Woods falls to Rock in Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 29, 2012, 5:15 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Tiger Woods talked all week about his improved ball control – then it let him down when he needed it most.Woods resembled the Tiger of old over the first three rounds at the Abu Dhabi Championship, stringing together a trio of rounds below par before shooting an even-par 72 in Sunday’s finale to finish in a tie for third place behind winner Robert Rock and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.

The 117th-ranked Rock shot 70 for an overall 275 to beat McIlroy (69) by a shot. Woods was a shot further back with Thomas Bjorn (68) and Graeme Mcdowell (68). The 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero (69) and George Coetzee (70) of South Africa were another shot back.

“Today I just didn’t give myself enough looks at it,” Woods said. “Most of my putts were lag putts. I didn’t drive the ball in as many fairways as I should have … It was a day I was just a touch off the tee, and consequently, I couldn’t get the ball close enough.”

It marked the second straight time Woods hasn’t won with at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. He failed to win the Chevron World Challenge in 2010 after going into the final round with a four-shot lead over McDowell.

The 14-time major winner appears to have recovered from a two-year victory drought in which he was sidelined by injuries and personal turmoil. But Woods must now face the fact that, at age 36, there are plenty of players – known and unknown – who can potentially beat him.

Woods, though, was looking for the silver lining out of his third-place finish. He insisted he has been steadily improving – hitting a high percentage of fairways and greens until Sunday and putting much better.

“There’s plenty of big events to go, but I’m pleased at the progress I’ve made so far,” said Woods, who won the Chevron World Challenge last month to end his drought. “I just need to keep building, keep getting more consistent, and today was a day where I putted beautifully. Just didn’t give myself enough looks.”

Coming into Sunday, Woods was tied for the lead with the unheralded Rock and was the clear favorite to win. Rock had only one victory under his belt compared to 83 for Woods worldwide, but it was Rock – battling his nerves over playing alongside one of his golfing idols – who held it together down the stretch.

“It’s pretty hard to believe that I managed to win today. Very surprised,” the Englishman said. “I played good. So I guess I had a chance from early on; a couple of birdies made the day feel a little bit easier.”

“But it’s difficult playing with Tiger. You expect almost every shot to threaten to go in. I felt a lot of pressure and couldn’t afford any lapses in concentration at all.”

Woods started strong and it looked as though he might pull away from Rock, sinking a 40-footer on No. 2 for birdie and chipping to within a foot of the cup for a second birdie on the 3rd. But Rock didn’t blink, making birdie on two of the first three holes to keep pace.

Then Woods began to unravel.

He started spraying his drives into the thick rough and fairway bunkers, resulting in bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5. When Woods wasn’t missing the fairways, he was scrambling to save par as he did on 11 after overshooting the green. As he approached his shot in deep rough just off the 11th green, he sighed heavily and let out a stream of obscenities under his breath.

Woods managed to save par by sinking a 12-footer, and Rock just missed a birdie putt. Woods pumped his fist and appeared to be regaining momentum as he pulled within one shot of Rock on No. 13 when the Englishman had one of his three bogeys. But the 34-year-old Rock birdied two of the next three holes to regain control.

Rock wobbled on the 18th when his drive landed in a pile of rocks near the water – forcing him to take a drop – but he recovered beautifully, reaching the green in four and two-putting for the win.

“I was just focusing on trying to hit fairways and then hit my iron shots as good as I have been and give myself chances at birdies,” Rock said. “Both Tiger and Peter struggled on occasions on a few holes, and I managed to keep my ball in the right position and didn’t put myself under too much stress until the last, which was a relief.”

It was a storybook ending for Rock, who rose from a club pro to join the European Tour in 2003 and only got his first tour win last year at the Italian Open. The victory will elevate him into the top 60.

“It doesn’t get an awful lot harder than playing with Tiger Woods,” Rock said. “So I guess barring a major championship, I know I can handle that again. So that’s pretty nice to know.”

While most of the attention was on Rock and Woods, several players surged into contention down the stretch.

McIlroy, playing ahead of Rock and Woods, birdied No. 18 to move to 12 under and give himself a chance. But he came up short with four rounds of par or better golf being undone by several costly mistakes – the worst coming Friday when the third-ranked McIlroy was penalized two shots for brushing away sand in front of his ball in the rough on the 9th.

“You know, you’ve got to take the positives,” McIlroy said. “It’s the first week of the year, and you know, it looks like it’s going to be the second year in a row here that I’ll finish second. But still a very good start to the season and something I’ll build on.”

McDowell played the most exciting round of the tournament on Sunday, with an ace on No. 12, a chip-in on 13 and then a shot off the grandstand on the 18th that led to a birdie and a tie for third. For the 2010 U.S. Open champion, it was a good way to start the year after failing to win in 2011.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.