Notes Wie On the Web Big Four Showdown

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2006, 5:00 pm
SAN DIEGO -- Michelle Wie is expected to launch her own Web site later this year, and she can thank a family friend for saving the Wie clan thousands of dollars.
The friend some years ago secured the domain (, meaning Wie does not have to pay off whoever might have registered it. Her father, B.J. Wie, said the friend secured as many variations as possible.
But he didn't get all of them.
Going to takes viewers to TaylorMade's home page, which sends a mixed signal since Wie has an endorsement contract with Nike.
Wie's agent, Ross Berlin, sent a cease-and-desist letter to TaylorMade, but the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company said it had nothing to do with it. The site was registered by an individual, although why that person would direct viewers to TaylorMade is unclear.
It stirred memories of Cleveland Golf's campaign last year for its new driver, in which it directed customers to its slogan -- '' But it left the 'c' out of dysfunction. TaylorMade picked up on the error, secured the domain with the proper spelling, and posted an ad for its own driver.
It only took three weeks in 2005 until the four biggest stars played the same PGA Tour event. This year, fans probably will have to wait until the end of the West Coast swing.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be at Torrey Pines this week, but Vijay Singh and Ernie Els are at the Qatar Masters. Woods doesn't play Pebble Beach. Els won't make his PGA Tour debut until the Nissan Open, and Singh is likely to skip that event because he will have played six straight.
That means the stars won't be together for the first time until the Accenture Match Play Championship. And given the fickle nature of that format, they all won't be around for long.
For those wanting a chance to play in a PGA Tour event, it's no longer as simple as paying $400 for a Monday qualifier and trying to grab one of four spots.
Starting this year, anyone who doesn't have status on the PGA or Nationwide tours first must play a pre-qualifier to get into the Monday qualifier. The change was partly to weed out the guys who are lucky to break 90, and to bring equity to qualifiers that have to be played on two courses to accommodate everyone.

The Sony Open avoided the pre-qualifier because only 78 players signed up.
But for the Buick Invitational, which traditionally has one of the largest Monday qualifiers, 174 players were assigned to pre-qualifying last Thursday. A total of 55 players from two courses made it to the Monday qualifier, where they were joined by PGA and Nationwide players.
It allows for better quality of play. But it also could lead to a closed shop on the PGA Tour, because unproven players have to devote an entire week for a long shot. Instead of playing Monday and moving on, they have to spend an entire week in one town, paying for lodging and meals.
'I've heard both sides,' said Gerald Wong of the PGA Southern California section. 'Some guys like the idea of having four spots from one course, and the better players have a better chance of making it. Some guys don't like it, because it's more expensive to stay out there a couple of more days.'
The PGA sections run the Monday qualifiers and get money from the entry fees. Wong said he had roughly as many players as he did last year.
Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour, said players pay $200 for the pre-qualifier, money that goes to the section. If they make it, they pay another $200 for the Monday qualifier, which goes to the tour. Nationwide players pay $100 for Monday qualifying, while PGA Tour players don't pay anything.
Along with the extra expense, some players might have to choose between playing a mini-tour event or giving up that week for pre-qualifying.
'We do have guys that play mini-tours and they'll try to Monday qualify four or five times,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. 'But they have to decide where they want to try to play.'
Hughes said the tour's research shows PGA sections will get about the same money, and the fields will be stronger. But the odds of players having a dream round to get into the PGA Tour got significantly longer.
The company that managed the marketing of Anna Kournikova and Mia Hamm now gets to see what it can do with 23-year-old Natalie Gulbis.
Gulbis, who had been represented by Imani, has signed up with Octagon. While she hasn't won in her four years on the LPGA Tour, Gulbis earned just over $1 million to finish sixth on the money list, and she was 3-1 at the Solheim Cup.
'The main thing that excites us is she's a brand,' said Giff Breed, managing director of Octagon Golf. 'She's one of the few athletes who can transcend her sport, and that's something we do well.'
Gulbis already has her own calendar and a reality show that aired on The Golf Channel.
Laura Diaz, pregnant when she played in the Solheim Cup, gave birth to her first child, Robert Cooper Diaz, last week. ... Mike Weir tied for fifth at the Bob Hope Classic, his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since he tied for fifth at the Masters last year. ... Phil Mickelson will be honored with the Gold Tee Award, the highest honor given by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association for outstanding career achievements. ... As expected, Chrysler has decided not to renew as title sponsor in Greensboro, N.C. ... Chad Campbell won the Bob Hope Classic at 25-under 335, the highest winning score at the Hope in 10 years. ... John Daly will play the Deutsche Players Championship in Germany, which will be held the week after the British Open.
Two courses under 7,000 yards -- Hilton Head and Westchester -- were among the top five toughest on the PGA Tour last year.
'Just like the motto on the PGA Tour -- 'These guys are good' -- well, these guys are just as good.' -- Chris DiMarco on the European tour, after winning Abu Dhabi for his first victory in four years.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.