Tuesday, November 17, 2009

McDowell, Poulter, Fisher named in Shark Shootout line-up

Tournament host Greg Norman has completed his annual puzzle of placing a collection of the best players in the world into two-man teams as the 21st annual Shark Shootout returns to Tiburón Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida from December 9-13.
One of those players will be Naples native George McNeill, who finished second in a play-off at the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Walt Disney World last weekend. For McNeill, who resides in Fort Myers and has one US Tour career victory, it was his second play-off appearance in four weeks.
"The Shark Shootout is a terrific year-end tournament, and has always featured a group of the game's best players," said McNeill, who graduated from North Fort Myers High School and attended Florida State University.
"The course at Tiburon is not far from where I live, so it will be exciting to play in front of a home-town crowd and be part of this elite field of great players. Greg Norman created a fantastic event which has done a lot for the charities involved over the years."
Since the field was announced last month, multiple players have withdrawn due to injury. Greg Norman, who will not compete as he recovers from shoulder surgery, will be in attendance all week as he fulfills his duties as tournament host.
Scott Hoch, one half of last year's championship team, is out with a wrist injury and Fred Funk will not be able to play due to knee surgery.
Along with McNeill, another addition will be Rickie Fowler, a 20-year-old with an impressive amateur career. Fowler turned professional this fall and finished in the top 10 in two of the three US Tour events he played during the last four weeks. One of those was a play-off loss in the Frys.com Open. He will be the youngest player in Shootout history to compete.
"I am obviously thrilled to be playing in The Shark Shootout. Greg Norman is one of the most dynamic players in our game's history and it is very exciting to be invited to play in an event that he hosts," said Fowler.
"In addition, I have learned we will be helping raise awareness and funds for CureSearch. It will be a pleasure for me to assist this organization and the tournament as they both seek ways to benefit the lives of children not as fortunate as me."
Brad Faxon also joins the field. The eight-time US Tour winner has won The Shark Shootout three times.
"When I was putting the final pieces together, I realised what a great group of players we have this year," said tournament host Greg Norman. "Overall, these players are talented professionals who are generous both on and off the golf course, not to mention fun to be around. I am confident fans and our television audience will enjoy the competition and the entertainment.
"Of course, at the end of the day, they all will be trying to win. When you factor in that 12 US Tour tournament titles this year alone have been won by this group and the fact that 12 of them are highly ranked in the world, the spirit of competition will be intense."
Southwest Florida sports fans will be joined by an international television audience to watch a collection of talent and character as golf's best battle it out for three days all while raising funds and awareness for CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation and other worthy charities.
Here is a quick look at the 12 teams striving to earn this year's title:
Fred Couples & Dustin Johnson: Couples, a three-time champion of the Shootout and Captain of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team last month, will join one of the hot young players on the US Tour. Johnson, a 26-year-old, has finished in the top 10 five times this year and captured the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for his second tour victory.
J B Holmes & Kenny Perry: These two Kentucky natives were 2008 Ryder Cup team-mates and huge fan favourites when the matches were played in Louisville. Together they hope to earn Perry a second-straight Shootout victory and certainly have the combined talent to do so.
Jerry Kelly & Steve Stricker: This team is in place for the second straight year, following a tie for fifth in 2008. Both are from Madison, Wis., and have combined for four victories on the US Tour this year. Stricker, No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, won three of those. Throw in the Shootout victory for Kelly with Rod Pampling here three years ago and this could be a dangerous team.
Ross Fisher & Ian Poulter: This pair of Englishmen each won international titles just a few weeks ago and both are ranked among the top 20 in the world. Fisher, who defeated Anthony Kim to win the Volvo World Match Play, is currently fourth on the European Tour's Order of Merit and finished fifth at the U.S. Open. Poulter, winner of eight international titles including the recent Singapore Open, was runner-up at the US Players' Championship this spring and was 4-1-0 in the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Justin Leonard & Scott Verplank: This formidable twosome is back together for the first time since 2006. That year they finished second, losing a playoff on the first extra hole to Jerry Kelly and Rod Pampling. This team has a history in The Presidents Cup as well, with partnerships in Foursomes and Four-ball.
Zach Johnson & Nick Price: These two major championship winners will be partners for the first time. Johnson enjoyed another great year on the US Tour, adding two more victories to his career total of six. Price, a World Golf Hall of Fame member and winner of 18 US Tour events, won his first Champions Tour title earlier this year.
George McNeill & Jeff Sluman: This pairing features a Shootout veteran and a Shootout rookie who certainly will be a crowd favorite. Both were Florida State University standouts. McNeill finished the year strong with a pair of runner-up finishes in playoffs and is 57th on the final TOUR money list. For Sluman, it was his second full year on the Champions Tour and included his third title in September.
Mark Calcavecchia & Brian Gay: Gay has been one of the hottest players on US Tour the past two years. Since his first tour win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in 2008, Gay added two more victories this year. While this will be Gay's first Shootout, Calcavecchia returns for a 15th start. The major champion winner, who has 13 US Tour titles to his credit, is also a two-time winner of The Shark Shootout. Both attended the University of Florida.
Chris DiMarco & Rickie Fowler: DiMarco, a three-time US Tour winner, has finished second in two major championships since 2005 and will provide experience for Fowler, who's playing in his first Shark Shootout. Fowler is certainly one of the hottest players coming into the week, with two top-10 finishes in three starts in the last month. The colourful Fowler, age 20, is the youngest player in Shootout history.
Chad Campbell & Tim Clark: This team could be the sleeper. Both have been playing well lately and will join forces for the first time at The Shark Shootout. Clark, a South African who lives in Arizona, was a top performer for the International Team in last month's Presidents Cup. Clark has five top-10 finishes on TOUR this year and is ranked fifth in scoring average. Campbell, a four-time winner from Texas, has been unlucky in two playoffs this year at the Masters and a month ago in Las Vegas.
Brad Faxon & Matt Kuchar: This pairing represents 10 career victories on the US Tour and a wealth of talent when it comes to putting. Kuchar is currently ranked 11th in that category and Faxon led in putting three times during his career. This marks the first time they will be paired together in any competition.
Graeme McDowell & Boo Weekley: These two individuals can be entertaining both on and off the golf course and should provide a good deal of interaction with the gallery. Both made their Ryder Cup debuts in 2008. McDowell, a former US college circuit player from Northern Ireland, had a 2-1-0 record for Europe and Weekley was 2-0-1 for the victorious U.S. team.
The Shark Shootout will once again feature a modified alternate shot format during the first round, a better ball Saturday and a final-round scramble.
Tickets for The Shark Shootout are now on sale. Orders can be placed several ways - calling 888-66-SHARK, online at www.thesharkshootout.com or by visiting Alf's Golf Shop in Naples, Lumpy's in Fort Myers or The Golf Shop at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

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