Four Please Woods Doubles Doral Lead

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipMIAMI -- Tiger Woods set the tone early with a 4-iron that cut through the stiff wind and landed 10 feet away for eagle. He kept everyone at a distance Saturday by avoiding calamity on the Blue Monster's brutal closing hole.
 
And when the third round ended, it looked as though no one had a spitting chance.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is seeking his 13th career WGC title. (WireImage)
With only one mistake on a windy day filled with them, Woods shot 4-under 68 and stretched his lead to four shots in the CA Championship, leaving him poised to capture his third straight title at Doral and send him to the Masters on a high.
 
About the only intrigue came from Sergio Garcia.
 
Disgusted by missing yet another short putt, the 27-year-old Spaniard tapped in for a three-putt bogey and then spit into the cup. Garcia didn't deny this lapse in etiquette, only its effect on the guys playing behind him.
 
'I just missed the putt and I wasn't too happy,' Garcia told NBC Sports. 'Don't worry. It did go in the middle (of the cup) and wasn't going to affect anyone else. If it did, I would have wiped it off.'
 
Asked about the incident after the TV interview, he snapped, 'I just said it. I'm not going to repeat it.'
 
Garcia wound up with a 71 and was seven shots behind, but he had plenty of company.
 
Woods again wiped out the field with superb shots and by making enough putts to reach 11-under 205. He is 38-3 on the PGA TOUR with at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and he has never lost when leading by more than one.
 
Brett Wetterich had a 67 and will play in the final group Sunday.
 
Along with owning Doral, Woods has won this World Golf Championship the last two years (in San Francisco and London), and five out of seven times. He will be trying to win his 13th WGC event since the series began in 1999.
 
'If you're leading, usually you're playing halfway decent,' Woods said. 'Hopefully, tomorrow I can handle my business.'
 
He headed to the practice green to work on his putting, then was off to Key Biscayne to watch Roger Federer play his opening match in the Sony Ericsson Open.
 
Nick O'Hern, who ended Woods' seven-tournament winning streak on the PGA TOUR by beating him in the Accenture Match Play Championship a month ago, played bogey-free for a 66 and was another shot behind at 6-under 210.
 
Everyone else had their chances. Most everyone else ran into trouble.
 
Ernie Els got to within one shot of the lead midway through the round until he quit making birdies, then took double bogey on the 18th hole that started with an errant drive and ended with a bunker shot that went over the green. He had to settle for a 71, and for the third straight day, the Big Easy refused to speak to reporters.
 
Els was in the group at 211 that included Vijay Singh (69), Thomas Bjorn (71), Aaron Baddeley (71) and Charles Howell III, whose bogey on the final hole ruined a spirited rally and left him with a 71.
 
Bjorn, one of the few players to take down Woods on the final day, was told he was in a good position.
 
'Yeah, with everyone else,' he said, grinning. 'When he's like this ... he hit some incredible shots. There's not many players in the field that can hit those shots. We all know when he's at his best, he's very difficult.'
 
Woods had a two-shot lead that he quickly expanded with his eagle putt, although there it was close for a minute. His streak of 29 holes without a bogey ended on the sixth, and with Wetterich and Els making a move, the lead was down to one.
 
Woods fixed that quickly. He hit a 9-iron about 10 feet right of the flag on No. 7, and after having to lay up from out of the rough on the par-5 eighth, his sand wedge stopped 3 feet from the cup to reach 10 under and restore the cushion.
 
Wetterich, who went out in 32, was the only one who stayed steady on the back nine in a mixture of showers and sunshine, and the constant present of a strong wind. He followed a bogey on the 15th with a birdie on the 16th. He sent his drive well to the right on the 18th, but was able to reach the green and two-putt from 65 feet.
 
His only victory was the Byron Nelson Championship last year during a hot summer stretch that helped him make the Ryder Cup team. But he's one of the longest hitters in golf, and is not afraid to fire at flags.
 
That's what Wetterich might have to do.
 
'You can't sit back and be happy with making pars,' he said.
 
Wetterich has never played with Woods in competition. In fact, he had never met the world's No. 1 player until Woods introduced himself to him at Firestone last year, then took all the Ryder Cup rookies to dinner.
 
Divots:
Davis Love III withdrew Saturday after learning a friend of the family had died in Sea Island, Ga. ... Phil Mickelson was bogey-free for the third round and 4 under for the day until a double bogey on the 18th sent him to a 70. ... Els is 4 over on the 18th hole this week. ... Mark Calcavecchia threw out his shoes after Friday's round because of blisters. He wore a new pair Saturday and reported no problems. 'My right foot still hurts,' he said.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.