Shark Bitten on Own Course

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mxico -- Nick Price came to the Riviera Maya feeling good about his retooled swing. Having given up on trying to launch the ball higher, hed already seen immediate results.
Then he arrived Friday for the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Feeling the stiff wind blowing off the Caribbean Sea, Price wondered whether his new trajectory could handle it.
No problema. Price shot one of the best rounds of the day, a 2-under 68 that moved him to 2-under 138 for the tournament, putting him into a tie for eighth and into the weekend in his first PGA TOUR start since 2006.
Ive got to pull something out of the hat if Im going to have a chance, Price said. But to be honest, Im just happy to be playing here and also to have made the cut. My game the last 2 1/2 years has not been good, and my debut on the Champions Tour last year was not good. And just in the last month or so, Ive turned my game around. Ive bottomed out and Im looking to get back up again. Its nice to be enthusiastic about playing again.
While Price moved into contention, the other World Golf Hall of Famer in the field'Greg Norman'packed up and left after a 79.
Despite all his advantages for having designed the El Cameleon course, the Shark went through an early five-hole stretch of three bogeys and a double bogey. He finished at 9 over, missing the cut by five strokes.
It was a tough day to play if you dont play under these conditions on a regular basis, Norman said. If your swing is a little bit out, youre going to pay the price. I never got into the synch or rhythm of it until the end of it. My putting was still very poor to average, so I paid the price.
First-round leader John Merrick shot a 68 to remain on top at 8-under 132. Brian Gay was a stroke back after a 67.
Merrick and Gay were both well under par through two rounds of last years inaugural Mayakoba event, then neither broke par the final two rounds. Thats probably not something theyll want to discuss in the final pairing Saturday.
Im going to try to just stick to my swing keys and putting keys thats been working so far and see what happens, Merrick said.
Nick Flanagan had the lowest round Friday, a 66. Only 16 players broke par while battling coastal gusts of 25-30 mph, up from 15-20 mph Thursday.
I think its set up perfect for the way the wind blows, Merrick said, certainly to Normans delight. Theres a lot of room out there that they give you, and its just hard with the wind blowing in your face. You get the ball up in the air curving, it can go in the swamp area or whatever. Its a challenging course. The scores arent that low, so its hard.
Merrick and Gay are seeking their first PGA TOUR wins, as are many of the others tied for eighth or better. The group has 24 victories; 18 belong to Price.
Now 51, Price got into this tournament on a sponsor exemption. He has proven he belongs by using his experience'and new swing'to handle the wind, which alternates between in your face, at your back and sideways depending on the hole.
This course being so narrow, it puts a premium on driving the ball straight and I did today, Price said. I played very cautiously. I played smart golf today.
He also was sound fundamentally.
In January, Price realized the kink in his swing was his upper body hanging behind the ball at an angle to try getting more air under it. Working with David Leadbetter, hes gotten back into the habit of keeping his spine straight.
It made a huge difference, he said. I mean, I still think Ive got a ways to go but Im hitting quality golf shots now. And its not just two or three, its five or six shots. And Im hitting good quality golf shots that are finishing; even when I hit a poor one, it still finishes in a position where I can save from.
Before the change, Price said he never wouldve been able to tame Fridays wind.
A day like today, it was going to kill you, he said. I hit a lot of good shot today into the wind. In fact, I actually hit better shots into the wind today than I did downwind. Im probably about 75 to 80 percent of where I know I can be with my swing now but at least Im on the way up, and you know, Im on the improvement.
Norman hasnt made the cut on the PGA TOUR since the 2005 British Open, but this was only his fourth event since then. His last time out was just a few weeks ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he only entered because his son wanted to play with him.
He didnt look rusty Thursday when he shot out to 4-under and was tied for fifth. But he didnt have another birdie that round or at all on Friday. At least he closed with two pars under the watch of his fiance, former tennis star Chris Evert. She offered a reason for his poor performance, too, saying, Hes sick as a dog, but wont admit it. Norman had said earlier in the week that he was fighting a head cold.
Norman said hes not planning to compete again any time soon. As for an annual appearance in this tournament'the PGA TOURs only visit south of the border'he said its possible. He missed last years inaugural event because of health reasons.
I have to come here anyway for a dinner on Tuesday, so, why not? he said. Well see what happens next year.
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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.