Phil Mickelson in the lead as Tiger Woods sputters at Doral

By Associated PressMarch 12, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' Phil Mickelson cant recall ever hitting the ball this long or having a short game this superb, and it showed Thursday when he chipped in three times on his way to a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead in the CA Championship.
 
Tiger Woods had few complaints about his game, but he sure didnt get the same results.
 
In his first stroke-play event since winning the U.S. Open last summer, Woods managed only three birdies on a Blue Monster course where he has never finished out of the top 10. He wound up with a 71 to tie for 40th in an 80-man field.
 
It was not like I was playing poorly and shot 71, Woods said. I played well and just didnt make any putts.
 
The problem for him was just about everyone else did.
 
2009 WGC-CA
Phil Mickelson tees off at the 2nd hole during the first round of the WGC-CA Championship. (Getty Images)
Jeev Milkha Singh ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn and was the first player to post a 65 on a balmy, breezy afternoon. Retief Goosen, switching back to a conventional putter, ran off eight birdies in his round of 65. And the real surprise was Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who birdied eight of his first 12 holes to join the leaders.
 
The group one shot behind included British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington, who didnt feel as though he did much of anything right and had his best score of the year.
 
I think I hit two fairways with my driver today. So its not like I played good golf or anything like that, Harrington said. It was all about the score.
 
For Mickelson, it was mostly about his finish.
 
He hit into the water on No. 3 and took double bogey, found the water again on the par-3 fourth hole and chipped in for par. Mickelson was even through eight holes and was hopeful of a good back nine that would allow him a chance Friday to get into contention.
 
Three hours later, he already was there.
 
After trying to drive the 355-yard 16th hole, he pitched up to 3 feet for birdie. Then he chipped in from short of the green on the 17th, and made it three straight birdies by chipping in from about 25 feet on the 18th.
 
It was just nice to see the ball go in the hole, Mickelson said.
 
That wasnt the case for Woods.
 
When he returned to competition after his eight-month hiatus from knee surgery, he only had to worry about beating one player at a time in the Accenture Match Play Championship. Stroke play is about posting a score and maneuvering his way up the leaderboard.
 
But he didnt have many close looks at birdie, picking up two of them on par 5s and the other one with a 7-iron that stopped a foot from the hole on the par-3 15th hole.
 
Today I was trying to figure it out, how to get the ball in the hole a little bit faster than what I was doing, Woods said.
 
Consider this a slow start. Its one thing to be six shots behind after the opening round, quite another when 35 players separated him from the top of the leaderboard, a familiar position for Woods at Doral.
 
You are going to have days like today, Woods said. And I would be obviously a little bit more disappointed, a little more frustrated, if I had not played well. I felt like I hit the ball well, hit putts well, but they just didnt go in. I have to be a little bit sharper tomorrow. Hopefully, those putts go in tomorrow and the score will be a little different.
 
Sean OHair began his round with consecutive eagles and was among the group at 67. Henrik Stenson played a shot from the mucky water on the third hole after taking off everything but his boxer shorts and his golf club. He shot a 69.
 
Otherwise, golf began to return to normal with its No. 1 player back in the golf. The gallery was large, as it often is at Doral, with fans lining the right side of the 10th fairway when Woods teed off.
 
2009 WGC-CA
Retief Goosen plays a shot on the 9th hole during the first round of the WGC-CA Championship. (Getty Images)
His wife, Elin, walked his opening nine holes, the first time she has been on the course since giving birth to their son on Feb. 8. And there were cheers coming from all corners of the Blue Monster as birdies kept falling.
 
One of the biggest cheers Woods heard in his group came on the 16th hole when he took his driver out of the bag to go for the green. It was his first all-out swing ' he recoiled after contact ' and it didnt seem to bother him, except for where the ball landed. It was right, in the rough, and Woods could get it no closer than 20 feet.
 
Mickelson is putting a DVD on the market on short-game instruction, and he put on an exhibition. Lefty is possibly the best player in golf inside 100 yards, and his chipping was deft as ever. Perhaps no chip-in was as significant as the fourth hole, especially coming off a double bogey on the previous hole and having to take another penalty stroke.
 
But it was the whole package that made Mickelson so excited. Even when he was even par through eight holes, he knew it was coming.
 
I felt going into this tournament that I was playing as well as I ever have, as far as I can remember, he said. From 50 yards in, my short game has never been this good. And Ive never driven the ball this long and this straight without the fear of a big miss. My iron play is better than it has been in quite some time. And I expect that to improve as the week goes on.
 
I am excited about the next three rounds.
 
There is no cut in these World Golf Championship events, so Woods is guaranteed of playing three more rounds. He was excited about that as he starts his road to the Masters. But after an opening round in which only 21 players failed to shoot par or better, he must have figured out that it was time to pick up the pace.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    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."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    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.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    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.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    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. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “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.