Notes OHair Changes Qualifying Sites

By Associated PressJune 3, 2005, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Sean O'Hair's game is in good shape going into Monday's 36-hole sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open. He hasn't missed a cut since Phoenix, finished one shot behind two weeks ago in Dallas and heads into the weekend at the Memorial six shots out of the lead.
But qualifying might be tougher than he expected.
O'Hair signed up for the sectional at Woodmont in Rockville, Md., where a 156-man field consisting primarily of PGA Tour players will battle for 22 spots. He recently found out that he has been bumped to another site.
``They told me my entry came in too late and there's a pecking order,'' O'Hair said Friday.
The USGA, concerned about crowded fields that made it difficult to finish 36 holes in one day, created overflow sites this year in Columbus (after the Memorial) and Rockville (before the Booz Allen Classic).
``It comes down to numbers,'' USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said. ``He's getting a chance to compete like everyone else. But even at sectionals, we've got hundreds and hundreds of players to accommodate.''
Parkes pointed out that the entry form contains a clause that informs players they are not guaranteed the sectional site for which they sign up.
O'Hair got bumped from Woodmont to Chevy Chase, where 16 players will vie for a single spot. Tommy Tolles and Paul Claxton are the only other players with PGA Tour experience at Chevy Chase. The competition won't be as severe, but there is no margin for error; only the lowest score advances to Pinehurst No. 2.
``I'd rather play the tour stop,'' O'Hair said. ``To win an event, you've got to play really well. I don't care if there's 10 players or 16 players. At the tour stop, you've got to play good, but you don't have to play great to get in. With one spot, you've got to play flawless.''
O'Hair already did that once. He was the medalist at his local qualifier.
No one was more careful marking his ball on the green Friday than Scott Verplank.
Verplank incurred a bizarre one-stroke penalty in the first round when he went to replace his ball on the par-3 eighth. Just inches from the turf, the ball slipped out of his hand and landed on the edge of his coin, causing it to flip.
``It was heads and it came up tails,'' Verplank said. ``So, obviously it moved.''
He figured he would move the coin back, but then paused. He had never seen that happen, so he summoned a rules official and got the bad news.
Verplank isn't a big fan of the rule.
``Being penalized for being a clumsy human is not a good part of the rules,'' he said.
The penalty stroke gave Verplank a 75 on Thursday, although he rebounded nicely with a 66 in the second round. That included a 5-wood into 9 inches on the par-5 fifth for eagle.
Did he mark that ball?
``No, I just tapped that one in,'' he said.
Tiger Woods said his father, Earl, was finished with radiation treatments and is free of cancer, although he won't be able to travel to Pinehurst for the U.S. Open.
Earl Woods went to the Masters but never made it to the course. Woods broke down during the green jacket presentation as he paid tribute to his father.
``He's not traveling very much any more,'' Woods said. ``He's going to take it easy. Augusta kind of took its toll on him a little bit.''
Woods went to California last month to see his parents, and flew them both to his charity concert in Las Vegas.
While his father is free of cancer, Woods said the recovery is not as fast as it was the first time around because Earl Woods is getting older -- and sticks to the same habits.
``He's 1-over 73,'' Woods said. ``And on top of that ... he doesn't exactly take care of himself. He's still puffing away, and that's just the way it is. He's been real stubborn about everything. It's gotten him here this far, so we'll just kind of leave him be.''
Joe Ogilvie grew up about 45 minutes away in Lancaster, Ohio, but even he knows he's not the most famous athlete from his town -- at least not in these parts.
Also from Lancaster is Rex Kern, the quarterback who led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national title in 1968.
``Everybody knows Rex Kern,'' Ogilvie said. ``Being second to Rex Kern isn't all that bad.''
Seventy players were at 1 over par until former Memorial champion Jim Furyk bogeyed the par-3 16th, allowing nine other players to make the cut at 2-over 146. That included Charles Howell III, who shot 69. ... Bill Haas had a 76 to make the cut on the number. The son of Jay Haas is in the field as the Jack Nicklaus Award winner, given to the top college player last year. It does not count against his seven PGA Tour exemptions. ... Former British Open champion Ben Curtis shot a 42 on the back nine for a 77, finishing last among 105 players. In the first round, Curtis shot a 43 on the back nine.
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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.