Notes Rankin Recovering No Age Limit for Monty
But the ABC Sports golf analyst doesn't quite have the strength to go to the British Open next week.
'It's the hardest week I have and the one I love the most,' said Rankin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago. 'But I'm not quite up to that. I'm trying hard to get to the Women's British Open. Nothing is a definite yet, but it looks very possible.'
Rankin had planned to go to Toledo, Ohio, this weekend for the LPGA Tour event. Her family is talking her out of it, however, not wanting her to return too early and have a setback.
'I think I would be quite capable of sitting and talking for two hours,' she said with a laugh. 'It's the trip that's hard, and that's not an easy place to get to. What I need is my own airplane.'
Then came more laughter.
'Maybe I'll go to the British if Tiger will take me,' she said.
The Women's British Open is Aug. 3-6 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and Rankin remained optimistic she could make it.
'This has been hard, I must say,' she said. 'But I think I'm well through the worst of it now.'
Colin Montgomerie says he feels 10 years younger than 43 because of his practice routine. Monty has one of the most beautifully repeating swings in golf, a swing that hasn't changed since he was a lad. That means he doesn't spend countless hours on the range finding a fix, which he believes has added longevity to his career.
'I haven't worn out my body bashing balls,' Montgomerie said last week in Ireland. 'Actually, I can prolong my career longer than others because I haven't bashed myself up.'
Monty said he hits about 150 balls during a typical round -- assuming he shoots around 70. He said Sky Sports sent a reporter to count how many balls Vijay Singh hit in a typical day at the U.S. Open.
'Just short of 1,000 in the day,' Montgomerie said. 'That included 400 putts after he finished. He's older than me by four months. But he's unique. He is one end of the scale, and I am the other. That's a 700- or 800-ball difference in a day. You multiply that by six days' play in a week. He does very well.'
Using that math, Carlos Franco is 41 and probably feels 12.
USGA executive director David Fay made it no secret that he would like to see the U.S. Women's Open return to Cherry Hills, and that he expects the Denver club to ask for it again.
If that's the case, expect to see one minor change.
Fay said it struck him watching the Women's Open last year that few of the women -- Sophie Gustafson and Laura Davies being the exception -- tried to reach the par-5 17th green in two. The green is small and guarded by a stream in front.
'When we return, we'd like to see the 17th play different,' Fay said.
He said plans were to build a forward tee that would tempt the women to go for the green. No telling what that would mean for the big-hitting Gustafson, who reached the green one round using a 6-iron.
Padraig Harrington did not take the bait from British reporters last week who asked about the potential of the United States having so many rookies on the Ryder Cup team.
One reporter suggested that the reason Europeans don't know them is they don't have passports, alluding to Euro-bashing that Americans don't travel well.
Your thoughts, Padraig?
'If you live in the States, you don't need a passport to go to the Caribbean. You don't need a passport to go to Canada. You don't need a passport to go to Mexico,' he said. 'You can get a lot of places and go on a lot of holidays and visit a lot of nice places without a passport.'
Then it was suggested they never have been to Europe.
'They are going to look forward to an incredible experience coming to Ireland,' he said, 'and choosing a great country to come to Europe first.'
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman didn't mince words when asked about John Daly's chance of being picked. 'He really hasn't done anything to warrant a second look at this point,' Lehman said last week in Ireland. Daly is the only double major winner to have never played in the Ryder Cup. ... Catrin Nilsmark will return as European captain, this time for the Junior Solheim Cup team. Her varsity squad won in Sweden and lost at Crooked Stick. ... The winner of the Senior Players Championship this week will get an extra perk -- a spot in the field next year at The Players Championship. The change was approved by the PGA TOUR policy board and is consistent with other senior majors. The leading money winner on the Nationwide Tour from the previous season also will get into The Players Championship. ... Kenny Perry tied for 12th at the Western Open and earned enough money to become the 10th player to surpass $20 million in career earnings. Jack Nicklaus is still stuck on $5.7 million.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jeff Maggert at the St. Jude Classic and Geoff Ogilvy at the U.S. Open are the only players who have shot over par in the first round and gone on to win on the PGA TOUR this year.
'No. There's another Open.' -- Ben Curtis, asked if he would be playing the B.C. Open, held the same week as the British Open.
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.