Family, business for Mickelson as busy stretch begins

By Associated PressJuly 27, 2011, 7:43 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Phil Mickelson’s initial impressions of West Virginia’s Greenbrier resort were about all things family.

A relaxed Mickelson was as eager to list the activities for his wife, Amy, and three children, as he was about taking on the retooled Old White TPC at the Greenbrier Classic beginning Thursday.

For starters, there was laser tag, climbing a wooden tower and maneuvering on a giant swing 45 feet in the air. There also were plans to interact with trained falcons and go white-water rafting.

“It’s an amazing place,” Mickelson said. “I can’t get over all the fun things that they have to do. My daughters are excited about the falconry. I don’t know where in the world you can do that.

“The golf is a bonus.”

Rather than take an extra week off, Mickelson is one of just two golfers among the top 20 in the world entered in the Greenbrier Classic, with Retief Goosen being the other.

It makes for a tough schedule that also will take Mickelson to next week’s Bridgestone Invitational five hours to the north in Akron, Ohio, followed by the PGA Championship in Atlanta, then the grueling FedEx Cup playoffs.

So far, having the loved ones along made the early part of the week seem a bit more like a vacation.

“To have an environment here that’s so family friendly, it makes it easy,” Mickelson said Wednesday.

Coming off a tie for second at the British Open, Mickelson can take over the FedEx Cup points lead with a win at the Greenbrier Classic. He’s currently fourth. Webb Simpson, at No. 9, is the only other golfer in the field in the top 10.

“I had a good tournament there at the British and I felt like I turned the corner,” Mickelson said. “I’m starting to put things together slowly, be a little bit more patient, enjoy my time on the course and be more creative hitting shots again. I’m excited about this next three-week stretch.”

Mickelson’s only impressions of the par-70 Old White before this week were from television, watching Stuart Appleby shoot 59 to win last year’s inaugural tournament at 22 under, a stroke better than Jeff Overton.

Mickelson will be in the same group as Appleby and Greenbrier pro emeritus Tom Watson for the first two rounds and plans to pay particular attention to the defending champion.

“I’ll probably watch a little bit how he plays this course,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson was paired in a pro-am Wednesday with Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, who made it one of his missions to lure Mickelson to this event.

“I like old-style golf courses,” Mickelson said. “I like courses that are fun to play, courses that you can make birdies, you can be aggressive on, you can recover if you make a mistake. And this course seems to suit that.”

It’s just not suitable for 59s anymore. The Old White has undergone significant changes since last year.

Fairways have been narrowed, bunkers have been added and the 97-year-old course has been lengthened more than 200 yards. A lake on No. 16 was expanded. The greens were reseeded with bentgrass and should be firmer and faster.

“It’s got to be, I think, between three and four shots harder than what it was for us Saturday and Sunday last year compared to today,” Appleby said. “You know, anyone shooting in the mid-teens I think would be a very good score.”

Especially for Appleby, who’s in another slump.

He’s missed nine cuts in his last 12 tournaments, was disqualified from the AT&T National for signing an incorrect scorecard and withdrew from the St. Jude’s Classic after shooting 8 over in the first round.

But he entered last year’s Greenbrier Classic in a slide too: he hadn’t won since 2006.

“You know, at this time last year, I was also very frustrated,” Appleby said. “The game works in weird ways.”

Watson missed last year’s tournament in order to compete in the U.S. Senior Open. He’s entered this year and joked that, given the course’s makeover, he’d like to play from the seniors’ tees.

“There’s not going to be any 59s shot,” Watson said. “The greens are a lot firmer. The ball is not going to stop. It’s going to take a lot of skill to get the ball close to the flag positions on these greens. It’s like playing the links greens where they really are hard and they release.”

Notes: The top 50 in the world rankings will earn exemptions into Bridgestone next week. Among those entered in the Greenbrier Classic and fighting for automatic spots are Ryan Palmer, who is 52nd and was the runner-up to Hunter Mahan at Bridgestone last year, and Webb Simpson at No. 53. Jonathan Byrd, at No. 50, also is entered. … Like Appleby last year, the winner of The Greenbrier Classic also will make the Bridgestone field if he hasn’t previously qualified. … The winner of the Greenbrier Classic will receive $1.08 million. It’s the final event for the top 70 on the PGA Tour money list to earn spots in the PGA Championship. The Greenbrier winner also earns an automatic exemption to the PGA Championship if he hadn’t already qualified. Among those still looking to get in are Jimmy Walker at No. 72 and Carl Pettersson at No. 73.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.