From the Avantha Masters

The European Tour is in India this week for the Avantha Masters, contested at DLF Golf & Country Club in New Delhi. Golf's popularity is growing quickly in India, thanks in large part to the recent success enjoyed by world-class Indian players like Pro V1 loyalist Jeev Milkha Singh (who hails from Chandigarh) and Titleist Brand Ambassador Gaganjeet Bhullar (of Kapurthala). The 39-year-old Singh, a two-time Order of Merit winner on the Asian Tour, boasts 12 worldwide tour victories, including wins on the European and Japan Tours. In 2007 he became the first player from India to compete in the Masters, where he finished tied for 37th place. He followed that performance up with a T-25 finish in 2008 and later that year shared the first round lead at the 90th PGA Championship with Titleist Brand Ambassador Robert Karlsson. He eventually finished T-9 at the PGA, his best-ever finish in a major. Though lesser known here in the U.S., the 22-year-old Bhullar has already made a name for himself on the Asian Tour where he has two victories including this year's season-opening win at the Asian Tour International. The Avantha Masters is an event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, affording us a great opportunity to see a number of Titleist Brand Ambassadors from an emerging corner of the golfing world. Check out some images from New Delhi below.


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Steve Stricker
Titleist Brand Ambassador Steve Stricker, who moved to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, won his eighth PGA TOUR event and first on the West Coast of the United States at this weekend's Northern Trust Open. Stricker takes over the lead in the FedExCup standings with 758 points, which is 226 more than fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas. Stricker has led the FedExCup standings during the regular season only once before – for one week following the 2009 British Open.


Team Titleist headed to Los Angeles early last week to check out the action at the Northern Trust Open. Click here to see some of the images we captured.

Stricker started the final round with a six-stroke lead. This was the largest lead he has held heading into the final round of a PGA TOUR event. His previous largest lead was five strokes at the 1996 Motorola Western Open, which he also won.

Prior to his final-round 70, Stricker had recorded nine consecutive rounds in the 60s this season – the final two rounds of the SBS Championship, all four rounds of the Sony Open and the first three rounds of the Northern Trust Open.

Stricker topped the field at the Northern Trust Open with 104 total putts and was T-10 in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation.

Stricker matched the record for consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Northern Trust Open at 8, previously set in 1981-82. He shot 69 in the final round of the 2008 event, 68-66-69-67 in 2009 and began the tournament with rounds of 67-65-66.

Stricker’s win makes him the fifth player in the event’s 84-year history to win the tournament the year after finishing second or T-2. The last time on the PGA TOUR that a player finished runner-up and then won the tournament the following year was Titleist Brand Ambassador Ryuji Imada at the 2007-08 AT&T Classic.

Stricker has held or shared a 54-hole lead nine previous times in his career – including this week – and has now gone on to win four of those events. He has never been over par on Sunday when he was the 54-hole leader. Stricker has won all three times when he has been the outright leader heading into the final round.

Stricker is coming off the best season of his career, having captured three PGA TOUR events (Crowne Plaza Invitational, John Deere Classic, Deutsche Bank Championship); he is one of just nine players since 2000 to win three or more times in a season.

Stricker is one of two players with top-10 finishes in the first two events of the season: T-10 at the SBS Championship and 3rd at the Sony Open. This is the first time Stricker has started his season with three consecutive top-10 finishes.

This is the largest margin of victory on the PGA TOUR since the 2009 TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. The last eight official PGA TOUR events (four of the 2009 Fall Series and four of the 2010 season) have been decided by one shot or in a playoff.

Luke Donald
Titleist Pro V1x loyalist Luke Donald moved into contention with a bogey-free 66 (-5) in Round 3. He followed with another 5-under-par 66 in his final round to finish solo second. This is Donald’s ninth consecutive start at the Northern Trust Open. He has finished in the top 10 the last three years: T-3 in 2008, T-6 in 2009 and 2nd in 2010.

J.B. Holmes
Titleist Pro V1x loyalist J.B. Holmes continued his solid play at Riviera Country Club and the Northern Trust Open as the only player in the field with all four rounds in the 60s, 68-69-67-67=271 (-13). The two-time PGA TOUR winner has finished in the top 10 in each of his past three appearances at Riviera with a T-7 in 2008, a T-6 in 2009 and a T-3 in 2010.

