Lefty Tumbles off the Leaderboard

By Associated PressApril 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson stared out toward the 18th green, shook his head slightly, rubbed his chin and tried to figure out where it all went wrong.
 
On a day for going low, Lefty went south.
 
Mickelson wont need to worry about clearing a spot in his closet for a third green jacket, not after a dismal Saturday afternoon at Augusta National.
 
It was moving day, all right, but he moved in the wrong direction. Coming in just three strokes off the lead, Mickelson stumbled his way through a 3-over 75 that knocked him out contention heading to the final round.
 
A disappointing day, obviously, Mickelson said. I didnt play very well, and it was a day where there were some low scores out there. The greens were soft, the rain softened the course, and I thought there were some low scores. I just didnt shoot one of them.
 
Indeed, more than half the field shot par or better after heavy showers drenched the course just past lunchtime, causing a 45-minute delay and softening up those slick Augusta greens. Seven players shot in the 60s. Another six were at 70 or 71. Eleven more shot even-par 72.
 
And then there was Mickelson, whose score beat only seven other players and was epitomized by two dismal holes.
 
At the par-5 eighth, his third shot was right on the flag'literally. It struck the stick and spun back toward the fairway, nearly rolling off the green instead of staying up near the cup. He zoomed the putt 4 feet past the hole, then missed the comebacker. Instead of a likely birdie, he wound up with bogey.
 
That misfortune seemed to unnerve Mickelson, who bogeyed 10 and 12, but he appeared to collect himself with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14.
 
Then there was No. 6, the 170-yarder known as Redbud. Ian Poulter had a hole-in-one there on Thursday, but this time the pin was tucked in the back right side of the green, a difficult placement that surrendered only four birdies Saturday and made it the fourth-toughest hole on the course.
 
The safe play was to lay it out left of the flag, take two putts and get out of there with a par. But Mickelson yanked an 8-iron into the one place he couldnt'the back right bunker. There was no way to blast it out of sand and keep it on the top tier of the green, so all he could do was watch his ball roll back toward the left fringe, leaving a good 60 feet just to save par.
 
You cant miss it right there, and I know that, Mickelson said. You just have to hit it left and try to make par.
 
He could even make bogey. Mickelson didnt give the uphill putt a hard enough whack and it came to a stop about 10 feet short. He missed that one, too, and took a 5. As he walked toward 17, he knew that any realistic hope of making a charge on Sunday was gone.
 
Trevor Immelman maintained the lead with his third straight round in the 60s, leaving him at 11-under 205 after three rounds. Mickelson is nine strokes back, needing a comeback of historic proportions to catch Immelman.
 
Jackie Burke overcame an eight-shot deficit on the final day to win in 1956, but he was aided by the collapse of amateur Ken Venturi. Even if the top four players on the leaderboard'none of them major winners'fall apart, theres still that guy in fifth place.
 
Tiger Woods shot a 68 and is three shots clear of Mickelson. Hard to imagine the worlds greatest player collapsing as well.
 
Ive just got to go out there and shoot a really low score, Mickelson said.
 
Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, followed up a second-round 68 with a 75 of his own. He bogeyed six out of 10 holes in one stretch, leaving him at even par and 11 strokes off the lead.
 
Poulters ace was a distant memory as he struggled through a birdie-less round. He bogeyed No. 9, took a double-bogey at the end and settled for pars on the other 16 holes. Yep, mark off another potential contender with a 75.
 
But the Englishman has never won a major, so his slide wasnt totally unexpected.
 
Mickelson, on the other hand, had three majors on his resume and is generally regarded as the best player in the world not named Tiger. Hes won two titles at Augusta in the last four years. On Saturday, though, Mickelson looked as though he was playing here for the first time.
 
It was an old bugaboo'the putter. In addition to that miss at No. 8, he botched putts of less than 10 feet at both 12 and 15, the latter costing him a third straight birdie.
 
If I knock that putt in, Im back to even for the round, which was the goal, said Mickelson, who started the day at 5 under. I thought I hit it closer. I thought it was 2 feet and instead it was 6. I didnt really putt those that well today, so when I missed that, well, that could have been a big momentum booster.
 
It was pretty much over by the time he got to 18. He drove it in a bunker, then knocked his second shot off a TV tower. Mickelson pulled off a delicate chip to save par, but it really didnt matter at that point.
 
Its one of those things where I think people who watch TV think, Oh, I cant believe Phil is hitting bad shots, said Steve Flesch, who played with Mickelson and wound being the best left-hander on the course.
 
I feel his pain because we have all gone through it. Unfortunately, its on a stage where its going out across the world. Everybody is seeing it.
 
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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.