Doral Again Draws Top Players - COPIED

By Associated PressMarch 2, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 Ford Championship at DoralMIAMI -- Phil Mickelson has a hard time forgetting the bitter end to his duel at Doral with Tiger Woods.
 
He was just off the 18th green, facing a 30-foot birdie chip to force a playoff at worst, and possibly win the best showdown of the year. The chip came off perfectly, ran true toward the cup and then broke sharply across the hole and spun out of the right side. Woods made his 6-foot par putt to win.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to his victory over Phil Mickelson in last year's Ford Championship.
Mickelson might be able to put that out of his mind if he wouldn't turn on the TV in his room at Doral.
 
'Unfortunately, they have the video running on one of the channels here at the hotel, so I get to see it every night,' he said Wednesday. 'Isn't that great?'
 
It was great theater, no doubt.
 
This generation of golf rarely produces such duels between the top players, with such a fine line between so much talent. The Ford Championship at Doral got one of the moments that are sheer magic, and it produced a buzz that even drowned out the parade of jetliners descending over the Blue Monster.
 
Woods reached the 12th green with a 3-wood that traveled 293 yards in the air to make eagle. Mickelson fired back with consecutive birdies to catch him. Each made 27 birdies in four days, and Woods got the last one, a 30-footer on the 17th that was the difference in his victory.
 
Rare as that was, odds are in Doral's favor of that happening again because of sheer numbers.
 
Nine of the top 10 players from the world ranking are gathered at the Blue Monster, a course that favors power hitters with lush fairways that don't have a lot of roll and rough that is thicker than last year, but still not terribly troublesome for players with a wedge in their hands.
 
Vijay Singh tied for third last year. Also in the field is Ernie Els, who joins Woods as the defending champion because the Big Easy won the last time he was at Doral in 2002. That was another showdown of sorts, although Els played in the group ahead of Woods. He saw an eight-shot lead dwindle to one before Els pulled away.
 
Anyone ready for an encore?
 
'I would love to get in that position again,' Mickelson said. 'I want to have a chance to win the tournament, obviously. It would be great if I had a chance to go head-to-head with Tiger. It would be great to have a chance to go head-to-head with anybody in the top 10.'
 
Woods gets those opportunities more often than most.
 
There was that incredible matchup with Els at Kapalua in 2000, as good a show this side of the majors. He has gone up against Singh in the final round at the '03 American Express (which he won) and the '04 Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston (which he lost). He was tied for the lead with Retief Goosen at the '02 Masters, where the Goose finished three shots behind and asked if he got green trousers for finishing second.
 
Woods said the view is different from inside the ropes. Mickelson was just another player he was trying to beat, even if the volume was cranked up and the cheers were evenly divided.
 
'You could care less,' he said. 'You're just trying to post a low number and try to beat your opponent. You're just in your own little world, and you're trying to handle your business. Afterwards? Yeah, you can reminisce over what happened, but not when you're in it.'
 
Some of his most dramatic duels have come against unheralded players, whether it was Bob May at the PGA Championship in 2000 or Chris DiMarco last year at the Masters or Grant Waite at the 2000 Canadian Open.
 
Woods was quick to point out that the top five players often are atop the leaderboard at the majors, even if they aren't there at the same time, or in the final group on Sunday.
 
Recent history bears that out.
 
The Big Five has won 15 of the last 24 majors dating to 2000. And even in those majors where someone else wins, there have been only four times that one of the Big Five was not at least the runner-up.
 
'You've seen myself, Mickelson, Goose, Ernie or Vijay, generally one of us five in just about every major championship down the stretch,' Woods said. 'Whether or not we can separate outselves and go one-on-one, it's a totally different story.'
 
Woods and Mickelson were five shots clear of anyone else last year, which made it a different story, indeed.
 
And while Woods says he was too wrapped up in winning to care about whom he was beating, the satisfaction clearly goes to a higher level.
 
What got Mickelson more fired up? Going against Woods at Doral last year, or beating Skip Kendall in a playoff at the Bob Hope Classic?
 
'I don't know how to answer that,' Mickelson said. 'What I try to do is hit the shots where I can make birdies. But certainly, it seems as though when I'm playing against Tiger, playing against Ernie or Vijay or Retief, I've got to shoot low scores and make more birdies than against some guys that have won.'
 
Goosen has been in that position.
 
He beat Mark Brooks in the U.S. Open playoff at Southern Hills. And while they weren't in the final group, Goosen beat Mickelson to win the U.S. Open two years ago Shinnecock Hills.
 
'It doesn't make much difference who it is,' Goosen said.
 
But then he thought back to Shinnecock Hills, where the New York gallery was so squarely behind Mickelson that 'it felt like I was playing with him.'
 
'You always get more pleasure if you beat great players,' Goosen said.
 
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  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.