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Category: Diane Pucin

Humana Challenge: Dustin Johnson withdraws


Dustin Johnson, the world's eighth-ranked golfer, withdrew Friday after nine holes of his second round at the Humana Challenge golf tournament in La Quinta.

Johnson, who was playing in this event for the third time, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in  November; until he shot a first-round 72 Thursday on the PGA West Palmer Private course, he had not walked a full 18 holes since the operation.

The 27-year-old, who ranked fifth on the 2011 money-winner list with one win and six top-10 finishes, was four-over par through nine holes Friday at the La Quinta Country Club course when he decided to withdraw.


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-- Diane Pucin in  La Quinta

Photo: Dustin Johnson watches his approach shot on the first hole during the first round of the Humana Challenge on Thursday. Credit: Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Humana Challenge: Phil Mickelson unlikely to make cut


Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Humana Challenge golf tournament in La Quinta, formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, has a double bogey, a bogey, three birdies and four pars on the first nine holes of his second round Friday.

Mickelson is playing the PGA West Nicklaus course, and his tournament total of two-over-par leaves him, so far, tied for 135th and not looking good to make the cut after Saturday's third round, much less to win his opening tournament of 2012.

Ben Crane, who has finished in the top 10 here only once in eight appearances, has the hot round of the day so far. He's six-under through 13 holes on the PGA West Palmer course and is 13-under for the tournament, two shots ahead of David Toms, who was a co-leader with Camilo Villegas after the first round. Villegas is one-under so far and is now three shots out of the lead at 10-under for the tournament.

Harris English, a PGA Tour rookie who earned his card by finishing tied for 13th at the tour qualifying tournament, is also working on a round of six-under. He's through nine holes on the PGA West Nicklaus course and is tied for eighth overall.


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-- Diane Pucin in La Quinta

Photo: Phil Mickelson. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images.

Humana Challenge: Double heart transplant recipient on leaderboard

Erik Compton, the 32-year-old who has had two heart transplants, is playing his first full season on the PGA Tour. Compton, from Miami, finished tied for 67th at the Sony Open in Hawaii last week. The tournament had two cuts and Compton was in danger of missing both.

He finished with a birdie-eagle to make the first cut then made a 10-foot birdie putt on Saturday to make a final cut that allowed him to play the fourth round.

Compton is tied for ninth through 11 holes at the first round of the Humana Challenge Thursday. Compton is playing on the Nicklaus Private PGA West Course in La Quinta. Here is a Times story from last year on Compton and his relentless ability to fulfill his golf desires even in the face of difficult physical challenges.

Camilo Villegas, a 30-year-old from Colombia, so far holds a two-shot lead over the field with his seven-under through 12 holes. He's also playing the Nicklaus Private Course.

Two-time winner Phil Mickelson, making his first appearance here in five years, is tied for 25th and two-under through 11 holes at La Quinta Country Club.

-- Diane Pucin in La Quinta

Photo: Erik. Compton. Credit: Marco Garcia / Associated Press.

Matt Kuchar has new sponsors, later start in season


The Humana Challenge golf tournament -- formerly the Bob Hope Classic -- begins today in La Quinta at the Palmer Private Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Private at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club. The new sponsor, Humana, has filled the days leading up to the tournament with free clinics and lectures on how to live healthy. There was even a demonstration Wednesday on how you could ride a special bike and make smoothies at the same time. And who doesn't like smoothies.

Also omnipresent is former President Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Foundation will also be a beneficiary of money raised this week. Clinton has been schmoozing with golfers and hosting dinners, and now he'll be mingling.

Overlooked in this story of change is the fact that some good golfers are here. Clinton's personal phone calls drew Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, but world No. 8 Dustin Johnson is going to try out his surgically repaired knee, and world No. 11 Matt Kuchar decided to kick off his 2012 season here instead of Hawaii.

In the past Kuchar, 33, has come to practice in the desert, then gone to Hawaii to start the PGA Tour season. "This year I took extra time off," Kuchar said, "because the off-season was extra short because of the President's Cup being in the middle of November. I've been out here a week now and I'm excited."

Kuchar didn't start playing golf until he was 12. He was a tennis player and a huge fan of Boris Becker when he was growing up in Orlando. His parents got an upgraded membership at a country club that included golf, and Kuchar discovered he was more likely to be like Jack Nicklaus than Becker.

