Love Losing Grip on Hall of Fame Career
No one understands better than Love that any number of players can be dressed up like Tiger Woods in the Match Play Championship, where anyone in any round can get a hot hand.
'I'm not wishing Tiger was here,' Love said on the eve of his 36-hole championship match against Geoff Ogilvy. 'I'd love to play him again, though.'
Love might have wished he were around Sunday at La Costa to ease the sting of losing.
Getting beat by Woods would have been understandable, because Love has a history of that. Woods was 20 when he won his first PGA Tour event by beating Love in a playoff in Las Vegas with a par. He beat him in the Grand Slam of Golf when it was match play, and twice trounced him in the Match Play Championship.
Losing to Ogilvy only exacerbated Love's failures.
It brought into focus even more that Love, a world-class player with 18 victories and a major, has gone without a victory in six of his last eight seasons on the PGA Tour.
There is no such thing as an upset in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
But there is such a thing as perception, and this was a match everyone expected Love to win.
This was Love's best chance to capture a World Golf Championship, and a victory might have caused people to change the way they look at an otherwise sterling record. Along with his 18 victories and that rainbow-colored PGA Championship at Winged Foot, Love twice has won The Players Championship and only once in the last 16 years has failed to make the Tour Championship.
It doesn't matter that when Australians talk about their best talent, conversations usually don't get very far without Ogilvy's name being mentioned. He showed his resolve all week at La Costa, winning four consecutive matches in extra holes and building momentum by whipping up on Tom Lehman in the semifinals.
'It's always better to not run up against the world No. 1,' Love said, 'but Geoff Ogilvy is playing great.'
The 28-year-old Aussie was 3 under in the morning round and was 4 under through 16 holes in the afternoon, and he hit a 4-iron from 227 yards into 6 feet for a conceded eagle on the par-5 11th that swung the match in his favor.
But this was as much about Love's shortcomings as anything Ogilvy did.
Love knew from experience that you're supposed to get your opponent down and then step on his neck. He failed to do that in 2004, and Woods came back from lunch to beat him.
This time, Love had a birdie putt to win on seven of the first 10 holes in the morning round against Ogilvy and didn't make any of them. He won his first hole with a birdie at No. 11 -- more a product of a poor bunker shot by Ogilvy -- and was ready to seize control at the 14th with a delicate bunker shot that left him a 3-foot par putt to go 2 up.
It caught the right lip and spun away.
No one should have been surprised what followed. Love sent a 3-wood into the right rough, hit too strong over the green into a bad lie in the bunker and made double bogey. And when Ogilvy made birdie on the 16th, the Aussie went from on the ropes to 1 up and never trailed the rest of the way.
Love had one last chance, battling back from a three-hole deficit in the afternoon with a tremendous par save out of deep rough on the fifth to halve the hole, then winning the next two to close the gap to one.
And when Ogilvy stuck out his chin, Love swung and missed.
Love was in the fairway at No. 9, knowing a par would almost certainly square the match. He aimed his 6-iron 20 feet left of the pin, and hit the shot 20 feet into the gallery and made bogey. On the next hole, Love had a 15-foot birdie putt that he left short.
Then came the roundhouse 4-iron from Ogilvy, and a 5-iron into 8 feet for birdie at No. 12, and the match was over.
Love remains without a victory since the 2003 International, and his loss Sunday at La Costa invited more skepticism about his game.
'I did everything good except for five or six iron shots, really,' Love said.
Even with back and neck problems that have made it difficult for Love to find a flow in his playing schedule, his picturesque swing and power are a lethal combination. But for whatever reason, pictures of Love posing with the trophy are about as rare as pictures of Woods relaxing on his yacht.
Not that Love hasn't had his chances.
He was tied for the lead with Phil Mickelson going into the final round of the PGA Championship last year at Baltusrol, then bogeyed four of his first five holes. Two behind with four holes to play, including two par 5's at the end, Love never made up any ground.
Love will be 42 the week after the Masters and still has time left to change the perception of his career from a good one to a great one. But the window is closing.
He is on the PGA Tour ballot for the Hall of Fame, although he isn't worthy of a vote just yet.
At the end of 2004, when he thought a winless season was an aberration, Love was asked how he looked at his career. He was two wins away from lifetime membership on the PGA Tour. He was two majors away from what he considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
And he still is.
'I have a chance to have a great career,' he said that day. 'The next five or six years you'll either say, 'OK, I've done it.' Or you realize I haven't.'
He won't get many chances like he had Sunday, especially with Woods nowhere to be found.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
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.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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.”
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.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
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.
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.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
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:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
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.