Tiger Out of the Gate Quick at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Another streak ended for Tiger Woods on Thursday, this one worth celebrating.
He finally broke 70 at Bay Hill.
Ending a peculiar drought at a tournament he won four straight times, Woods shot 6-under 64 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first sub-70 round in three years to share the lead with Vaughn Taylor and Paul Casey.
Woods played his best golf in nearly six months, giving himself a birdie opportunity on all but one hole. He opened with four birdies in the first six holes, missing putts of 10 and 12 feet on the other two.
'It's definitely the best round of the year,' Woods said, pausing for effect. 'I haven't played that many rounds.'
Even so, he could not remember the last time he hit 17 greens in regulation, especially on a Bay Hill course with ankle-deep rough framing the tight fairways.
And while Palmer changed the scorecard to a par 70, it didn't stop Woods or anyone else.
The 64 was the lowest opening round at Bay Hill since Woods shot 64 in 1998. Taylor played bogey-free, picking up birdies on two of the toughest holes, including a 5-iron over the water to 8 feet on the eighth hole.
Casey's only previous trip to Arnie's course was in 2004, when he shot 77 in the first round and withdrew. He also played without a bogey, joining the leaders with an approach into 7 feet for birdie on the 18th.
'Having it played it twice now, I can honestly say I enjoy the golf course,' Casey said.
The record for most rounds in the 60s on any day at Bay Hill was 41 in the second round of the 2000 tournament. With 11 players unable to finish Thursday because afternoon stroms moved into the area, there already were 42 scores in the 60s.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson didn't have one of them. He hit into the water on No. 8 to take double bogey and followed birdies with bogeys on his way to a 72.
'I scored terribly,' Mickelson said. 'I scored 2 over on a course with soft greens that wasn't playing very hard.'
Woods won every year from 2000 through 2003, but after opening with a 67 the follow year, he failed to break 70 his next 11 rounds and was rarely in contention. He fixed that situation quickly Thursday morning, even as a strong gust kicked up early in his round.
'I thought it was important for me to shoot at least under par on that front nine, and that was all I was concerned about,' Woods said.
The only green he missed was his only bogey.
After a 3-wood on the 18th -- his ninth of the round -- he was between a 9-iron and a wedge over the water. The ball took aim at the pin, hit about 6 feet short, then spun enough to trickle off the green against the rocks framing the water. Woods said he could have hit the next shot if it were a practice round or his pro-am, but didn't want to risk a big number.
He took a penalty drop, chipped within a foot and took his lumps. He picked up three more birdies on the back nine, finishing with an approach into 6 feet on the ninth hole.
'I may have left one or two shots out there,' he said. 'Well, 64 around here is not too bad.'
It wasn't that unusual, either.
Sergio Garcia, Trevor Immelman and Sean O'Hair were in the group at 66, while Tampa winner Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Verplank and former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman were among those at 67. Ernie Els put his tee shot into the water on the par-5 sixth and made double bogey, but steadied himself for a 69.
About the only thing Palmer can do now is pour concrete on the greens.
'The greens were very receptive,' Casey said when asked about the good scoring in breezy conditions. 'That was key. If you were in the fairway and had the right club in your hand, you could really attack the flag.'
One of the par 5s converted to a par 4 was No. 4, which played even shorter from a forward tee at 463 yards. Woods and Garcia wound up hitting 5-wood off the tee and a short iron (8-iron for Woods, 7-iron for Garcia) into the green.
The 16th played into the wind, but most players kept the ball in the short grass and kept big numbers off their cards. That was the key for getting it around Bay Hill, for Garcia narrowly missed the fairway at the par-5 sixth and could only chop it out with a 6-iron.
Most everyone at Bay Hill is in the Masters or trying to get there, and each round feels like building blocks.
'The whole idea is just to keep improving, keep fine-tuning and have everything together the first week in April,' Woods said, who appeared headed in that direction.
John Senden withdrew before the first round because he was ill, and it was costly. At No. 52 in the world, Senden will not be eligible for the World Golf Championship at Doral next week, and will not have a chance to qualify for the Masters. ... Tiger Woods won the Mark H. McCormack for the ninth straight year. It is given to the player to holds the No. 1 ranking for the most weeks during the calendar year. ... Dean Wilson used a 4-iron to make an ace on the 221-yard second hole. ... Tour officials set the first afternoon tee time for noon, leaving players a little more than two hours to complete the first nine holes. They had to push afternoon tee times back 30 minutes.
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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.