Humble Major Champs Grouped Together at PGA

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Zach Johnson is the everyday guy from Iowa. Angel Cabrera is the burly underdog from Argentina. Padraig Harrington is the self-proclaimed journeyman from Ireland.
They will be together this week at the PGA Championship because of something else they are: golf's three most recent major champions.
A year ago, the three players wouldn't have turned a head had they been grouped together for the first two rounds of the last major of the year.
But so much changes once a player finally puts on a green jacket, or holds the claret jug or endures and wins a U.S. Open.
'A complete honor is what it comes down to,' Johnson said Tuesday. 'I know people back home, especially when they hear me announced -- from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2007 Masters champion -- they take it to heart. They take pride in it.
Johnson says he takes pride in it, too, just not too much.
'I don't want to get too proud,' he said.
The aw-shucks modesty is something that runs through all three of golf's newest major champions. These victories, they insist, might have changed their circumstances, but not who they are.
'I'm not changing,' Johnson said. 'I'm still in jeans and T-shirts and shorts, whatever.'
Cabrera's victory was considered a huge thing for Argentina, a country that hadn't celebrated a major golf champion in 40 years previous to his win at Oakmont.
Could the win have helped golf surpass rugby or basketball in popularity in the near future?
'No. No chance,' Cabrera said, answering before his translator even had a chance to give him the question.
Cabrera, known as 'El Pato' or 'The Duck' because of his trademark waddles down the fairway, often with a cigarette in hand, knows his win emphasized the importance of giving back in the golf community in his country.
Not glamorous, but necessary, said the one-time caddie, who turned to golf because he thought it was the best way to help support his family.
'It's very difficult for Argentinean golfers to achieve good things, to get to the PGA TOUR or the European tour without the help of another professional golfer,' Cabrera said. 'There's not much help other than what another golfer can provide.'
For Harrington, the magnitude of the victory three weeks ago is still settling in.
Last week at the first teebox at Firestone, they didn't introduce him as 'Padraig Harrington, British Open champion.'
'I looked at my caddie and started laughing,' he said. 'You win the Open Championship, you can't wait to be announced as the Open champion. I wasn't disappointed. It's just strange. It's a hard one to describe.'
At 35 and ranked sixth in the world, he was among those considered the Best Player Never to Have Won A Major. He no longer has to deal with that. Also avoided is the heartache he would have felt had he lost the British Open with that ugly double-bogey on No. 18.
'There's no question that when you win, you've got to enjoy it but always taper it with a bit of `what if' and the alternative,' Harrington said. That way, 'You'll always be able to handle the bad days well.'
None of the three will be overlooked this week, though all would have to be considered underdogs to the guy who won this event last year.
Tiger Woods.
'We're all improving. We're all getting better,' Woods said when asked if he was surprised to see three first-time winners in majors this year, the second time it's happened in the last five years. 'The fields are getting deeper on top of that. So it makes it even more challenging to try to win major championships.
'We're seeing new faces that are springing up and this year is an example of that.'
The newest champions are not stars or household names. It figures they still won't draw near the crowd Woods will when he tees off Thursday, playing alongside Bob Tway and Rich Beem.
But Johnson, Cabrera and Harrington will be together for a reason.
'Just to be in that fraternity and have that title, more or less at least for this year, is very, very special,' Johnson said.
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.