Paddy Sergio renew their rivalry in Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 14, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Abu Dhabi Golf ChampionshipABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates ' Padraig Harrington understands that matching his remarkable performance from last season is a considerable challenge.
So, he might as well try to surpass it.
In better shape than he has been in years, the popular Irishman who captured the British Open and PGA Championship last year begins a campaign full of expectations Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the first of a three-event European Tour Desert Swing.
It would be hard to set goals based on last year, Harrington said. So, Im trying to focus on the process and just trying to improve my game. I worked out a lot during the break, not only on my game and in the gym, but also with my psyche.
I do believe Ill be a better player this year, he added. That doesnt necessarily mean that my results will be better, but over time, it will even itself out.
Second-ranked Sergio Garcia and third-ranked Harrington lead a strong field into the $2 million tournament, which has drawn a number of players who might otherwise have played the PGA Tours Sony Open in Hawaii.
Among them are Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa, defending champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, Spanish standout Miguel Angel Jimenez, Australians Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley, and Indian star Jeev Milkha Singh.
Harrington beat Garcia in a playoff for the 2007 British Open in Carnoustie and also held off the Spaniards challenge at the PGA Championship.
Garcia, who leads the European Tours new Race to Dubai after winning the season-opening HSBC Champions in Shanghai, plans to play all three Gulf events. Doha and Dubai are the other two.
This is going to be an important year for me and Im looking forward to getting into a good rhythm and get some good emotions in these next three weeks, Garcia said. I love this particular stretch of European Tour.
With Tiger Woods still working back from knee surgery, Garcia has a chance to gain ground on the worlds top-ranked player ' and perhaps even overtake him.
Of course, I have a chance. It could happen if I get going the right way. I have to play very well, Garcia said. But its not something thats a do-or-die for me. Winning a major has always been a goal for me. But if I become the No. 1, nothing is going to change for me.
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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

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    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

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    Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

    All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

    “I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.

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    “I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

    Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

    “This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

    Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.