Tiger (66) co-leads after 54 holes

By Associated PressJanuary 28, 2012, 7:14 pm

ABU DHABI - Tiger Woods put himself in position to win his second straight tournament Saturday, and this one would leave little doubt about which direction his game is going.

He finally won two months ago against an 18-man field in California.

On Saturday, against the strongest field golf has seen in at least three months, Woods shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

The topic suddenly shifts from the state of his swing and his health. Woods has a 54-7 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, and a win would be the first time since August 2009 that he has won consecutive starts.

More than being atop the leaderboard, it’s how Woods got there.

“It’s fun when I’m able to control the golf ball like I did,” Woods said.

There wasn’t a lot of fist-pumping from Woods, who traded drama for consistency, racking up six birdies in a bogey-free round. It was a memorable performance by the American, mostly for his ability to hit fairways, tame the par 5s and sink clutch putts—including a six-footer for birdie on the final hole.

“It just seemed like I didn’t do a lot of things right, but I didn’t do a lot of things wrong today; it was just very consistent,” Woods said. “You know, made a couple putts here and there. … I stayed away from trouble and tried to keep the ball towards the fat side of some of these pins, and I think I did a pretty good job.”

Woods finished at 11-under 205. Rock, at No. 117 in the world, birdied his final two holes to join Woods in the last group along with Peter Hanson, who had a 64 and was two shots behind.

Also two back at 9-under 207 were Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods for the third straight day and had a 68, keeping the No. 3 player very much in the picture.

Francesco Molinari (66) and Paul Lawrie (68) also were tied for third. George Coetzee (65), James Kingston (67), overnight leader Thorbjorn Olesen (71) and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (69) were another shot back.

The two-month break did little to slow Woods’ progress. This was the first time in 20 months—dating to The Players Championship in 2010—that he broke par in the opening three rounds of any tournament. It was his lowest score since a 66 in the second round of the Masters last year and his first time atop the leaderboard in a full-field event since he won the Australian Masters in November 2009.

Woods was two shots back after the second round but started climbing up the leaderboard Saturday with an opening birdie, followed by another on No. 7. He stepped up his game on the back nine and grabbed a share of the lead after he just missed an eagle putt on 10 and settled for a birdie. He briefly took the outright lead with a birdie on 14.

The crowd of several hundred cheered every birdie, with some yelling “Tiger’s back.”

Woods refused to talk about his chances of winning, saying there were too many players within striking distance.

“There’s a ton of guys with a chance to win,” Woods said. “I can’t go out there and shoot even par and expect to win. I’ve got to go out there and go get it.”

Rock, who got his first European Tour win last year in Italy in a playoff with Sergio Garcia, admitted he was star-struck at the prospect of teeing off alongside Woods, calling him “the best guy I’ve ever seen play golf.”

Rock was just one of several players who challenged Woods for the lead after overnight-leader Olesen fell back.

Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, showed some of the form he displayed when he finished second at the Dubai World Championship in December. He strung together birdies on 10 and 11 to tie Woods for the lead, fell back with bogeys on 14 and 17 and then recovered to birdie the 18th.

Molinari and Hanson also bounced back from opening-round 74s to move into contention. Molinari had five birdies on his back nine, while the 47th-ranked Swede had eight birdies in his round—including three on the last five holes— in a bogey-free round to finish with the lowest score of the day.

U.S. Open champion McIlroy also is still in the mix, a day after he had two double bogeys, including on the 9th when he was penalized for brushing away sand in front of his ball. He only had one bogey to go with five birdies Saturday, but the 22-year-old Northern Irishman was forced to scramble several times to save par, including on the 18th when an errant drive went into nearby rocks and almost into a pond.

“I definitely felt today was a lot better than yesterday,” McIlroy said. “So hopefully I can just keep that going tomorrow and maybe get off to a fast start and put pressure on the guys in front of me.”

Top-ranked Luke Donald (73) is 11 shots behind Woods, with No. 2-ranked Lee Westwood (68) seven off the lead.

Any victory would bolster Woods’ claims that work with coach Sean Foley has successfully revamped his swing with a better trajectory on his shots. The process sputtered early on, but his body is now “remembering these positions because this is what I used to be when I was a kid.”

“And that’s one of the things that Sean showed me, some video stuff when I was much younger, back in my teenage years,” Woods said. “He was like, ‘It’s amazing; we need to get back there. That’s where you play some pretty good golf.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I did’.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry