Repeat Winners the Story in 2003

By Associated PressFebruary 13, 2003, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)So much for that trend of first-time winners.
At this point last year, two players already had won for the first time on the PGA Tour, a number that grew to a record 18 by the end of the season. That led most players to speculate that the tour was deeper and more talented than ever.
The truth is, the PGA Tour has been loaded with talent the past several years.
'The way things happen in sports, you see the pendulum swing,' said Len Mattiace, whose first career victory came at the Nissan Open. 'I think that was a time the pendulum was swinging for first-time winners.'
It might have had more to do with top players not performing, which Mattiace said enabled other players to have more chances at winning.
'I don't think we will see as many this year because the percentages are against it,' Mattiace said.
Call it a case of jumping to conclusions.
The latest craze on tour is foreign-born players winning the first four events of the year, and six in a row dating to last year. Davis Love III ended that streak at Pebble Beach, and odds are it will be evened out by the time the year is over.
Ernie Els was 31-under par at Kapalua -- smashing the tour record in relation to par -- and cries rang out that scoring records would fall just about every week. So far, that has been the only tournament record that was broken.
One last example of the sky falling: Pebble Beach.
Some people suggested a few years ago that the tournament move from its early February date because of all the weather problems. It was canceled in 1996, went through a seven-month delay in 1998 and was 54 holes in 1999.
No one is complaining now.
It was the third straight year rain was never a factor on the Monterey Peninsula.
Staying alive
Kevin Sutherland is trying to keep an important streak alive this week in the Buick Invitational. He needs a good tournament to avoid being the first defending champion not to qualify for the Match Play Championship.
The deadline for qualifying for the World Golf Championship is next Monday, and Sutherland is hanging on at No. 62.
Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are virtually assured of being the top three seeds for the Accenture Match Play Championship, which will be played in two weeks at La Costa.
The real shuffling comes at the bottom. Toru Taniguchi (No. 51) has withdrawn because of injury, so No. 65 will be the final seed. Jay Haas is holding down that spot, followed by Robert Karlsson and Paul Azinger.
Also on the bubble are Mark Calcavecchia (No. 69) and Stewart Cink (No. 74), who has never missed a Match Play Championship.
Lehman's push
The 6-foot birdie putt Tom Lehman missed on the 18th green cost him a chance to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but it wasn't a total loss.
Lehman, who hasn't won in two years, moved up to No. 39 in the world ranking. He needs to stay in the top 50 through The Players Championship to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1992.
Home on the Range
Vijay Singh started hitting balls on the practice range about noon Monday after he arrived at Torrey Pines. Before long, his divots carved a trench that stretched about 6 feet long.
Two hours later, there were six trenches and Singh was still pounding away.
Steve Stricker came by to watch.
'If I hit two in a row like that, I'd quit,' he said.
When a range attendant brought two more buckets of balls, Singh said he would hit those and then call it a day. With 11 balls remaining, he hit one that tailed to the right, two good shots, then two that went too far left for his taste.
'Bring me one more bucket,' he said to caddie Paul Tesori.
After struggling through the year to find tournament sponsors, the PGA Tour is off to a good start in 2003. Already signed up through 2006, AT&T (Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and Deere & Co. (John Deere Classic) have extended their title sponsorship through 2010. ... The jumbling of the May schedule on the PGA Tour gave the Colonial something it hasn't had in nine years -- the U.S. Amateur champion in the field. John Harris in 1994 was the last U.S. Amateur champion to play. The following years, the winners were obligated to play in their NCAA regionals. ... Suzy Whaley has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in June. She missed the cut the three previous times she played. ... Junior golf programs in Indio, Calif., Wilkinsburg, Pa., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, have been selected to each send 15 kids to the Tiger Woods Foundation Junior Golf Clinic at Disney World in the fall.
Stat of the week
David Duval is leading the PGA Tour with an average of 1.581 putts per greens hit in regulation. He has missed the cut in both his tournaments.
Final word
'He won't be any different. He can play on one leg and still beat us.' Shigeki Maruyama, on Tiger Woods recovering from knee surgery.
Copyright 2003 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.