Masters Field Taking Shape as Rankings Finalized

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2007, 5:00 pm
Boo Weekley has been so busy building a house he hasn't bothered checking the mail. He might want to keep alert the next few weeks for a white envelope with a return address of Augusta, Ga.
With the final world ranking published Monday, Masters invitations will be in the mail soon.
'I've got to have that to get in?' Weekley asked.
He was pleased to hear the invitation was a mere formality, not to mention a souvenir like no other.
Weekley is among 14 players who will be playing the Masters for the first time, and the invitation traditionally comes the final two weeks of the year, a sweet reminder of what the new season holds.
The Masters takes the top 50 from the world ranking at the end of 2007, and because there are no golf tournaments the rest of the year, 11 players who were not previously eligible were added to the field Monday.
Leading the way was Henrik Stenson at No. 16, followed by 10 others from abroad: Trevor Immelman, Lee Westwood, Toru Taniguchi, Nick O'Hern, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Shingo Katayama, Robert Karlsson, Richard Sterne, Soren Hansen and Anders Hansen.
There are sure to be some complaints about some of the international players getting into the Masters, especially Anders Hansen.
He took up PGA TOUR membership this year, and in 17 starts, he made only 10 cuts and failed to record a top 10. But he finished the year at No. 50 from his victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where Hansen beat the likes of Angel Cabrera and Justin Rose, and two other top 5s on the European Tour.
Rod Pampling, the Australian who plays primarily on the PGA TOUR, needed no worse than fifth in the Australian Open last week to get into the top 50, but he tied for seventh and slipped one spot to No. 52.
Not to worry -- yet.
Augusta National will take the top 50 from the world ranking published March 31, one week before the Masters. That gives extra time for players like Pampling, Colin Montgomerie (No. 57) and Davis Love III (No. 67). The Masters also will take winners from every PGA TOUR event, except for the two in Mexico and Puerto Rico held opposite World Golf Championships.
With 82 players already qualified (and expected to compete), the field likely will be around 90 to 95, just the size the Masters likes.
One thing that will be missing is a full crop of amateurs. Colt Knost won the U.S. Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Amateur, but gave up his spot in the Masters when he turned pro. Knost then failed to secure even a Nationwide Tour card at Q-school.
That leaves three amateurs at the Masters, the fewest since there were three in 1942, the year before the Masters took a three-year break because of World War II.
There will be two Watsons -- past champion Tom Watson and big-hitting Bubba Watson. There will be two Hansens -- Soren and Anders, both from Denmark, no relation.
But there will be only one Boo.
Weekley has become a kind of cult hero the past year with his homespun humor, simple pleasures and solid game. He was among the first to qualify by winning the MCI Heritage a week after the Masters, and that was the start of a big year. Weekley finished 23rd on the money list, joining high school buddy Heath Slocum at the World Cup in China.
But this is no time to rest or reflect, much less hunt and fish.
'Between my wife and little boy and all of us trying to build this house, I might not have time to check the mail,' Weekley said Monday.
But he is excited about returning to Augusta National. Turns out Weekley was invited to play some years ago through an elderly gentleman who knew a member.
'We got six holes in and it started raining,' he said.
He'll be in good company when the 72nd Masters is held April 10-13. The defending champion is Zach Johnson, with Tiger Woods again the favorite to capture his fifth green jacket.
Right now, Weekley just wants to finish building his house.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.''

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.