Notes Tiger Travel Plans Romance for Annika
Woods said Tuesday he might play the HSBC World Match Play Championship in England next year for the first time since he lost in the finals to Mark O'Meara in 1998. The tournament is to be played Sept. 14-17, which is one week before the Ryder Cup in Ireland. The week after the Ryder Cup is the American Express Championship in London, and Woods is the defending champion.
'I'm looking at that right now,' Woods said. 'I could do a three-week stint there. You don't have to travel far.'
Woods played the week before the Ryder Cup the last time it was held in Europe. He won the American Express Championship at Mount Juliet in Ireland, then went on to The Belfry for the '02 matches.
He caused a stir that week in Ireland when he said a World Golf Championship title was more important to him than winning the Ryder Cup. 'Why? I can think of a million reasons,' Woods said, referring to the $1 million prize.
The World Match Play Championship has the richest payoff in golf, with more than $1.7 million going to the winner.
ANNIKA MOVES ON
Annika Sorenstam is feeling comfortable enough about her personal life that her boyfriend, Mike McGee, has become slightly more visible at tournaments. The Swedish star talked about her relationship in a recent interview with the Aftonbladet newspaper in Stockholm.
McGee is an agent for International Golf Partners, and the son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee. Sorenstam said they have known each other for about six years from parties and LPGA Tour functions.
'But it wasn't until last winter that we reconnected so that our friendship grew strong and, well, now this is what came out of it,' she said.
Sorenstam said her divorce from David Esch was final on Aug. 22. McGee followed her matches at Solheim Cup. He also was at the ADT Championship, escorting her to the LPGA awards banquet at Mar-a-Lago.
She said it was a matter of time before people noticed they were together.
'I think what we have is great, but it hasn't been anything I have wanted the whole world to know about,' she told the newspaper. 'I am still struggling to move on. You can't get over a divorce in just a few months. But being with Mike makes it a little easier. He helps me move on.'
ALLENBY ON TRACK
Robert Allenby is going after the Down Under version of a Triple Crown this week at the Australian Masters, having won the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship the past two weeks.
More importantly, he might be able to punch his ticket to the real Masters.
His two-week winning streak brought him up to No. 47 in the world ranking, and based on math involved in point reductions over the two-year formula, it appears he will stay in the top 50 when the year ends.
Augusta National invites the top 50 from final world ranking published in 2005.
'I know with the golf I have played over the last couple of weeks, I need to stay positive and I need to believe in myself a little more,' he said. 'If I can do that I know I can win more tournaments in the U.S. and hopefully a major.'
Former LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw has a ring on his finger, but don't jump to any conclusions just yet.
Votaw, who has been dating Sophie Gustafson the last two years, got engaged to the long-hitting Swede two weeks ago during the ADT Championship. Why the ring?
'In Sweden, the guy wears an engagement ring, too,' Votaw said.
The proposal came before taking her to a Bruce Springsteen concert in south Florida, and Votaw said his only regret was not knowing what the Boss would be playing that night.
One of his songs from the album 'The River' is titled, 'I Want to Marry You,' although Springsteen rarely sings that when he's on tour. But he did that night.
'Sophie turned to me and said, 'It would have been really romantic if you had asked me during this song,'' Votaw said. 'But I had already asked, and she accepted.'
Wedding plans have not been set. Votaw, meanwhile, is still between jobs. He left after seven years as commissioner in September, and there is talk he will join the PGA Tour in some capacity, but nothing has been announced.
Former Masters champion Fred Couples played Augusta National in late October and offered what should be a familiar scouting report on the par-3 fourth, which now plays about 240 yards.
'It's hard,' Couples said. 'It's very hard.'
The club altered six holes during the summer, although the two likely to get the most attention are No. 4 and No. 7, both of which were lengthened by 40 yards. The seventh hole had been a 3-wood and a sand wedge. Couples hit a driver and a 7-iron during his latest trip.
'But No. 4, I just felt like under the wrong circumstances, it's just going to be awfully hard,' said Couples, who hit a 2-iron. 'But everyone's got to do it. Stronger players can maybe hit a 3-iron up high and stop it. But with the utility clubs, those go just as high and soft. There will be a bit of club changing.'
After 15 years of weekend coverage on ABC, the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship will be televised by CBS Sports. The LPGA Tour's first major of the year will begin March 30 and end April 2, the Sunday between the NCAA Final Four semifinals and the championship game. The talent has not been determined. CBS Sports televises its showcase golf event the following week at the Masters. ... The Nationwide Tour Championship is moving out of Alabama. It will be held at the Houstonian Golf and Country Club in Houston next year, and Barona Creek Golf Club in San Diego in 2007. ... Five players already have earned more in the silly season than Nick Price, who finished 125th on the PGA Tour money list. ... John Daly will be playing in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, his first trip to the Middle East.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Twenty-five years after he first led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 274.3 yards, Dan Pohl became the first Champions Tour player to average more than 300 yards off the tee (300.5 yards).
'In my wildest dreams, I could never imagine winning this many times and this many majors in my 20s.' -- Tiger Woods, who has won 46 times and 10 majors. He turns 30 on Dec. 30.
Copyright 2005 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.