This is Kuchar's sixth consecutive appearance here. His best finishes here came as a tie for second two years ago and a tie for seventh last year.

Kuchar was set to tee off this morning from the first tee at PGA West with pro Jerry Kelly and amateurs David Grieve and Julius Erving.

Mickelson, a two-time winner here, teed off at 8:50 from the first tee at La Quinta Country Club with pro Steve Marino.

Actors Craig T. Nelson and Morgan Freeman and singers Michael Bolton, Alice Cooper and Smokey Robinson are among the notable amateurs playing.

Kuchar is the fourth-highest ranked American golfer in the world, and he has signed on with a new sponsor, Grey Goose Vodka,  which is also the sponsor  of a new Golf Channel show, "Grey Goose 19th Hole." The talk show, hosted by Lara Baldesarra, will debut Jan. 26, and Kuchar will be a guest.


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-- Diane Pucin in  La Quinta

Photo: Matt Kuchar. Credit: Dean Lewins. European Press Agency.

Dustin Johnson joins Mickelson, Norman at Humana Challenge


Big-hitting Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am who tied for second at the British Open last year, will play next week at the Humana Challenge.

The tournament, held on three courses in La Quinta, has already announced that Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman will be in the field.

Johnson, currently ranked eighth in the world, will make his 2012 season debut at the Humana Challenge. Johnson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in November. This will be his third appearance at the event. He tied for 12th in 2008 and tied for 66th in 2009.

Even with his knee troubles, Johnson ended his fourth full PGA season last fall with a fourth-place finish at the FedEx Cup. Also last year Johnson won his fifth PGA Tour event at the Barclays tournament, a FedEx Cup event that was shortened to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene.

He also finished third last year at the Farmers Insurance Open in Torrey Pines.

The Humana Challenge begins Thursday.


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-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Dustin Johnson reacts after sinking a par putt to halve the 18th hole and finish tied in a Presidents Cup match in November. Credit: Scott Halleran / Getty Images

USA Gymnastics announces Olympic selection procedures

Usag_logo_200No waiting around this year.

For the first time since the 2000 Olympics, gymnasts and fans will know, soon after the USA Gymnastics Olympic trials June 28-July 1 in San Jose, which five men and five women will represent the U.S. in London at the 2012 Olympics.

For both the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. women produced silver-medal-winning teams and the gold-medal-winning all-around champion, the women had to attend a camp at the Texas ranch of team coordinator Martha Karolyi. Before the Beijing Games four years ago, selected girls had to compete in a two-day mini-meet at the ranch after trials and just before the team left for Beijing. It was at the ranch where the final selection was made.

"Basically, it comes down to timing," USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said from London on Wednesday. Penny is attending a gymnastics test event at the London Olympic facility. "The bottom line is the timing is conducive to selecting a full team because there are only a few weeks between the dates of our trials and the Olympic Games. We're very excited about the fact we'll leave San Jose with full teams."

This will benefit NBC, which is televising the trials and will have the announcement live.

The selection procedures for the men's and women's teams are different. The men will use scores from the national championships June 7-10 in St. Louis and the Olympic trials and the top two scorers make the five-man team as long as they are also in the top three on three of the six individual events men compete in.

Continue reading »

Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman to play Humana Challenge


Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman were announced Friday as being in the field for the 2012 Humana Challenge golf tournament on Jan. 19-22 in La Quinta.

Norman, a two-time British Open champion, and Mickelson ,who has won four major tournaments including three Masters titles, the most recent in 2010, join a field that will also include defending champion Jhonattan Vegas, 2011 FedExCup champion and 2010 event champion Bill Haas, 2001 PGA Championship winner David Toms and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.

Norman has played in the tournament previously known as the Bob Hope Classic just once, in 1986. He last played in the Coachella Valley in the 2001 Skins Game, in which he shut out Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik to take home the event’s entire $1-million purse.

Mickelson won this tournament in 2002 and 2004, both times in playoffs, and he is one of only seven players to have won it more than once.

For the third consecutive year, the $5.6-million tournament will take place entirely within La Quinta, where players will compete for a $1.008 million winner’s check at La Quinta Country Club and the Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses at PGA West.

