Tiger Maintains Three-Shot Lead

By Associated PressSeptember 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Tiger Woods never liked tournaments where birdies were required simply to keep up. He managed just fine Saturday at the TOUR Championship, where a 6-under 64 only allowed him to keep his three-shot margin at the pushover known as East Lake.
 
Even after a week of low scoring because of soft, slow greens, the third round was mystifying.
 
'I can't remember too many golf courses that have been easier than this one,' Woods said.
 
Zach Johnson flirted with a 59 until he hit into a bunker on the par-3 18th hole and had to settle for a par and a course-record 60. Mark Calcavecchia shot a 63 and only picked up one shot on the world's No. 1 player.
 
Woods was watching and laughing from the par-5 15th fairway as Calcavecchia made eagle to join him atop the leaderboard, but that didn't last long. Woods birdied his next two holes, and missed a 7-foot birdie on the final hole that put him at 19-under 191.
 
It was the lowest 54-hole start in Woods career, and it left him poised to win at East Lake for the first time. Woods has never lost a professional tournament when leading by more than one shot going into the final round.
 
As for the FedExCup?
 
Phil Mickelson still has a mathematical chance, but the odds are about the same as winning the lottery without buying a ticket. Lefty's only hope was winning the TOUR Championship and having Woods finish lower than second by himself. Mickelson shot 70 and was 13 shots behind, so assuming he doesn't shoot 56 on Sunday, the $10 million goes into Woods' retirement account.
 
All that remains, even if Woods doesn't win his seventh tournament of the year, is how low the scores will go Sunday. The tournament record is 17-under 263, set by Bart Bryant two years ago.
 
'If you made a bunch of pars, you were going to get run over, so it was nice to make some birdies and get out there and still maintain the same size lead I had starting out the day,' Woods said. 'You see the rounds today -- 60, 62 -- and guys were taking it deep. I was hoping that I could make some birdies myself and basically shoot something in the mid-60s.'
 
Calcavecchia was briefly tied after making an 18-foot eagle on No. 15, but he missed the 16th fairway and had to lay up short of the green, and he failed to birdie the last two holes.
 
He will play with Woods for the first time in the final pairing, although it's quite a consolation prize.
 
Calcavecchia, at 47 the oldest player in the 30-man field, has become so tired during this four-week stretch of the PGA TOUR Playoffs that he was in last place and teed off as a single in the final round of his last two events. When he finished at Cog Hill on Sunday, he assessed his chances at East Lake this way:
 
'Somebody is going to finish first and somebody is going to finish 30th, and I know who the favorite is for that.'
 
Even playing in the final group doesn't change is outlook on the first part of that equation.
 
'If I play like I did today, I'll have a lot of fun, even if it's not enough,' Calcavecchia said. 'He'll probably keep me relaxed to some degree a little bit. But it's a round of golf with Tiger Woods. It's where you want to be. It's a good spot to be in.'
 
The sliver of hope in his favor?
 
Woods is 40-3 on the PGA TOUR when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and two of those losses came at East Lake -- in 2000 when he was tied with Vijay Singh and was overtaken by Mickelson, and in 2004, when he was tied with Jay Haas and both were blown away by Retief Goosen.
 
But a three-shot advantage is daunting, especially the way Woods is playing. His average score is 65.7 in these playoffs.
 
'That's a pretty big hill to climb,' Calcavecchia said. 'If he was hitting a few foul balls, it might help. But every time I turned around, he was 40 yards ahead of Woody Austin in the fairway. So it's pretty hard to screw up with a pitching wedge into every par 4 and reaching every par 5 easily.'
 
Austin's bark turned into a whimper.
 
He turned heads at the PGA Championship when he suggested he outplayed Woods the day the world's No. 1 player shot 63 and Austin shot a 70. Austin said Friday evening that Woods is 'not hard to beat' as long as he doesn't have a big lead and the other guy is playing well.
 
Austin was within two shots after a tap-in birdie at No. 2, then hit his next approach to within 6 feet. Woods followed with a wedge that spun back to 6 inches for birdie, Austin missed his putt, and that was that.
 
Austin would up with a 69, a score not posted until Austin confirmed that when he stuck his putter behind his ball on the 15th hole, he did not attempt to hit it. He wound up eight shots out of the lead.
 
'I played like an idiot,' Austin said. 'I'm embarrassed. But I didn't do anything wrong on 15.'
 
Sergio Garcia did nothing wrong. He shot a 64 and didn't make up any ground, finishing at 14-under 196. Johnson, meanwhile, was close to perfect. He stood on the 18th green with a chance to shoot 59, but nerves got the best of him and he deposited his 2-iron into the bunker and had to settle for par and a 60.
 
Woods' only bogey came with a wedge in his hand when he missed the seventh green to the right into a bunker. He picked up short birdies on the ninth and 11th, and when Calcavecchia challenged him, Woods answered with back-to-back birdies.
 
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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.