first hosted the Women’s British Open in 1984 and ten times since then, most recently in 2016 when Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn prevailed by three strokes on the critically acclaimed Marquess’ course.

Tiger Woods Wins 15th Major Title With Spectacular Masters Victory

Tiger Woods Wins 15th Major Title With Spectacular Masters Victory
Tiger Woods of the United States plays an approach on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Georgia. Mike Ehrmann / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Tiger Woods completed an epic “full circle” comeback from career-threatening injury and scandal by winning the 83rd Masters on Sunday, capturing his 15th major title with an unprecedented back-nine rally.

Ending an 11-year major drought, the 43-year-old American superstar — who underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2017 due to chronic back pain — seized his first major title since the 2008 US Open.

“It’s overwhelming just because of what has transpired,” Woods said. “I could barely walk. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t walk. Couldn’t do anything.

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“To have the opportunity to come back, it’s one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure.”

Winning a fifth Masters title, and his first since 2005, cemented a fairytale comeback to the pinnacle of golf for Woods, whose career imploded after a 2009 sex scandal and nagging knee and back injuries.

“It’s overwhelming just because of what has transpired,” Wood said. “I was just lucky to be playing again.”

With fans chanting his name, an emotional Woods walked off the 18th green and hugged his mother Kultida, daughter Sam and son Charlie just as he had embraced his late father Earl there after his first major victory at the 1997 Masters.

“It has come full circle,” Woods said. “This tournament has meant so much to me and to have everyone here means so much to me and my family.

“Now to be the champion — 22 years between wins is a long time — it’s unreal for me to experience this. I just couldn’t be more happy, more excited. I’m just kind of at a loss for words.”

Racing to finish before an oncoming thunderstorm, players created their own electric atmosphere, spectators roaring repeatedly for sensational shotmaking on one of golf’s iconic stages.

Woods fired a final-round two-under par 70 to finish on 13-under 275 for a one-shot victory to capture a $2.07 million (1.82 million euros) top prize and the green jacket symbolizing Masters supremacy.

“We couldn’t be happier,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley told Woods. “You’ve made history once again at Augusta National.”

An all-American trio of three-time major winner Brooks Koepka, world number two Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele shared second on 276.

“I don’t know if there are words — I’m sure he’s ecstatic about it,” Koepka said. “To have the injuries and come back and do what he has done, it has been tremendous to watch.”

– Jack says ‘Well done’ –

It was the fifth Masters title for Woods, his first since 2005, and it moved him three shy of the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

“A big well done from me to Tiger,” Nicklaus told telecaster CBS. “I’m so happy for him and for the game of golf this is so fantastic.”

The triumph was the first major victory for Woods when he did not lead after 54 holes, having started the day two adrift of reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari.

Woods served notice he had returned to form by contending last year at the British Open and PGA before snapping a five-year title drought by capturing the Tour Championship.

Woods grabbed the lone lead on a jam-packed leaderboard with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 15th, a four-foot birdie putt following at the par-3 16th to double the advantage, allowing him to bogey the last and still win.

“I was as patient as I’ve been in a number of years out there,” Woods said. “I was controlling my shot placement, especially seeing that board. It was a who’s who.

“All these different scenarios keep flying around. It was an amazing buzz to follow what was going on and yet still focus on what I was trying to do out there. I liked it.”

Woods parred 17 and walked up to the 18th green to crowds 20-people deep applauding with delight, but he kept a stoic visage until the job was complete, a tap-in for bogey followed by a fist pump and a scream of joy in celebration of one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

“I know I screamed,” Woods said.

– One shy of Snead’s mark –

Woods, one shy of matching Nicklaus for the most career Masters wins, won his 81st career US PGA victory, one shy of the all-time record held by Sam Snead.

He also set a record for the longest gap between Masters triumphs, the 14-year spread one year longer than the old mark set by South African Gary Player from 1961 to 1974.

Woods, Molinari, Schauffele, Koepka and Johnson were together late on 12-under. None could go lower except Woods, with Molinari undone at the par-5 15th when his approach struck a tree limb and found water on the way to a double-bogey.

“The energy out there was brilliant,” Molinari said. “With Tiger being there, people were loving it. I gave it my best. I’m proud of that.”

Augusta National moved the final round to Sunday morning due to storms expected to arrive in the afternoon, when leaders would typically be battling for the title.

AFP

Tiger Woods Tees Off As Dramatic Masters Final Round Begins

Tiger Tees Off As Dramatic Masters Final Round Kicks Off
Tiger Woods of the United States plays an approach on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. Mike Ehrmann / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Tiger Woods teed off in Sunday’s final round of the Masters chasing his 15th major title, trying to capture his fifth green jacket to end an 11-year major drought.

The 43-year-old American superstar, back on form after 2017 spinal fusion surgery following years of nagging back pain, played alongside compatriot Tony Finau and Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the last group at Augusta National Golf Club.

Reigning British Open champion Molinari seized the 54-hole lead on 13-under par 203 with Woods and Finau two strokes behind.

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Brooks Koepka, last year’s US Open, and PGA Championship winner, began three adrift with fellow American Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open, and England’s Ian Poulter four off the pace.

“It’s golf, so the favorite is probably the golf course out there waiting for us,” Molinari said.

“We’re all very close. It’s nice to be a little bit ahead, but you might just need one hole to change. You never know how it’s going to go, especially around a course like here.”

Augusta National advanced the final round to Sunday morning in a safety move with thunderstorms expected to arrive Sunday afternoon, when leaders would typically be battling for the Masters crown.

The storms, with hail and high winds producing tornadoes, led to three deaths and severe damage in moving across the southeastern United States.

The Masters, which has not had a Monday conclusion since 1983, decided to cancel its green jacket ceremony after the finish in order to hurry spectators to the exits faster due to the approaching storm.

Racing nature’s fury to finish on the weekend added more tension to the unfolding Masters drama, which centered on Woods and his chance to win his first major title since the 2008 US Open on the same course where he won his first-ever major in 1997.

“At 23, I had a lot more years in front of me,” Woods said. “At 43 I don’t. It’s just reality.”

Woods, who could move nearer Jack Nicklaus’s the all-time major win record of 18, contended last year at the British Open and PGA before snapping a five-year win drought by capturing the Tour Championship, his 80th career US PGA title leaving him two shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record.

Electrifying shotmaking this week at Augusta National, cheered on by supportive crowds anxious to witness history, has Woods on the verge of a fairytale conclusion to a fightback from back pain so crippling he was unable to play with his children.

Woods has never fired so low in a Masters and not won the title but he has also never won a major title when not leading after 54 holes.

– Molinari, Finau contend –

Plenty of rivals were in place to deny Woods his long-sought next major trophy.

Molinari, whose first Masters appearance was as a caddie to older brother Edoardo in 2006, outfought Woods last year at Carnoustie to win his first major title. The Italian then went 5-0 in a heroic Ryder Cup turn in France over an American team on which Woods went 0-5.

“The key for me is really going to go out and just do my thing. Staying aggressive,” Molinari said. “Hit the shots. Hit the middle of the clubface as often as I can and make smart decisions, and we’ll just take it from there.”

Finau, the US PGA’s first player of Tongan and Samoan heritage, leads the week in driving distance with 318.8 yards.

“I’m driving the ball nicely,” Finau said. “And on this golf course, I can attack the golf course if I’m hitting my driver well.”

Lurking as well is Koepka, who seeks his third victory in the past four majors — a success rate seen only by Ben Hogan’s three in a row in 1953 and the “Tiger Slam” four in a row by Woods in 2000-01.

“I’m pretty comfortable being up there on the leaderboard in a major come Sunday,” Koepka said. “I feel good and I like my chances.”

AFP

Torgah Wins Eko Challenge Cup

 

Ghana’s Vincent Torgah has emerged winner of the 2019 Eko Challenge Cup with -18 under par after 72 holes of play.

The Ghanaian started the week with an opening round -3 under par (69), tied second alongside his compatriot Emos Koblarh, who also returned a -3 under par to keep them a stroke ahead of Sunday Olapade and 2 strokes behind the day one leader Christopher Ambe who shot a -5 (67) in his opening round.

