Notes Presidents Cup Headed to Riviera
Now it has an offer that might be tough to refuse.
Riviera Country Club, the venerable course off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, met with tour officials Monday about hosting the matches in 2009.
'They're keenly interested in taking a look at this,' said Michael Bodney, senior vice president of championship management for the PGA Tour. 'It's all very preliminary, but they unsolicited wrote us a letter to host it.'
Riviera general manager Michael Yamaki, who met with Bodney, said the cultural diversity in Los Angeles would be a perfect fit for the Presidents Cup. The matches, stretched over four days, feature the United States against an International team from everywhere but Europe.
'I think it's an easy sell for us,' Yamaki said. 'And the format is good because the fans know the person they're supporting will be there all four days and will play, not be a bench-warmer.'
The Presidents Cup, which will be played in 2007 at Royal Montreal, has been held at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in northern Virginia each time it has been played in the United States. Tour officials like the connection to Washington, and former presidents have served as honorary chairmen.
But with a tighter schedule in 2007, the Booz Allen Classic has been bumped to the fall. One problem with keeping the Presidents Cup at RTJ is having two tournaments in the Washington area only a few weeks apart.
Meanwhile, Riviera has enough cache to give the Presidents Cup an extra boost.
It first hosted the Los Angeles Open in 1929 and became known as 'Hogan's Alley' when Ben Hogan won three times in 1947 and 1948, including a two-shot victory over Jimmy Demaret in the '48 U.S. Open.
The PGA Championship was played twice at Riviera. Hal Sutton went wire-to-wire to hold off Jack Nicklaus in 1983, and Steve Elkington won in a playoff over Colin Montgomerie in 1995.
Riviera has asked to host another U.S. Open, although its future was put in doubt when the USGA awarded the 2012 championship to The Olympic Club in San Francisco, giving California three U.S. Opens in a five-year span.
One concern the USGA had was space for corporate chalets.
'We talked a little about that,' Bodney said. 'One thing they don't utilize are those lower tennis courts. There's a lot of room down there, and there seems to be enough room for a good TV compound.'
One other issue was local interest. The gallery was noticeably thin during the '95 PGA Championship.
'You wonder about the L.A. market,' Bodney said. 'You've seen what's happened the last two majors, and that causes you to stand back a little bit.'
The weekend before the Super Bowl and Tiger Woods making his debut with a victory added to a winning combination for CBS Sports, which reported a 146 percent increase in overnight ratings from the final round of the Buick Invitational.
The overnight drew a 5.9 rating, up from 2.4 a year ago when the Woods overtook Tom Lehman and Luke Donald. Last year's tournament, on ABC Sports, was delayed each day by fog.
Sunday's overnight rating was the highest for the final round at Torrey Pines since it drew a 6.9 in 2003, when Woods returned from knee surgery to beat Phil Mickelson.
CHAMPIONS TOUR CHANGE
One of the five majors on the Champions Tour is getting a new sponsor, a new date and a new golf course.
Constellation Energy will be title sponsor of the Senior Players Championship, replacing Ford Motor Co. Traditionally played in July at the TPC of Michigan, it will move to Oct. 4-7 at Baltimore Country Club.
It's the second tournament in which Ford, which recently announced 30,000 job cuts, has not renewed its sponsorship. It also had the PGA Tour at Doral, which will become a World Golf Championship in 2007 with a new title sponsor. Ford's endorsement deal with Phil Mickelson expires in April.
For the Champions Tour, the move allows for more time between its majors. This year, the Senior Players Championship is the week after the U.S. Senior Open and the week before the Senior British Open.
ROOKIE ON THE RISE
Nathan Green did not get much attention when he finished fifth in his PGA Tour debut at the Sony Open, primarily because he was one shot behind big-hitting Bubba Watson.
Green, a 30-year-old tour rookie from Australia, followed that by getting into a three-way playoff at Buick Invitational, won by Tiger Woods. His tie for second was worth $448,800, giving him $652,800 in two starts. That should be more than enough to secure his PGA Tour card for next year, the first goal for rookies.
Better yet, it will send the Nationwide Tour grad toward the top of the reshuffle after the West Coast Swing and make him eligible for some of the more exclusive events, such as Bay Hill.
'The goal was to make some money before the re-rank so I could play some tournaments,' Green said. 'To come over and achieve what I've achieved, I couldn't have scripted it any better.'
TORREY IN '08
USGA chief agronomist Tim Moraghan was at Torrey Pines again last week, looking over a South Course that will host the U.S. Open in two years.
As expected, it will play as a par 70 for the Open with two par 5s being converted to par 4s by using forward tees on the 560-yard sixth hole and the 571-yard 18th. Bunkering will be reconfigured to account for the new tees.
The final tune up will be the '08 Buick Invitational, although that almost didn't happen.
Tournament director Tom Wilson said the USGA first proposed moving the Buick Invitational to another course in San Diego until it was pointed out there was precedence -- the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was played in 2000, and the U.S. Open was held at Pebble four months later.
Then, the USGA proposed holding the final two rounds on the North Course until Wilson said the PGA Tour stepped in and it was decided to leave the final two rounds on the South Course.
Jose Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green became the 48th and 49th players worldwide to finish second to Tiger Woods. ... The Buick Invitational was the first time this year that the winner did not have a share of the 54-hole lead. ... The world rankings are so tight from No. 3 to No. 6. that if Sergio Garcia won the Buick Invitational, he would have moved to No. 3. ... Lucas Glover, Jason Gore, Sean O'Hair, Carl Pettersson and Wes Short Jr. are the only PGA Tour players to have played in all four events this year. Glover has three top 10s. Pettersson and O'Hair are taking this week off.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods has won his last three official tournaments in a playoff -- the American Express Championship, the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and the Buick Invitational.
'I was out there mowing lawns and gardening. I wasn't lighting matches.' -- Australian rookie Nathan Green, who used to work at a crematorium managed by his parents.
Copyright 2006 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.