Alex Prugh
Titleist Pro V1x loyalist Alex Prugh, the leading rookie money-winner so far this season and ranked No. 13 in FedExCup points, finished T-10 this week. Prugh is the only player to post top-10 finishes in the three California PGA TOUR events this year – a fifth-place at the Bob Hope Classic, a T-5 at the Farmers Insurance Open, and a T-10 at the Northern Trust Open.

Jason Bohn
Titleist Brand Ambassador Jason Bohn posted five consecutive birdies during the final round en route to a 65 (-6). Bohn, who started Round 4 on the back nine, birdied 15, 16, 17, 18 and 1, matching the longest birdie streak of the season (set by six other players). He ended his round with a bogey on No. 9, but still vaulted up the leaderboard from a T-34 after Round 3 to a T-10. This is Bohn’s first top-10 finish since a T-2 at the 2009 Wyndham Championship in August.

Making his first start as a Nationwide Tour member, Titleist Brand Ambassador Robert Gates sealed a one-shot victory in the Michael Hill New Zealand Open over fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Andrew Dodt. Gates finished at 14-under 274 for the tournament, and became the 13th player to win in his Nationwide Tour debut. He began the 2010 season with full exempt status on the Nationwide Tour after finishing T-42 at the 2009 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, and the win extends his status on the Tour through 2011 and additionally gives him full exempt status on the PGA Tour of Australasia through 2012 should he wish to accept membership. Gates led from the first round of the Nationwide Tour season-opener and had extended his lead to six shots by the 8th hole in the final round, but some wayward shots combined with birdies from the Australian Dodt saw the pair equal at 14-under with two holes to play. Dodt found trouble on the 71st hole, however, and his double-bogey gave Gates his two-shot margin back heading to the final hole. Through the green in two shots, Gates made a clutch three-footer to get up-and-down for par after Dodt had made birdie, thus securing the one shot victory.


Titleist Brand Ambassador Robert Gates with the Michael Hill New Zealand Open trophy.

What's in Robert Gates' bag at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open: Ball: Pro V1x Driver: 909D3 (9.5°, UST Mamiya ATTAS 9X) Fairway: 909F3 (13��, Fujikura ZCOM Pro95 X) Irons: MB (4-PW, True Temper Project X 6.5) Wedges: Vokey Design Spin Milled C-C 252.08, Spin Milled C-C 256.14, Spin Milled C-C 60-V (all wedges with True Temper Project X 6.5) Putter: Scotty Cameron Tour Newport Fastback

Weekend Wrap-Up from the Worldwide Tours

PGA TouBen Crane Farmers Insurancer - Farmers Insurance Open:Titleist Pro V1x loyalist Ben Crane collected his third career PGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. The win vaulted Ben from 109th to 56th in the Official World Golf Ranking, putting him inside the coveted field of 64 for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The win was Crane's fourth top-ten finish in six starts at Torrey Pines, including a T-7 finish at the 2009 tournament.

Crane led the field in greens in regulation, hitting 87.5% for the week. 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Marc Leishman (T-2) was fourth in GIR, hitting 79.2%.

Michael Sim (T-2) was the best putter last week at Torrey Pines, averaging 27.3 putts per round and 1.596 putts per greens in regulation with his Scotty Cameron Newport Squareback.

Tour rookie Rickie Fowler (T-5) made his first start at the Farmers Insurance Open, but not at Torrey Pines. He played the 2008 United States Open as an amateur, finishing T-60.

PGA Tour rookie and Pro V1x loyalist Alex Prugh should circle this week on his calendar every year. He finished in a tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open this year and was hoisting the trophy at the Nationwide Tour's Michael Hill New Zealand Open in 2009.

Rookie Troy Merritt, 2009 PGA Tour Qualifying School medalist, has now fired six rounds in the 60s in his first 13 rounds on Tour. Merritt's T-15 finish followed up a T-63 at the Bob Hope Classic and T-20 at the Sony Open.

Brendon de Jonge (T-37) fired the only bogey-free round of the weekend when he posted a 70 during Saturday's third round.

 

Worldwide Tours:

Robert Karlsson won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, capping his comeback from an eye ailment that plagued him for most of the 2009 season. Karlsson's victory lifted him to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking. This was Robert's tenth European Tour victory and first since the Alfred Dunhill Links in October 2008.

Rookie Robert Gates won his very first Nationwide Tour start at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open. Gates started the 2010 season with full exempt status on the Nationwide Tour after finishing T-42 at the 2009 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Gates, who turned pro in 2008, played one other Tour event as a pro, finishing T-47 at the 2009 Valero Texas Open.

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