Bienvenidos a Mexico PGA TOUR

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico -- PGA TOUR players are about to discover what colleague Esteban Toledo and thousands of tourists have known for years: Playing 18 holes in Mexico can be as enjoyable as a cold margarita on a hot afternoon.
 
The PGA TOUR is making its debut south of the border this week with the Mayakoba Golf Classic in an area known as the Riviera Maya. Fittingly enough, the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon golf course playing host to the event was built for tourists.
 
For all its natural beauty, the course might not challenge the pros too much, unless there's a stiff enough wind off the Caribbean Sea. Still, no matter how low the scores go, having them posted aqui -- here -- is what matters most to Mexicans.
 
'The whole country is excited,' said Toledo, a native of Mexicali and among the nation's more successful golfers. 'All the Mexican people see the best players on TV. Now they're seeing them for real, in their own country. This is the biggest thing that can happen for golf in Mexico. I'm really, really surprised we haven't had it before.'
 
Despite the history being made, this event isn't even getting top billing on this week's PGA TOUR calendar.
 
The world's top 64 players are at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. Some others stayed away out of concerns about the course, the country and other unknowns that come with any first-time event.
 
For the most part, lines at customs have been short and other issues have been minimal. The weather has cooperated, too, going from cool and cloudy on Monday to the kind of crystal blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures shown in commercials on Tuesday.
 
'All the players I've been talking to, they're excited, they're very happy,' Toledo said. 'It's not Pebble Beach, but it's just wonderful. It's the best golf course that I've ever played in Mexico.'
 
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem and Norman attended a news conference Tuesday to help kick off the week's events. They were upstaged, though, by Salvador Linares, the director general of construction for developer OHL, a Spain-based company.
 
Speaking in Spanish, Linares requested 'constructive criticism' from the media, adding with a hearty laugh that no one should '(expletive) with us.' He later said his goal was for 'these gringos to go back home and tell everyone we can do it as well as they can.'
 
Finchem and Norman heard the barbs through a translator and laughed along, knowing what a character Linares can be. Finchem responded at the end of his opening remarks by saying, 'Salvador, I'm quite certain that we gringos will go back saying, 'Yes, indeed, they can do it just as well as we can.''
 
Billed as the PGA TOUR's Cancun event, the tournament actually is being held in another part of the Quintana Roo state, south of Cancun and just north of Playa del Carmen, in a resort community called Mayakoba that features jungles, exotic animals and a unique underground water system.
 
The Norman-designed course and the first of five hotels planned for the area opened in late 2005, a few months after Hurricane Wilma tore through.
 
The 7,000-plus-yard layout of El Cameleon features two oceanside holes and a cave-like cenote, a natural underground passageway that connects a giant opening on the middle of the first fairway (known as 'Devil's Mouth') to a less-noticeable opening between the second hole and third tee box.
 
The TOUR is under contract to return here through 2012, so it's possible the less-than-perfect timing of this year's event was intentional, making it somewhat of a dress rehearsal. How things go, on and off the course for the golfers and their families, could determine where the tournament lands on the 2008 calendar.
 
Toledo expects a primo date.
 
'I think the word is going to spread,' he said. 'I guarantee you there will be huge names next year. I guarantee it. The whole package here is just fantastic.'
 
Related Links:
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.