Notes Webbs Loyalty Harringtons Strange Season
That includes a family in Ocala who opened their home to a 20-year-old stranger from Australia.
Webb played the Futures Tour for two months in 1995 as she waited for the European Tour season to begin. To save expenses, she stayed with a host family during the Ocala tournament, which she won. Over the years, Craig and Debbie Mueller have been like a second set of parents.
'They're my American family,' Webb said.
The Muellers kept in touch as Webb made it through LPGA qualifying, her sensational rookie season, her 30 victories and six majors and her swift journey to the Hall of Fame.
Going into the final round of the '01 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles, Webb saw a familiar face on her way to the first tee and asked that the USGA allow the Muellers on the 18th green if she were to win. Webb won by eight.
'They've seen more wins than my parents,' Webb said, noting that her mother was only able to travel to one tournament a year from Australia. 'They've always been there. They come out to a couple of tournaments a year, and we talk every now and then. They're good people.'
Webb's parents, Rob and Evelyn, and both sisters traveled from Australia for her induction. The Muellers drove over from Ocala and stayed in the background during a reception, no less proud of the Australian kid they invited into their home 10 years ago.
Padraig Harrington isn't sure what to make of his year on the PGA Tour. He missed the cut in all three majors he played and had only four top 10s -- but two of those were victories, at the Honda Classic in a playoff and at the Barclays Classic with an 80-foot eagle on the last hole.
Sure, he was disappointed in his inconsistency.
But considering he has finished runner-up 20 times in Europe, he wouldn't trade the trophies.
'Life is a lot easier when you play badly and then all of a sudden you get in contention and win one,' Harrington said. 'No one gets on your back. When you finish runner-up seven times, everyone is asking, 'Why aren't you winning?' It's much more fun when you jump into a win out of the blue. It's a much tougher game when you play consistently well.'
Harrington mentioned Jim Furyk, who lost twice in playoffs this year at the Wachovia Championship and in Las Vegas. Furyk now is 1-6 in playoffs, losing his last six.
'I'm sure they're jumping on Jim's back for not winning all those playoffs,' Harrington said. 'But how good is he playing to get into them? Only that he's in so many playoffs does he have a bad record. The better you play, the more you're going to lose. Because you're going to be there more often.'
The Irishman was asked if he would rather have two victories and no other chances to win, or one victory and six second-place finishes.
Give him the titles.
'Runner-up is only for cash,' he said. 'I'm looking for wins, and nothing else. That's what you get judged on.'
John Engler continued his amazing recovery from a serious car accident by making it to the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying. Engler, who played for Clemson in 2001 when it won the NCAA title, required six surgeries after breaking his leg in a March 2003 crash.
Engler got through the second stage at Deerwood Golf Club, along with former tour winners Steve Stricker, Bill Glasson and Dan Forsman. Glen Day and Joel Edwards did not finish among the top 19, and will have to rely on their status as a past champion to get into events.
At Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Fla., Skip Kendall was medalist in the second stage, followed by former Masters champion Larry Mize.
Among those who failed to reach the final stage were Kevin Hall, the former Ohio State player who is deaf.
Also failing to advance was Casey Wittenberg, who has not come close to earning his card since leaving Oklahoma State in 2004. Past tour champions Nolan Henke, Ken Green and Jose Coceres withdrew.
Three more second-stage qualifiers will be held this week, with the final stage in Orlando at the end of the month.
The HSBC Champions event in China marked the official start of the 2006 season on the European tour, which will cover 22 countries on five continents, and won't reach Europe until the end of March.
There will be more tournaments in China (at least six) than in England (five), which again will host the British Open in July at Royal Liverpool. The first European tour event held in Europe will be the Madeira Island Open in Portugal the last weekend in March.
The busy part of the European schedule comes in September.
The HSBC World Match Play Championship, which offers the largest official payoff in golf, will be held at Wentworth on Sept. 14-17. From there, players head to Ireland for the Ryder Cup the next week, followed by the American Express Championship at The Grove just outside London.
Europe and the United States each have seven players among the top 20 in the world ranking. ... Among those in Champions Tour Q-school are Lance Ten Broeck, who has spent the past several years as a caddie for Jesper Parnevik and Robert Allenby. Also in the qualifier, which starts Wednesday in Calimesa, Calif., are Mike Donald, who lost the 1990 U.S. Open in a playoff against Hale Irwin, and Eduardo Romero of Argentina. The top seven earn their cards. ... The Canadian Women's Open is raising its purse $400,000 to $1.7 million.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Marc Warren gave Scotland all three Order of Merit winners in Europe on the regular, senior and challenge tours.
'He makes more money this time of year than most of us make during the year.' -- Kenny Perry, on Fred Couples' play during the silly season.
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.