Lefty refusing to take the Tiger bait

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England -- Phil Mickelson wouldnt bite, no matter how many ways he was asked about Tiger Woods.
 
So, Lefty, are the majors diminished because a certain No. 1 player' perhaps the greatest ever to swing a golf club'isnt at the British Open?
 
I am working hard to get my game ready for this week, and Ive practiced hard. Ive developed a good game plan for this event, and I am excited to compete against whoever is in the field, Mickelson said blandly.
 
Strike one.
 
Cant you say anything about Tigers absence?
 
Oh, Im sure I could, Mickelson said, tantalizing his audience. But right now my focus is, again, this week, as Ive got to get my game sharp.
 
Strike two.
 
Finally, when the call went out for final questions, someone asked Mickelson if he got any sense that other players'not someone as accomplished and experienced as himself, mind you'might feel like they have more of a chance with Woods sitting out the rest of the year recovering from knee surgery.
 
His response?
 
I havent had a sense either way, no.
 
Strike three. Thanks for coming, Phil.
 
During a 12-minute interview session that at times felt like a trip to the dentist, Mickelson steadfastly refused to even say Woods name Tuesday. It seemed a calculated move, as all things are with Lefty, because he was asked several different ways about the only player ahead of him in the world rankings.
 
Even from his couch, Tiger has that sort of affect on people, especially the guy whos been chasing him most of his career.
 
But maybe Mickelson does have other things on his mind, such as a lackluster record in the majors since he gave away the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot on the 72nd hole, costing himself a third straight major and leading Lefty to say of himself, Im such an idiot.
 
Since then, Mickelson hasnt come close to winning another of golfs biggest events. Hes on an eight-major winless streak, missing the cut twice'including last years British Open at Carnoustie'and not finishing within six strokes of the winner even when he did make it to the weekend.
 
The only major outside the United States has been especially bedeviling for Mickelson, who had to make big adjustments in his game to cope with the challenges of links golf. The high, spinning shots that work so well on aim-and-fire American courses dont turn out nearly a well on the bumpy, windy layouts along the English and Scottish coasts.
 
Except for 2004, when he finished one stroke out of a playoff between winner Todd Hamilton and runner-up Ernie Els, Mickelson has never been much of a factor on this side of the Atlantic. He doesnt have any other top-10 finishes in 15 career appearances at the British Open, which would seem to indicate he wont be breaking out of his major drought this week.
 
The results notwithstanding, Mickelson insists he loves this style of golf. He pointed to the 18th hole at St. Andrews, where the green must be reached over ' or through'the Valley of Sin. Some play a high, lofted shot. Some go with a bump-and-run. Some players even use the putter.
 
Its that variety that makes links golf so exciting, the need for creativity, because theres so many different ways to play the shot, Mickelson said.
 
Hes also got fond memories of Royal Birkdale, though he hasnt had much success here.
 
This was the site of Mickelsons first British Open in 1991, when he made the cut as an amateur and finished in a tie for 73rd. He wound up even lower in the standings when he returned seven years later as a pro, shooting 85-78 on the weekend in brutal weather to plummet into a tie for 76th.
 
I think its a very fair test where good shots get rewarded, primarily the 30 to 40 yards short of the green, Mickelson said. You get much more consistent bounces, so the well-struck shots are rewarded and typically end up about where you would anticipate.
 
He was ready to talk all day about Royal Birkdale.
 
Just dont bring up you know who.
 

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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.