Duel in Dubai: Donald, McIlroy battle for title

By Associated PressDecember 6, 2011, 2:25 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After rallying to win the Hong Kong Open in dramatic fashion Sunday, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy brings plenty of momentum into this week’s showdown with world No. 1 Luke Donald for the European Tour money title.

The No. 2-ranked McIlroy knows it won’t be easy snatching the Race to Dubai title from current leader Donald. The 22-year-old Northern Irishman trails Donald by just under $1 million and must win the Dubai World Championship starting Thursday, and hope that Donald finishes outside the top nine – something the Englishman has done only three times on the European Tour this year.

“Still got a slim chance of trying to win the Race to Dubai and so it’s nice to just have that coming to the quick,” said McIlroy, whose Hong Kong win ensured the Race would come down to the final tournament.

“It’s going to be a tough task but I’ll give my best and it would be great to finish the year on a high.”

Donald is not the only golfer McIlroy has to worry about. He must also finish ahead of two of the hottest golfers on the European Tour right now - No. 3-ranked Lee Westwood, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, and No. 4 Martin Kaymer, who had birdies on the final nine of 12 holes to win the HSBC Championship last month to get his topsy-turvy season back on track.

And McIlroy has to overcome his own shaky fitness. He acknowledged he is still feeling some of the fatigue that hurt his play in the second and third rounds in Hong Kong. He said it might be the lingering effects of a virus he picked up in the past few months, though he said blood tests taken Monday to check his white blood cell count haven’t come back.

“I’m not energy wise where I want to be but I took a day off yesterday and took it easy,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent but I’m still able to go out and play 18 holes and try and give it my all.”

McIlroy said he took inspiration from his finish on Sunday – a come-from-behind victory which he clinched with a greenside bunker shot on the 18th – as well as his previous experience on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He finished fifth last year and third in 2009, though his 2009 finish cost him the Race to Dubai title when Westwood won the tournament and the money title.

“Hopefully, it won’t come down to having to hole a bunker shot at the last,” McIlroy joked. “But if it does, I know that I’ve done it before so I’m really looking forward to this week. It’s a golf course that I’ve had some success on the last couple of years with a third and fifth place.”

Donald said he wasn’t surprised that McIlroy had kept alive the Race to Dubai that features 52 tournaments on the European Tour. It sets up a dramatic finale at the $7.5 million Dubai World Championship, similar to the 2010 tournament in Dubai when Kaymer beat Graeme McDowell to win the money title and a year before that when Westwood blew away the field to win the title over McIlroy.

“I didn’t expect anything less from Rory,” Donald said after finishing seventh at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. “I knew he’d put the pressure on me and make it tough going. But I’ve still got a nice comfortable lead – he’s going to have to go out and win next week and beat a high quality field, and I think the advantage is still in my court.”

The tournament normally features the tour’s 60 top money earners, but Justin Rose pulled out as his wife is expecting their second child and Fredrik Jacobson will not be playing because of injury. No players will replace them.

Donald, who has the chance to make history by adding the European money title to the PGA Tour title he already has won, knows what it’s like to be in McIlroy’s shoes. Donald’s scintillating finish to win Disney’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic snatched the U.S. money title from Webb Simpson and put him on course for unprecedented success on both money lists.

“I turned on the scores and saw Rory was having a good day and some of the other guys ahead of him weren’t putting too much pressure on him,” Donald said. “So he did what he needed to do and won the tournament. It was the same in Disney, except this time I have a lead, so I hope I can hold on to the lead.”

Arriving Tuesday in Dubai, Donald’s tweet indicated he may be starting to feel the pressure. “Just got to Dubai, With Rory, Lee and Tiger winning, feeling a bit ganged up on!!”

Kaymer said he felt it would be a good battle but he predicted that Donald would come out ahead.

“With Rory and Luke, it’s exciting. It’s almost the same – almost the same that we had last year with Greame and me,” Kaymer said. “But I don’t really believe that Luke will have a bad week. The way he played golf the last few months … So I think it would be very difficult for Rory but I’m sure he will be aggressive and try and do everything to try and win, and then that puts a little bit of pressure on Luke for the weekend.”

Westwood also favors Donald, though he welcomed the duel, saying it was a great way to cap what has been “a very good year” for the European Tour.

“All the top players have played pretty well this year, been successful in the major championships,” Westwood said. “So yeah, I think it has been a very good year. I think that’s part of the reason why the money has not dropped. I don’t want to say we give value for money because we are playing for a lot of money. But it’s certainly a good brand and a good product, the European Tour, at the moment.”

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and 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.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: