Els Goosen Close in on Singh

By Associated PressApril 13, 2002, 4:00 pm
On a soggy mess of a course, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen signaled they're not just going to let Vijay Singh run away with the Masters.
Els birdied three holes and eagled another as the second round resumed at Augusta National, pushing him to 7-under-par Saturday morning.
Goosen, the U.S. Open champion, knocked a shot into the water at the par-5 13th and wound up taking bogey on a hole that usually provides at least a birdie chance.
But the South African bounced right back with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, making him 7-under, too.
Singh, the 2000 Masters winner, put himself right where he wants to be in pursuit of a second green jacket. He finished his round Friday before the rains struck, overpowering the back nine for a 7-under 65, his best round ever in the tourney.
'I just feel like I'm playing a lot better now than I did two years ago,'' Singh said. ``That in itself should carry me through, if I keep playing the same way.''
One thing about Singh: It's not very likely he'll tumble backward this weekend. The 39-year-old Fijian has won seven out of the 14 times he's held the lead going into the weekend, and he has never finished lower than fourth.
The rest of the field will have to chase down this consummate front-runner.
A deluge forced postponement of the second round with 38 players still on the course Friday. The rain lasted into Saturday morning, pushing back the scheduled 7:45 a.m. restart by another 1 hour, 20
The stormy weather created some improbable scenes at pristine Augusta National. Pine straw covered the walking paths across the fairway, and muddy sand was spread between the clubhouse and the 18th hole.
``It's a shame to see the course so destroyed,'' Jerry Kelly said.
Still, thousands of fans turned out to see Arnold Palmer's farewell tour. He returned Saturday to play his final six holes.
``The sun's going to be shining in a little bit,'' Palmer said to the gallery.
``He wishes,'' a patron quipped.
Palmer was playing his 147th and final round at the Masters, saying goodbye to an army of fans who saluted the four-time champion on just about every step around the course.
The King made it to the weekend in his 48th Masters, even though his mammoth score - 28-over with one hole to play - was no longer being posted on the boards.
It didn't matter.
'This place won't be the same without him,'' two-time winner Ben Crenshaw said.
Defending champion Tiger Woods was among those who had to go back on the course to finish the second round Saturday. He had birdies at the 13th and 15th holes to get to 5-under, four strokes behind Singh.
Woods is trying to become only the third player to repeat as Masters champion. Singh, on the other hand, came in with low expectations.
``I didn't have any pressure on me,'' Singh said. ``All the talk was about the other guys. I thought, 'That's great. I'm just going to go out there and play my game.'''
Singh's round, which featured an eagle and two birdies over the final four holes, was his best score at the Masters, but not his best at Augusta National.
Curious about the sweeping changes that added 285 yards, Singh got his first look at revamped Augusta a month ago during a practice round. He made 10 birdies in a round of 63.
``You shoot a low number like that on a practice day and you say, 'Wow! That wasn't that difficult.' It kind of eased my mind a
little,'' he said.
International players dominated the leaderboard on the new Augusta, which didn't get a chance to strike back at all those guys who used to reach for their wedges on the par-4s.
The rain softened those notorious greens, though it also filled the fairways with puddles in the morning and small rivers in the afternoon.
``I think the golf course is playing as susceptible to birdies as it can,'' said Phil Mickelson, one of the few Americans in contention at 141. ``It is understandable that Vijay could shoot 65.''
Among those who finished Friday, Ireland's Padraig Harrington (70), Spain's Sergio Garcia (71) and Argentina's Angel Cabrera (71) were at 139 overall.
Mickelson was among eight players who had a share of the lead at one point Friday, although his four birdies were offset by four bogeys in a round of 72 that left him six strokes off the lead.
Singh was helped by the soft, calm conditions, and by his playing partner, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, who set a Masters record by making birdies on his first five holes.
``It's good to play with somebody who is making so many birdies,'' Singh said. ``It kind of carries you along a little bit.''
Bjorn finished with a 67 and was in the group at 141, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, who shot a 71.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x