However, Torgah took the front seat following a -5 under (67) on day two and went on to post another (68) -4 under par in the third round, before sealing the deal with another (66) -6 under in the final round of the tournament. The Ghanaian also stepped an inch by setting a four days new course record of -18 under par in four consecutive rounds and each round in 60’s. With a (69)(67)(68)(67) a gross of 271 over four days.

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Beating his closest rival by eleven strokes, Sunday Olapade who finished 2nd opened in his first round with a (70) -2 under par and kept it going on day two with another -2 under (70) and that shot him ahead of Emos Koblarh on the leader board after the second round. Olapade also had a flawless -3 under (69) in his third round to extend his lead over Ghana’s Emos Koblarh at -7 under par before dropping a shot in his final round after failing to hold off the pressure mounted by Torgah during the final round where he carded a (73) +1 over par.

Koblarh recorded a (69)(73)(71)(72) over (72) holes to sit at solo third with a final score of -3 under par. The new entrant confirmed playing at the championship is good exposure for him. “I know the boy’s are good, so i am just here to compete with my colleagues. I am happy to have come this far he said.

Day one leader Christopher Ambe finished 4th with a (67) (75) (72) and (76). Francesco Perez of Spain and Nigeria’s S.J. Odegha finished joint 5th. MIKE UBI and Zimbabwean VISITOR MAPWANYA who holds the Lakowe Lake’s course record of -8 under par, a feet he achieved during his second round finished joint 7th.

Other players who finished amongst the top ten on the leaderboard include Cameroonian Nji Priestly who finished solo 9th while the 10th spot was shared by Kamalu Bako, Chidi Tobias, and Francis Epe.

Tiger Hunting More Majors In 2019

LAS VEGAS, NV – NOVEMBER 24: Tiger Woods plays a shot during the Pro-Am Tournament for The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course on November 24, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Christian Petersen/Getty Images for The Match/AFP Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A rejuvenated Tiger Woods will head into the New Year excited knowing he’s won six of his 14 Major Championship titles on three of the four 2019 host venues.

Former world number one Woods made a successful return to golf this year after missing most of the previous two seasons through injury.

While Woods finished his season with a dramatic, emotional win in the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September, he fell short in the season’s Majors, tying for sixth at the British Open and finishing runner-up at the PGA Championship.

Next year, however, Woods’ Major campaign will feature three stops on courses where he has won before.

As well as four victories in the Masters at Augusta National, Woods has also won at Pebble Beach, venue for the US Open, and Bethpage Black in New York’s Long Island, which is hosting the PGA Championship.

Woods said Tuesday his performances in the final two Majors of 2018 suggested he was close to winning his 15th big one.

“What I did in the last two major championships, I gave myself a chance to win both of them and I was right there,” Woods said in Albany, where he was speaking ahead of this week’s Hero World Challenge.

“That’s ultimately what we want to have happen. Now it’s about trying to get everything to peak together like I did for those two weeks to do it again four more times. That’s the trick.

“As you look at anyone who’s ever played this game, that is the most difficult thing to do in this game.

“That’s why most people haven’t won a lot of major championships, because it’s so hard to do.

“Fortunately, I was able to do it 14 times and hopefully more in the future.”

Captain’s role 

Woods meanwhile said his enthusiasm to represent the United States in team events was undiminished despite an unhappy return to duty at the Ryder Cup in September.

The 42-year-old said he is determined to be a playing captain when he skippers the USA in the Presidents Cup in Royal Melbourne.

Woods would become the first “playing” captain since the inaugural event in 1994 when Hale Irwin captained the victorious USA side.

“Yes, I would like to captain the side and there has been that precedent already been set, 1994 when Hale Irwin was captain,” said Woods. “If I make the team on points, yes, I’ll play.”

Woods meanwhile defended his participation in last week’s head-to-head $9 million winner-take-all contest against Phil Mickelson last week in Las Vegas, which was criticised as a cash-grab by some critics.

“I think we’ve got some positive feedback overall,” Woods said of the encounter, which was won by Mickelson.

“Obviously, there’s some things we can do as far as interaction and as far as play. I wish we both would have played better, but neither one of us putted well that day and there were some tough hole locations out there.”

“So, maybe going forward, just don’t quite have the greens so fast or the pins so difficult, but also as short as the golf course was playing, we should have made at least seven, eight birdies a piece. We just did not.”