Will golf next see another Tiger or another Arnie

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2009, 4:00 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. ' The aging, yellow Lab named Mulligan stretched out on the carpet next to the office door at Bay Hill and didnt move except to lift his eyelids when footsteps disrupted his morning nap.
 
Suddenly, he lifted his head and staggered to all fours, wagging his tail when he heard a familiar voice coming up the stairs.
 
Arnold Palmer climbed the final few steps and smiled at his dog.
 
For more than 50 years, Palmer has made everyone around him feel better.
 
Thats why hes the King.
 
And thats why he is more relevant than ever in the world of the golf. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is asking players to be more aware of how good they have it. He wants them to be reminded that they essentially are working for the corporate sponsors writing the checks and for the fans behind the ropes, both of whom make it all possible.
 
Last week, tour officials posted a notice on the bulletin board in the locker room at the Transitions Championship. Please remember to thank the CEO of this weeks event, it read. Cards have been placed in your lockers for you convenience.
 
Anyone think Palmer ever needed a reminder like that?
 
Brad Faxon remembers the first time he played with Palmer. It was his rookie season in 1984 at The Players Championship, and when the announcer began to introduce Faxon by saying, In his first year on Tour, Palmer mocked surprise as if the announcer were talking about him. The gallery roared with laughter.
 
Even more memorable about that day was what Palmer said to him as they walked off the first tee.
 
He said, If you want to have an impact, be sure to look every fan in the eye, Faxon said.
 
With his power and charisma and sheer passion for the game, Palmer was responsible for bringing golf to the masses a half-century ago. He won his first Masters the year it was first televised. No other athlete has remained more relevant in retirement.
 
Palmer is the host this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, making him one of only two players to have a PGA Tour named after him (Byron Nelson is the other). He last competed in an official event in 2006, but he will play in the pro-am Wednesday, and four amateurs most certainly will have a day they wont forget.
 
The defending champion at Bay Hill is Tiger Woods, the greatest player of his generation, well on his way to winning more PGA Tour events and major championships than anyone.
 
Players like him dont come around very often, if at all. He has transcended his sport to become the most famous athlete in the world. He won a U.S. Open by 15 shots. He won another U.S. Open on one leg.
 
Palmer is golfs greatest ambassador. Woods might be its greatest player.
 
All of which leads to an intriguing question.
 
Which is golf more likely to see next? Another Tiger Woods or another Arnold Palmer?
 
Padraig Harrington cast his vote for another Tiger, mainly because of the media and celebrity culture.
 
Its hard to be an Arnold Palmer now, he said. I dont know if the era could happen again where you could have somebody like Arnold Palmer, who was a man of the people. Now, sports people tend to be a bit more aloof and detached.
 
Peter Jacobsen said he expected to see another Palmer before another Woods.
 
Like day turns into night, I think youll see the Tour change again very soon, said Jacobsen, in town for a PGA Tour board meeting and to work for NBC Sports on the weekend. Weve already gone from a Tour thats got lots of characters to a Tour with guys who are intense, quiet and driven. I think were likely to see the next Arnold Palmer.
 
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem took a safe seat on the fence.
 
Gosh, thats a really hard question, he said. They would both be extremely difficult to replicate, theres no question about it. Just have to wait and see. Maybe well have two or three come out next year.
 
He didnt mention who those two or three would resemble, but its clear who golf could use more at the moment.
 
Golf is more interesting when Woods has a rival. Mickelson has resurfaced this year and could be No. 1 in the world before the Masters. Harrington is a threat as he tries to join Woods as the only players to win three straight majors over the last 50 years.
 
Even so, Woods attracts interest even when no one is there to challenge him.
 
Tiger is more like Jack (Nicklaus) was early in his career, Faxon said. He was dedicated to improving himself and his career, and winning majors, which is great for the Tour.
 
But does Woods look fans in the eye? Does he remember the names of people he met 10 years ago no matter the size of their role? Does he see the media as a way to promote golf, or does he see them as an obstacle?
 
Finchem is asking players to do more for the Tour, for the fans and for the sponsors. Woods has said he will do his part, but the details were vague until word began to leak about a private function Monday at Isleworth. Woods hosted a breakfast and a clinic for a dozen or so CEOs of companies that are PGA Tour title sponsors.
 
He did something extra that he was asked to do, Rocco Mediate said. And when your No. 1 player says, OK, thats cool.
 
The best thing for golf would be the arrival of another Arnold Palmer.
 
Especially if his name were Tiger Woods.
 

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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.