Garcia confident, looks for Dubai Desert Classic win

By Associated PressJanuary 30, 2013, 5:58 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Less than three years ago, Sergio Garcia was mired in a slump so prolonged that he missed out on the 2010 Ryder Cup team and saw his ranking fall as low as 85th. He moped around the golf course and at one point talked of giving up the game altogether.

But rather than walking away, the former No. 2-ranked Spaniard said Wednesday he used those dark days in 2009 and 2010 as an inspiration to find his way back. He has won twice in each of the past two years and a victory this week at the Dubai Desert Classic could propel him back into the top 10.

He is up to No. 14 in the latest rankings, after finishing second at last week's Qatar Masters, a shot behind Chris Wood.

''Excited. It's been two good years,'' Garcia said. ''But more than anything, I'm excited because I know how I'm feeling. I know how my attitude is on the course. I know how my will is to try to do things to get better. ''

''We had a good start of the season, which is always nice. So I just want to make sure that everything stays the same. Because I'm going to have bad weeks, but if I can manage to stay with the right attitude, even on the bad weeks, it's going to make the year go so easy and so much better.

His return to form has also stoked talk of Garcia finally winning a major – something he has come agonizingly close to on several occasions. Garcia has twice been in the final group with Tiger Woods (U.S. Open at Bethpage, British Open at Hoylake), the runner-up at age 19 at Medinah, in a playoff at Carnoustie in 2007, and a runner-up to Padraig Harrington at Oakland Hills in the 1998 PGA Championship.

The 33-year-old Garcia brushed aside talk of a major victory, saying he will just keep playing golf and let the results speak for themselves.

''My form, I feel pretty good about it,'' Garcia said. ''Do I feel like it's the best I've played my career? Probably not. But I feel fairly good for the most part.''

After winning The Players Championship in November 2008, Garcia went 2 1/2 years without a top-three finish. It would be almost three years before he would win again, on either the PGA or European tours. His ranking, a career-best No. 2 in 2009, plunged as low as 85.

Garcia credits his recovery that began with a string of wins in Spain in 2011 partly to his improved short game – on display down the stretch in Qatar – as well as a better attitude on and off the course. He also benefited from laser eye surgery last year that corrected his astigmatism – improving his aim and reading of the greens.

''I've always said that the bad days and things like that or the bad losses, if you take them the right way, they are very good, because you can learn a lot from those days,'' Garcia said.

''I think that obviously putting is improved. It's got a lot more consistent. Chipping is improved. Probably my long game is obviously better than it was before,'' Garcia said.

Garcia's resurgence has not gone unnoticed by his Ryder Cup teammates, or those younger players who have long idolized him.

''He played well at end of last year, winning at the Wyndham Championship and had a few other good results winning in Johor (Open),'' said Lee Westwood, a Ryder Cup teammate who is also playing this week in Dubai. ''It's nice to see him playing well. The game of golf needs characters like Sergio.''

Rafael Cabrera-Bello, a Spaniard who won the Dubai tournament last year and grew up trying to emulate Garcia's bold and aggressive play, said he has seen a different player on the course in recent months.

''We all know he had a period where he wasn't enjoying golf, wasn't playing too good,'' Cabrera-Bello said. ''I think he is well over that. Even if he is on the course and things are not going his way, he is looking at it from a different perspective. He is enjoying the game again.''

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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.