Popovic holds on for 4-stroke Australian PGA win
Popovic holds on for 4-stroke Australian PGA win
First-year Australasian PGA tour player Popovic, whose father is suffering from incurable bone cancer, completed an improbable wire-to-wire victory at the Palmer Coolum resort, shooting a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory.
The 26-year-old Popovic, ranked outside the top 1,000, nearly quit golf earlier this year when he learned of his father’s terminal illness, solely to be close to him and his family outside Melbourne in Victoria state.
Instead the player who only made seven of 12 cuts in his first year on the Australasian tour collected $225,000 on Sunday — more than $200,000 above his previous tour earnings.
Fellow Australian Rod Pampling birdied the first six holes to take the lead after nine holes, but bogeys on 16 and 17 and a double-bogey on the 18th dropped him back into a tie for second after a 69. Anthony Brown shot 71 to finish level with Pampling.
Popovic finished with a 16-under-par total of 272 and led or had a share of the lead since Thursday.
“I just can’t believe this is happening,” Popovic said as he walked up the 18th fairway with his ball safely on the green. “I am just going to try to enjoy this now.”
Moments later, he tapped in for par, did a left-handed fist pump and doffed his cap to the crowd.
“It has just hit me all over suddenly,” he said after accepting the winner’s check. “I was just so confident, and that never left me. Sure I made several stupid mistakes, but I bounced back quite nicely.”
Popovic, who will now have an invitation to the US PGA Tour’s Bridgestone Invitational, received a phone call from Greg Norman after his media conference. Norman stayed around to watch some of Popovic’s round on Friday despite pulling out of the tournament after two holes on Thursday with food poisoning.
“2013 is going to be completely different to what I had planned,” Popovic said. “Two weeks ago I entered Q School for next year for Australia and was thinking I would just play one tour because of my father’s illness. But now next year is just going to be bigger and better and hopefully he keeps pushing on as well.”
Pampling looked set for his first win since the Australian Masters in 2008 — he has two wins on the US PGA tour, the last in 2006 at the Bay Hill Invitational. This year, he finished just outside the top 125 — 127th place — to lose his PGA tour card, then failed at qualifying school two weeks ago, meaning he will have only conditional status next year in the US
But errant tee shots on 16 and 17 led to bogeys, then his approach to 18 went into the water, all but handing the win to Popovic.
“Disappointing, obviously it’s been a long time since I have been in this situation,” Pampling said, adding that he was impressed with Popovic’s performance under pressure.
“You couldn’t look back in the form guide and say that he is good under the gun ... you certainly expected Danny to maybe fall back,” Pampling said. “From off the tee he was phenomenal.”
Geoff Ogilvy, trying to be among the top three here to ensure he’d finish inside the top 50 in year-end world rankings thereby get a US Masters berth next year, almost got there. He shot 69 Sunday and finished tied for fourth, just one stroke away.
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland finished with a 68 for a 4-under total of 279 and tied for eighth, his best finish at any tournament since winning the British Open in 2011.
Peter Senior, who came from behind to win the wind-swept Australian Open on the final day last Sunday at The Lakes in Sydney, couldn’t repeat the feat at Coolum. Playing in the final threesome of the day and trailing Popovic by three to start the round, Senior shot a 77 and finished 11 strokes behind.
Rory Sabbatini shot 74 Sunday and finished tied for 48th at even-par 288.
It seems the Australian PGA may not be moving from the Palmer Coolum resort after 11 years. The PGA of Australia said Sunday it will consider a revised offer from the owner of the Palmer Coolum Resort to keep the event on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane.
After wrangling with resort owner and billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer over signage and other sponsorship issues, the PGA of Australia chief executive Brian Thorburn said this week that the tournament would shift next year to another course in Queensland state.
But Thorburn said on Sunday that the board of directors would next week consider a new offer from Palmer that could see the event remain at the player-favorite resort, which has an eight-meter (26-foot) robotic dinosaur outside the clubhouse.
Palmer wants to add more than 100 other replica dinosaurs to the resort and create a theme park.
Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach
- Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
- 'He’s fine, he’s ready to go'
LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.