Notes Kaye Back Playing and Talking
'My first cut in more than a year. I'm ecstatic,' he said. 'My first paycheck in more than a year.'
Sadly, it wasn't the size he had hoped.
Kaye, who missed all of last year with a toe injury, closed with a 78 while playing with actor Thomas Gibson ('Criminal Minds') and tied for 53rd to earn $13,824, a small start toward trying to keep his card under tough circumstances.
Kaye, once ranked as high as No. 14 in the world, finished out of the top 125 on the money list and headed back to Q-school, where he tied for 29th to earn his card. But a right big toe that had been bothering him a few years reached the point where he had surgery, and he didn't play another tournament until the Sony Open at the start of year.
That puts his status behind all the Q-school and Nationwide grads, making it tough to get into tournaments.
'It was nice,' Kaye said of his time off. 'But I missed having a job.'
The TOUR surely didn't miss having Kaye out of action for the year, and it wasn't long before he revved up on a litany of complaints, particularly the new anti-doping policy.
Kaye joined a small faction of players who believe players should form a union.
'I don't see a need for it. I don't think anyone is on steroids,' he said. 'They're opening themselves up for a stringer, especially if we don't have a players' union, or a universal voice where we can be heard, instead of being squashed by a dictator.'
That would be PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, with whom Kaye has crossed frequently.
His most notorious incident, which led to a four-month suspension, came in Kingsmill in 2001 when a security guard asked to see Kaye's tour badge. According to several published accounts, Kaye returned to his car and displayed the badge below the belt.
'I got the largest suspension ever on TOUR ... for what?' he said. 'I lose my job, and I lose my sponsorship. I felt the brunt of the TOUR when they're trying to squash you. I felt like Brian McNamee.'
He also doesn't like the new cut policy, and when told the Players Advisory Council would be meeting Tuesday at Riviera, that didn't seem to allay his concerns.
'There's not one person on the PAC that I voted for,' Kaye said.
Uh, welcome back, Jonathan.
J.B. Holmes has been to two major tournaments at Valhalla, but not with his golf clubs.
Holmes, who grew up in Campbellsville, Ky., and played at the University of Kentucky, figures he has played Valhalla over 20 times, some with the Wildcats' team and some on his own.
He was first there in 1996 for the PGA Championship, working the scoreboard on the 14th green the year Mark Brooks beat Kentucky native Kenny Perry in a playoff. He was part of the gallery in 2000 when Tiger Woods and Bob May staged a terrific duel on the back nine, and Woods beat him in a three-hole playoff.
'We only stayed for about eight holes,' Holmes said. 'We couldn't hardly see anything.'
Holmes is No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings, which means little at this point since the standings fluctuate so wildly, but he is the kind of player whom captain Paul Azinger wants on his team -- a big hitter who can intimidate with his length.
How's this for intimidating? Holmes was asked the craziest thing his length has done for him at Valhalla.
'I hit pitching wedge into 18 one time,' he said.
The 18th is a par 5 that measured 542 yards in the 2000 PGA Championship.
The European Tour was played in India for the first time last week, which would seem to put Daniel Chopra in a tough position. Chopra was born in Sweden, but raised by his grandparents in India.
But the allure of Pebble Beach kept him away.
'This is my favorite event on the PGA TOUR,' Chopra said. 'I loved it the first time I came here. I don't think I'll ever miss this event. They can write me down for life.'
How much does he love the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? Chopra caught himself looking at real estate brochures, and he planned to look at houses for sale on the Monterey Peninsula.
'I've won twice in the last three months,' said Chopra, who won last fall in south Florida and the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii. 'I'm sure the mortgage brokers will be happy to see me coming.'
BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN:
Chris DiMarco failed to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time in eight years, having fallen out of the top 100 in the world ranking.
DiMarco hasn't been the same since he injured himself skiing when he slipped on a backpack, and a flask dug into his back. Then came shoulder surgery at the end of last season, and while he proclaims himself 100 percent healthy, it hasn't been a great start to 2008.
He will play the Northern Trust Open at Riviera this week, and smiled when asked what he would do the week of Match Play.
'We're going to go skiing,' he said. 'Try that again, where it all started.'
DiMarco said that he at least has learned from his mistakes.
'I'm not going to carry a backpack anywhere, that's for sure,' he said.
Blowouts are hard to find in golf, although Tiger Woods seems to manage.
Woods is among 23 players to have won PGA TOUR events by at least five shots over the last 10 years, but it's no contest when listing the number of times it happens. He has won by at least five shots 13 times since 1998, and three times by double digits.
Phil Mickelson is next on the list, having won three times by at least five shots, the largest in 2006 when he won the BellSouth Classic by 13 shots the week before his second Masters victory.
Davis Love III, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry are the only other players since 1998 to have won by at least five shots on more than one occasion, each doing it twice. Both of Perry's routs came at Colonial, where he won by six in 2003 and by seven in 2005.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Every PGA TOUR winner in 2008 except for Tiger Woods has missed a cut this year.
'Listen, we all know that everybody's goal out here is to beat the guy and challenge him. I just think that a lot of times, people talk more about it, as opposed to letting the clubs do it for them.' -- Charles Howell III on trying to beat Tiger Woods.
Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
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."
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.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.