Tigers Return Fuels Post Season Feel

By Associated PressAugust 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- The crowd following Tiger Woods around the TPC Boston grew steadily throughout the morning sunshine until it lined the length of the 18th fairway as he finished his pro-am Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
It was about the same size of the gallery following the leaders in the final round last week at The Barclays.
Maybe that's why some people believe the playoffs don't start until Woods shows up.
'Let's be honest about it,' Rich Beem said. 'There's only one person that really matters in this playoff system, and that's Tiger Woods. If Tiger is not playing, you're not going to have a whole lot of validity. If he's not playing, then how serious can we be about this?'
Woods skipped the first round of the PGA TOUR Playoffs last week at Westchester, saying his body and mind needed a brief vacation after back-to-back victories in stifling heat, the second title coming at the PGA Championship.
He looked plenty refreshed on the refurbished TPC Boston during the pro-am round, playing without a bogey and without much effort on his way to a 63. That's the same score he had the last time he was on this course, when he turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh in the final round last year.
Woods went 10 days without picking up a club, but doesn't appear to have lost momentum anywhere but the playoff standings.
By skipping The Barclays, which Steve Stricker won with a birdie-birdie-birdie finish, Woods fell from No. 1 to No. 4, nearly 5,000 points behind Stricker with three tournaments remaining.
He didn't break much of a sweat when he heard that.
'I know I've slipped in the standings, but there's plenty of points out there, and I'm just going to go out there and get some Ws,' Woods said. 'It makes things pretty exciting coming down to the last few weeks.'
Woods has his own ideas how he would change the system, such as starting with fewer players. But even though he skipped the first playoff event -- and some proclaimed this new model a failure with his absence alone -- he seems to have embraced the concept.
He said he would play the next three events, even if he were to clinch the FedExCup before arriving at East Lake. It is mathematically possible for Woods to be the runner-up the next three weeks and win the FedExCup.
Which means more?
'I'd rather take the Ws instead of three 2s,' Woods said. 'Just me.'
He said going winless over the next three weeks but still capturing the FedExCup would be similar to winning the Arnold Palmer or Byron Nelson awards, given each year for the player who earned the most money or had the lowest scoring average on the PGA TOUR.
'It's a year-long award,' Woods said. 'But would you much rather have Ws throughout the year than win that award at the end of the year? Ask any guy out here, they'd much rather win tournaments.'
It's still too early to handicap the rest of these inaugural playoffs, and fickle as golf is, there's no guarantee that Woods will even finish second, let alone, win at the Deutsche Bank or anywhere else.
But it helps to have history, and he has plenty of that over the next two weeks.
The front nine in the final round last year at TPC Boston remains one of the sharpest stretches of golf in his career. He played the first seven holes in 6 under par, including two eagles, and coasted home to a 63.
Woods also is a three-time winner at Cog Hill outside Chicago, site of the BMW Championship next week, and he twice has finished second at East Lake in the TOUR Championship.
To get to the finish line, Woods figured he needed to be at full strength. He has not played four straight tournaments since early in the 2000 season, and had no regrets spending time on his boat instead of at The Barclays last week.
Jack Nicklaus, in town for a Presidents Cup meeting, understood completely.
'It was really important when I played my last event that I was just as fresh as I was for my first event of the year,' Nicklaus said.
Woods doubts that will happen.
Asked if he was just as recharged as when he won the Buick Invitational in late January, he smiled and said, 'No.'
'It is a long season, and that the whole idea of not playing a lot throughout the year, so that when you do play, you're fresh,' he said. 'You're able to go in with the same energy level each and every time.'
The energy level figures to be raised Friday when the Deutsche Bank Championship, and not just because it's the second round of these playoffs. Because the tour groups players based on their playoff standing, Woods will play the first two days with Phil Mickelson and Singh, the first time ever for those three in the same group.
That's the marquee group, but not the top group by seeding. Stricker moved atop the standings and will be joined in his group with K.J. Choi and Rory Sabbatini.
For the second straight week, the playoffs didn't get all the top players.
Ernie Els withdrew so he could spend a week at home in London as his kids go back to school, and Scott Verplank took this week off to recharge and give himself his best shot of winning at East Lake, one of his favorite courses. Tom Lehman also withdrew.
There's a good chance at least one other top player won't be in Chicago.
'You've always got a guy that doesn't feel like he's ready to go, gets to the tournament week and pulls back,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'Candidly, I thought we might have a little bit more of it than we did.'
But he's got Woods this week. Some might say that's all that matters.
Related Links:
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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.  

    Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    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.