Woods Begins 10th Season on Tour

By Associated PressJanuary 25, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 Buick InvitationalEven after 10 years defined by his 10 major championships, there are times when Tiger Woods still feels as though he has something to prove.
The chill of a Pacific breeze was in his face Tuesday morning when he reached his ball in the sixth fairway, seemingly too far away to reach the green.
'No chance to get there?' he said to his caddie.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods makes his 2006 debut this week at the Buick Invitational.
Steve Williams shrugged his shoulders and told him it was 275 yards to the front of the green, a long way considering the wind and temperature in the 50s that keeps the ball from traveling as far.
'Let me show you my stuff,' Woods said with a smile, grabbing a driver from the bag.
He ripped a low, piercing shot that held its line until tumbling into the first cut of rough, a few yards short of the green. And this brought another smile.
'That,' he said, 'was pure.'
There were few signs of rust for Woods, who makes his 2006 debut at the Buick Invitational after taking the second-longest break of his career.
He missed two months because of knee surgery at the end of the 2002 season, returning at the Buick Invitational and winning by four shots. He took six weeks off this time, a self-imposed break to recover from a long year in which he spent more time on the range trying to refine his swing.
More than just the six weeks, Woods made it a point not to touch a club until the calendar changed.
'Once the new year came around and I started to realize I only had a couple more weeks to prepare, to start getting ready, then my mind kind of switched over,' Woods said. 'Before that, I basically had made a decision not to touch a club until the following year.'
He spent four days skiing, and the rest of December in southern California to be near his father, who is fighting a losing battle with cancer. Woods said only that Earl Woods was 'hanging in there.'
Woods is the defending champion at Torrey Pines, where the field isn't as strong as it was a year ago. Only three of the top 10 players from the world ranking are at the Buick Invitational, the others being Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Ernie Els is making his '06 debut at the Qatar Masters, joined by Vijay Singh.
Woods and Garcia, not the best of friends, will be grouped with Stuart Appleby the first two rounds, starting Thursday on the shorter, easier North Course at Torrey Pines that plays about three strokes easier than the South Course, site of the 2008 U.S. Open.
'I can't wait to get out there and compete,' Woods said. 'I've missed the competition. I've missed the rush of trying to shoot low numbers and win tournaments.'
A year ago, the Buick Invitational was a launching pad.
Woods had not won a stroke-play event on the PGA Tour in 16 months when he took advantage of late mistakes by Tom Lehman and Luke Donald, to win by three shots. Swing changes with Hank Haney kept rounding into form, and Woods went on to win the Masters, British Open and two World Golf Championships.
Woods said there is still room to improve, although he is much farther along than he was last year.
'I don't have as far to go to get ready for the Masters this year,' he said. 'Last year, I had a long way to go. I had a lot of different things I needed to fix to be ready for Augusta. This year, it's not as many. The list is a lot shorter, and the changes aren't as big.
'From that standpoint, I've got a head start on last year.'
There are other changes outside of golf. The Tiger Woods Learning Center, an after-school project for kids in the Anaheim area, will have its grand opening Feb. 10. And he recently completed a $38 million purchase of a 10-acre property in south Florida that stretches from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.
Woods didn't say when he would move from Orlando, Fla., or where he would play, although he has an invitation from Jack Nicklaus to the exclusive Bear's Club.
'I told Tiger that he is more than welcome,' Nicklaus said. 'He may choose to come to The Bear's Club, and he may choose not to come here ... may not want to feel like he's imposing on my situation while he's trying to break my record. He's certainly been invited.'
Woods said he likely would keep a house or villa at Isleworth, a course that he said was ideal for major preparations.
And that's ultimately what matters to him this year, just like always.
'Hopefully, I can put together some wins and have a more successful season than I did last year,' he said.
Torrey Pines has been friendly to him over the years.
Woods and Mickelson are the only three-time winners of the Buick Invitational, and Woods' worst finish in this tournament was a tie for 10th in 2004, when he missed a playoff by two shots.
'I've been playing here since I was 12,' Woods said. 'I've had some success here even in the junior ranks. The golf course just suits my eye.'
Mickelson, who grew up in San Diego, has been playing it even longer, and still likes to sneak out with the public, although that hasn't happened in a few years.
'I think Torrey Pines South is the hardest golf course I've ever played day in and day out,' Mickelson said.
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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.