The purse and winner’s check are the largest in event history. The event has been shortened from 90 to 72 holes.


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-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Phil Mickelson hits out of bunker during Presidents Cup play in Australia. Credit: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images / November 20, 2011

UCLA basketball: Bruins hold off Pennsylvania, 77-73


UCLA used a series of mini-runs in the second half to pull away, then hung on for a much-needed victory Saturday, beating Pennsylvania of the Ivy League, 77-73, at Honda Center.

The Bruins (3-5) had spurts of 6-0 and 5-0 in the second half and withstood the shooting barrage from Tyler Bernardini, a senior guard for the Quakers (5-6), who led all scorers with a career-high 29 points.

Bernardini, from San Diego, drew Penn to within four points with a three-pointer that cut what had been a 14-point UCLA lead to 71-67 with under three minutes left.

Lazeric Jones responded with a floating jump shot in the lane to put UCLA up by six, and the Quakers couldn't get closer than five until Rob Belcore's three-pointer with about two seconds to play accounted for the game's final points. A Bernardini three-point attempt rimmed out with about 20 seconds left and UCLA ahead, 75-70.

Jones led UCLA with 21 points.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Bruins guard Lazeric Jones (11) sets up the offense against Penn and guard Zack Rosen in the first half Saturday at Honda Center. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire

UCLA leads Penn at halftime, 39-35

UCLA broke a 21-21 tie with back-to-back three-pointers from Lazeric Jones and freshman Norman Powell, and the Bruins held onto the lead going into halftime, ahead of the Penn Quakers, 39-35, Saturday at the Honda Center.

Jerime Anderson made a three-point shot to give the Bruins a 21-18 lead, but Penn's Rob Belcore responded with a long-distance shot to tie the score. Jones led the Bruins with 13 first-half points.

Penn guard Tyler Bernardini, a senior from Carlsbad and Francis Cartwright High, did Jones one better, scoring 14 first-half points.

The Bruins made six of their 11 three-point shots in the first half.

-- Diane Pucin

Reeves Nelson dismissed from UCLA basketball team

NelsonReeves Nelson, UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder a year ago, and a Sports Illustrated cover subject on its basketball issue two months ago, has been dismissed from the UCLA basketball team, Coach Ben Howland announced Friday.

Nelson, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from Modesto, was in the process of serving his second suspension of this season when he and Howland met Friday after Nelson finished final exams.

"After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA men's basketball team effective immediately," Howland said in a statement.

Both suspensions this season had come because of insubordinate behavior. In what turned out to be his final game for UCLA last Saturday, a 69-59 loss to Texas, Nelson spent the entire second half on the bench and was seen laughing and pointing to a small group of people in the crowd at the Sports Arena that was chanting his name near the end of the game.

Tuesday, a day after Nelson was suspended for the second time, Howland said there were defined things Nelson needed to do to begin practicing and playing again.

"He needs to stay consistent," Howland said.  "The last time he was suspended, when we did bring him back, he had the best practice the first practice, the first day back. Last week’s practices, he was falling back into the same habits.

"It's definitely a distraction and we don’t need any distractions. It’s tough enough to come together without being distracted. It’s a tough situation with them (the team) because many of them are close friends with Reeves off the floor."

UCLA (2-5) plays its next game at 4 p.m. Saturday against Pennsylvania at the Honda Center.


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-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Reeves Nelson. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

UCLA's Norman Powell hospitalized

NormanNorman Powell, a freshman guard for the struggling UCLA basketball team, suffered an allergic reaction during practice Wednesday and was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center according to a release from the school. Powell will be kept overnight for observation and will not practice Thursday.

Powell is averaging 4.6 points a game and has played in all seven of UCLA's games. The Bruins (2-5) play Saturday against Pennsylvania at Honda Center.

They are already missing last year's leading scorer and rebounder, Reeves Nelson, who is currently serving his second suspension of this season for issues regarding his conduct while with the team. On Tuesday, Coach Ben Howland had said it was unlikely Nelson would be reinstated before Saturday's game and would not be practicing with the team unless he was reinstated.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: UCLA's Norman Powell scores ahead of Middle Tennessee's James Gallman, right, during the Bruins' loss on Nov. 15. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images



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