Howell Tops Mickelson in Nissan Playoff

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Nissan OpenLOS ANGELES -- Charles Howell III finally ended that nasty habit of finishing second, making three clutch pars in a playoff that delivered a dramatic victory over Phil Mickelson in the Nissan Open on Sunday.
Howell closed with a 6-under 65 and got into a playoff when Mickelson bogeyed the 18th hole. Howell put away the two-time Masters champion with his third straight par save, holing a 3-foot putt on the 14th hole and raising his head to the sky in utter relief.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson was all smiles before another 18th hole meltdown. (WireImages)
'I said a prayer before I hit the putt,' Howell said, his voice cracking. 'I said, 'It's time. Go in.''
It was only the second victory of his career, and Howell had been haunted by nine runner-up finishes since winning the now-defunct Michelob Championship in the fall of 2002. He already had two runner-up finishes in four starts this year, including three weeks ago against Tiger Woods down the coast at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson, bidding for his second straight victory, had control throughout the playoff until coming up short of the green on the par-3 14th. He opted for putter, but it took a high hop leaving the blade and stopped 10 feet short. The par putt missed to the right.
Howell also was short, but his chip came out nicely just beyond the cup.
'I had every chance on the back nine to create some separation and not give anyone a chance,' said Mickelson, who twice missed putts inside 4 feet and closed with a 68. 'I felt like I had the tournament in my grasp and let it go.'
They finished at 16-under 268.
Ernie Els (67), Jim Furyk (67) and Robert Allenby (68) tied for third, three shots out of the playoff.
Els and Allenby both had chances to catch Mickelson along the back nine of a mostly sunny afternoon, but the Big Easy was tripped up by three bogeys, while Allenby fell back with a three-putt from 60 feet on the fringe at the 15th.
Howell earned $936,000 and is atop the PGA TOUR money list for the first time in his career. Aside from finally getting his hands on another trophy, Howell accomplished his first goal of 2007. The victory all but assures he can return to the Masters in April because the Augusta native will climb into top 25 in the world ranking.
Along the way, he exorcised a few demons.
It was four years ago at Riviera where Howell lost a three-shot lead, then missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole and lost to Mike Weir. This time, he got past No. 10 in the playoff with an unlikely par. He clipped the trees when he tried to chip off the cart path, then got up-and-down from about 80 feet for par with a superb chip with just the right pace.
And while putting has been his nemesis during his drought, he holed one big putt after another -- from 8 feet for par on the 18th in regulation to keep the heat on Mickelson, from 6 feet for par on the 18th to extend the playoff, and the 3-footer on 14 that must have looked like a mile.
'It's been a long time,' Howell said. 'I'm speechless.'
Coming off a five-shot victory at Pebble Beach where he tied the tournament scoring record, Mickelson got a couple of breaks that he thought would carry him to a comfortable victory.
His flop shot on the 10th was heading into the back bunker when a tuft of kikuya grass, cut like a Marine's flat top, stopped it on the edge. Instead of scrambling for par, he used a utility club to knock in a 20-footer for birdie and lead by two shots.
Then on the 12th, his approach bounced off Humphrey Bogart's tree -- the sycamore left of the green where the actor used to watch the tournament -- and caromed onto the green instead of down into a ravine. Those breaks were wasted, however, by missing two short putts and failing to make par on the final hole.
'I'll look back and see a lot of opportunities,' Mickelson said. 'On a good note, it's better to get those out of the way early.'
Howell trailed by as many as five shots early in the final round and was still four behind with eight holes remaining, seemingly playing for second place. But he pecked away, and his fortunes turned quickly when he knocked in a 30-foot birdie on the 16th, then two-putted from the fringe for birdie on the 17th.
In the group behind, Mickelson's momentum again was slowed by a short putt.
He missed a 2-foot par putt on the 13th hole for the second straight day, then failed to take advantage of a great shot on the par-3 16th. His 8-iron hopped onto the green and rolled to 4 feet, but the birdie putt stayed right of the cup.
Tied for the lead, Mickelson took it right back with a big drive that left him only a hybrid from 255 yards into 25 feet on No. 17 for a two-putt birdie. And he was presumably in good shape in the left rough on the 18th.
Howell kept his hopes alive by curling in his 8-foot par putt to post at 16 under, forcing Mickelson to make par to win.
Mickelson hit 8-iron from 204 yards, trying to get the ball to the front of the green and let it roll to the back, but it failed to clear a mound leading to the 18th green, and his chip came out flat to 18 feet. The putt never had a chance, sending both players back to the 18th for a playoff that lasted three holes and produced a huge win for Howell.
Asked which was more meaningful, the Nissan Open or '02 at Kingsmill, the 27-year-old didn't hesitate.
'This one,' he said. 'Because of the five-year gap between them. It's been a long, long time since I won a title.'
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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.

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    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.

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    ''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.

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    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.”

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    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.