Howell Defends Title Reputation

By Associated PressFebruary 13, 2008, 5:00 pm
Northern Trust OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- With two years left in his 20s, Sergio Garcia already has won 16 times around the world and seriously contended in the majors, including runner-up finishes to Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington.
 
'Sergio Garcia, he's a failure. Really,' Charles Howell III said in a voice hoarse from a commercial shoot and dripping with sarcasm. 'The guy has had a hell of a career, but in a lot of people's eyes, he hasn't won a major, so he needs to hang it up and quit.'
 
Majors aren't the only problem, and maybe not even the biggest.
 
It's Tiger Woods.
 
Howell knows from experience, part of a growing list of young players who arrive on the PGA TOUR with high expectations and get buried under an avalanche of comparisons with Woods.
 
Howell, 28, won at Riviera last year by closing with a 65, getting into a playoff thanks to a late mistake by Phil Mickelson, and making three clutch pars to outlast Lefty on the third extra hole.
 
It was only the second victory of Howell's career, feeding the perception that he's an underachiever.
 
Take Woods out of the picture, and Howell's career might not look that bad. He earned his card without going to Q-school, was voted rookie of the year, has made the Presidents Cup team twice and is a regular at the Tour Championship.
 
Howell is the defending champion at a tournament now called the Northern Trust Open, a strong field that includes eight of the top 10 players in the world, minus only Woods and Ernie Els.
 
Riviera is loaded with talented young players, all of them held to a higher standard because of Woods.
 
'Tiger has skewed the bar to an extent where a lot of times, the young players are judged on a little different scale, as opposed to being patient, knowing that in the peak of many careers, guys are in their mid to late 30s,' Howell said.
 
When he turned 30, Woods already had won 54 times worldwide and 10 majors, including the career Grand Slam twice over. No one before or after Woods came along has won so much so soon.
 
'At some point in time, it's going to be unfair to compare Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods,' Paul Goydos said earlier this year. 'What he's accomplished is nuts. It's nuts. To even mention Tiger in the same conversation with young players and what they're going to accomplish is blatantly unfair.'
 
Adam Scott took the trophy home from Riviera in 2005, although it wasn't an unofficial victory because rain allowed for only 36 holes, and Scott beat Chad Campbell in a one-hole playoff Monday. Scott, 27, has five other PGA TOUR victories in reputable places, such as THE PLAYERS Championship, Tour Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
 
He has climbed as high as No. 3 in the world, yet getting to No. 1 can look next to impossible at times.
 
'For me, all my life as a kid dreamt of being No. 1 in the world,' Scott once said. 'How am I going to live up to that dream? I've got to somehow figure a way to play better than this guy over a pretty long period of time.'
 
Garcia is making his PGA TOUR debut this year at Riviera, trying to put behind him a season in which he was on the cusp of his first major until a bogey on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie, then losing the British Open in a playoff.
 
Also at Riviera is Justin Rose, 27, who captured the Order of Merit on the European tour last year. Luke Donald is now 30, and while he has played on the last two Ryder Cup teams for Europe, he only has two victories on the PGA TOUR.
 
Donald joked Tuesday that his U.S. schedule has him playing many of the same tournaments Woods enters.
 
'Whether that's why I've only won two tournaments on the PGA TOUR, I'm not sure,' he said.
 
The spotlight seems to shine on one newcomer every year, from Garcia to Howell, from Scott to Geoff Ogilvy, and others such as J.B. Holmes, Anthony Kim and now Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Jason Day of Australia.
 
Scott said this would be an important year for the 20-year-old Day, a rookie on the PGA TOUR, as long as the bar was set moderately.
 
'Just to get himself steady out here,' Scott said. 'Not saying that he can't come out and win tournaments, because he certainly has the ability, but a good, solid year out here would be great for Jason.'
 
Even now, that's what Howell is trying to achieve.
 
Scott made great strides in 2006 when he was consistently in contention, and that's where Howell was headed last year. He finished one shot behind Goydos at the Sony Open, and was playing well enough to win at Torrey Pines except that he was going up against Woods, who played a little better and won by two.
 
When he beat Mickelson in a playoff at Riviera, he was quickly rising up the ranking. And then it stopped. Howell was never a serious threat the rest of the year.
 
'I really squandered away a really good start to the year,' Howell said. 'But in saying that, I did learn that I needed to improve my driving ... and then my scoring, the short game. If you go back to the guys that are at the very, very, very top -- Tiger, Phil, whoever -- they always find a way with their short game.'
 
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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.