Double Defense for Tiger - and a Hangover

By Associated PressMarch 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipMIAMI -- Not even Tiger Woods was sure how he would introduce himself on the first tee at Doral, only that the words 'defending champion' would be appropriate in some capacity.
 
But defending champion of what?
 
Or is it where?
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had some sand issues in Wednesday's practice round. (WireImage)
Woods has won the last two years on the Blue Monster, beating Phil Mickelson in a terrific duel in 2005, then holding off David Toms to win by one shot the following season. Both those victories came at regular PGA TOUR events featuring a 144-man field.
 
Now this is called the CA Championship, and it's a World Golf Championship with a 73-man field.
 
It used to be known as the American Express Championship, and Woods has won that tournament the last two years, too. He beat John Daly in a playoff at Harding Park in 2005, then blew away his alleged competition at The Grove outside London last fall to win by eight.
 
'Multiple defending champion?' Woods asked as he walked out the door. 'Have I ever done that? I don't know. Go look it up.'
 
No matter how anyone looks at it, he figures to be a strong favorite when the tournament begins Thursday. The debate is whether his advantage stems from being at Doral or being at a World Golf Championship.
 
Woods practically owns the WGC events, especially this format that invites the top 50 in the world ranking and leading money winners from the six major tours around the world.
 
The CA Championship, name change notwithstanding, is one of three tournaments he has won five times. The others are the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
 
What makes this one more unique is he has won on five courses in four countries -- Valderrama in Spain (1999), Mount Juliet in Ireland (2002), Capital City Club in Atlanta (2003), Harding Park and The Grove.
 
Why so much success?
 
'I don't know. He just plays well at them, I guess,' Sergio Garcia said. 'You ask him and let me know.'
 
It helps to have fewer players to beat. Only 73 players have qualified this week, and some of them -- Pram Meesawat of Thailand and Anton Haig of South Africa -- are making their U.S. debut in professional golf.
 
But if that were the case, it would be easier on everybody.
 
'Usually, that's how many are here once they make a cut,' Toms said.
 
No doubt, the tournament is different this year. Doral usually leads off the Florida Swing, and this year it's in the clean-up spot. Instead of players just starting to think about the Masters, the first major is right around the corner.
 
Toms noticed something else during his practice round on the Blue Monster -- quiet.
 
There was no pro-am, so players were able to play practice whenever they wanted. And all 73 are guaranteed a paycheck this week because the WGCs have no cut.
 
'Even though it's a very important event and very big event, it seems like guys approach it a little more low-key,' Toms said. 'I don't know if it's because there's no cut or they have got that guaranteed check or whatever it might be. It has a nice atmosphere to it.'
 
Woods had his own atmosphere Wednesday morning.
 
The size of his gallery was only about 300 people, and their attention was divided inside and outside the ropes. They had their choice between the No. 1 golfer in the world playing a practice round, and the No. 1 tennis player in the world watching him.
 
Roger Federer walked the back nine with Woods, both IMG clients who struck up a friendship last summer and had dinner Tuesday night on Woods' yacht. Woods said he will be in Key Biscayne on Saturday night when Federer plays his first match in the Sony Ericsson Open.
 
'It was great to have him out here,' Woods said. 'I think he's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery.'
 
Federer even got a chance to see Woods hit a tee shot into the water.
 
He missed the ending of Bay Hill last week, which has been somewhat of a hangover for Woods. Trying to catch the leaders, he took two double bogeys and a triple bogey on the back nine on his way to a 43 for a final round 76.
 
It was particularly ugly at the end -- Woods took bogey on the 16th, hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th for a double bogey, then hit his approach into the lake next to the 18th green for a triple bogey.
 
'But the other 69 holes, I made some mistakes along the way that I need to rectify,' Woods said. 'You can't look at it just one hole, one shot. Because I made too many mistakes throughout the entire tournament that going into Sunday, I probably should have been right next to the lead, if not leading.'
 
Woods said some of those errors were club selection on some of the holes, what he hit off the tee, his approach shots.
 
'I kept making silly mistakes -- mistakes I don't normally make,' he said.
 
That would be the second straight tournament that he erred on the mental side, coming off a third-round loss in the Accenture Match Play Championship when he said he failed to detect a ball mark in the line of a 4-foot putt against Nick O'Hern.
 
Those are issues he will want to sort out with the Masters only two weeks away.
 
Given his history at Doral -- and this tournament -- it might not be a bad time for him to fix it.
 
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    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • 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.