Mon, 30 Mar 2020

Paris - The conversation quickly turned away from golf after the final putt at the weekend's two tournaments.

Rankings leader Brooks Koepka took a weekend off and the two men chasing him, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm closed the gap with top three finished in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

But the atmosphere was dominated by the news of the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, 140 miles up the California coast in Calabasas.

And after both tournaments were won by Australians on Australia Day, the winners, Lucas Herbert and Marc Leishman, wanted to talk about the recent catastrophic fires back home.

Tiger remembers Kobe

Tiger Woods was on the course and in contention when news began to spread that his former training partner had died -- but caddy Joey LaCava deliberately kept the news from him.

Bryant's career ran parallel with the Lakers great and they used to work out together.

"I was trying to win the golf tournament," Woods said immediately after the round. "Joey realised that I was locked in on that and didn't want to distract me."

"People were yelling, 'Do it for Mamba.' Now I understand," Woods said. "It's unbelievable, the reality that he's no longer here,"

Woods and Bryant used to train together when they were neighbours.

"We really connected on the mental side: the prep how much it takes to be prepared."

Woods, who is 44, turned professional in August 1996. Bryant, who was 41, was drafted June that year in by the Charlotte and made his NBA debut in November.

"He came in the league and I turned pro more or less the same time. we had our 20-year run together."

Australia Day double

Leishman edged Rahm by one shot to take the Torrey Pines tournament a few hours after compatriot Herbert beat South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout in a playoff to win in Dubai.

It was an Australian double on the official national holiday but both players are from areas of Victoria hit hard by recent bushfires.

"Pretty amazing, particularly all the problems that have been happening back in Australia with the fires and people losing their lives, firefighters. Just devastating really," said Leishman.

Herbert expressed a similar sentiment.

"Just the fact that with everything that's gone on back home," he said. "If I can bring a little bit of joy to the guys who are struggling back there, yeah, it's real special."

Speedy Soderberg

Swede Sebastian Soderberg started the final round in Dubai 71st and last. Teeing off on his own at 7.10am and took the chance to make some golfing history, racing round in a European record time of one hour and 36 minutes.

Running between shots, Soderberg shot a three-over 75 and climbed one place to finish 70th - 19 off the lead.

"I struggled the last two days, so I figured it wouldn't really hurt my game just to jog in between, and not think too much," said the Swede. "I think three-over was quite a good result, with zero fairways hit."

On the PGA Tour in 2017, American Wesley Bryan took 89 minutes to finish his final round at the BMW Championship.

Speed of play has been an issue, and Dubai was the second tournament since European rules to punish slowness came into force.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, one of the most notorious ditherers, received a slow-play warning on the 10th. He was still tied for the lead at the 14th but bogeyed the last four holes.

The American was paired on Sunday with one of his critics, Eddie Pepperell.

"We actually got on quite well," tweeted the Englishman. "And to his credit, he's sped up."

World rankings

Top 20 on Monday, January 27

1. Brooks Koepka (USA) 9.68 average points

2. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 9.32

3. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.58

4. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.56

5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.64

6. Tiger Woods (USA) 6.30

7. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.23

8. Justin Rose (ENG) 5.92

9. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.87

10. Tommy Fleetwood (USA) 5.77

11. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.09

12. Patrick Reed (USA)4.92

13. Tony Finau (USA) 4.59 +3

14. Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 4.58 -2

15. Adam Scott (AUS) 4.56 -2

16. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.41 -1

17. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 4.39

18. Shane Lowry (IRL) 4.36 +1

19. Paul Casey (ENG) 4.27 -1

20. Marc Leishman (AUS) 4.2402 +8

Selected:

23. Francesco Molinari (ITA) 4.04 -2

27. Henrik Stenson (SWE) 3.34 -1

29. Lee Westwood (ENG) 3.11

42. Sergio Garcia (ESP) 2.70

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