Disney Not Held on Mickey Mouse Course

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World ResortLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The train whistle blows every 30 minutes across the street at the Magic Kingdom. Players still spend half their time on the golf course, the other half standing in line with their kids at Space Mountain.
 
The Funai Classic at Disney appears to be the same as ever, with one notable change.
 
It no longer is played on a Mickey Mouse course.
 
The Magnolia course has been stretched to 7,516 yards, the latest tournament that figures the most viable way to challenge the best players is by making a course longer.
 
They just dont get it, Frank Lickliter said Wednesday.
 
Grow the rough. Tighten the fairways.
 
What irritated the folks at Disney was seeing players hit wedge into the 455-yard 18th hole, which architect Joe Lee intended to be played with a middle iron. At least in the practice round, they got their wish.
 
Vijay Singh, one of the few players to embrace the 326 additional yards, hit 6-iron into the final three holes during his practice round Wednesday. He used to hit sand wedge on some of them.
 
Its not a matter of liking it, Singh said. It needed some sort of a change, and hitting sand wedges on the last two holes, wedge on the last hole ... doesnt make it a good finish. I think its good. I think its very fair.
 
If players want a break, they still get one day at the Palm course.
 
The Funai Classic at Disney, which starts Thursday with Ryan Palmer as the defending champion, is a pro-am the first two days on the Palm and Magnolia courses, with the final two rounds of the Mag.
 
The tournament has had an odd collection of winners over the last dozen years'from Tiger Woods (twice) to Bob Burns, from Singh to Duffy Waldorf. One thing they all had in common was shooting low scores.
 
Palmer is not related in the least to Arnold Palmer, but he made a back-nine charge that would have done Arnie proud, closing with four straight birdies for a 10-under 62. He finished at 22-under 266, and that tied for the worst score to win at Disney in the last five years.
 
Is length the answer?
 
Woods, who will put the latest Nike driver in play this week, isnt so sure.
 
Look at some of the golf courses where weve had from single digits under par, maybe 10 under par, on the shortest golf courses we play all year, he said.
 
One of those was two weeks ago at Harding Park in San Francisco, which measured a scant 7,086 yards as a par 70. Woods beat John Daly on the second playoff hole. Most players point to Hilton Head with its winding fairways and tiny greens. Its a 6,973-yard par 71, and Peter Lonard won at 7-under 277.
 
Soggy fairways have made the course play even longer'and perhaps tougher.
 
More than the length, its the fact that every ball is backing up, Woods said. Every ball picked up mud. Thats the hardest thing in the world. You can have length, and you can have longer shots to the green, but if you dont have a clean ball, it makes for a very difficult golf shot.
 
Woods, Singh and Retief Goosen highlight the field at Disney, with Woods still entertaining hopes of breaking the single-season earnings mark of $10.9 million, set last year by Singh. He is just under $1 million short with two tournaments left, Disney and the Tour Championship in two weeks at East Lake.
 
The key this week is not to lose ground while playing the easier Palm course, which has stayed the same at 7,015 yards and has a par 5 that is 495 yards'shorter than the par-5 ninth on the Mag (500 yards).
 
The difference in the courses will be more pronounced this year, Charles Howell III said.
 
Howell is coming off a tie for fifth last week in Las Vegas that moved him up 12 spots to No. 30 on the money list, giving him a good chance to get into the Tour Championship. He was on the practice range pounding his driver so far that one bounced into a golf cart on the other end of the range, more than 300 yards away.
 
That should come in handy at the Mag because of the extra length.
 
Its unbelievable the difference, Howell said. The big one to me is No. 5, which was a tough par 4 before. I dont think it needed any length, but it got it.
 
The fifth hole, a dogleg to the right, is 44 yards longer and now measures 480 yards. The idea was to bring some of the strategic mounding back into play, but what it mostly changes is club selection.
 
I hit a pretty good drive today, and killed a 1-iron to get it on the green, Robert Gamez said.
 
The tournament might be more challenging, but its still a peaceful week for just about everyone except those still grinding to either keep their PGA Tour cards or get into the Tour Championship. The Magic Kingdom is not far away, and even those who live in the area stay at Disney to be close to the theme parks.
 
Its just a great, relaxing week, Chris DiMarco said. But now that theyve added 500 yards to it, its not as relaxing as it used to be.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.