Woods Rallies to Win in Dubai

By Associated PressFebruary 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Dubai Desert ClassicDUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Tiger Woods watched his 25-foot putt race down the slope and bend toward the cup, then he skipped backward and punched the desert air in celebration when it disappeared into the cup for a final birdie.
 
So ended his spectacular charge Sunday to win the Dubai Desert Classic over Ernie Els, a familiar victim. Woods birdied his last two holes, and five of his last seven, for a 7-under 65 to start his season with two victories that looked nothing alike.
 
One week was an eight-shot victory at the Buick Invitational. The next week was his largest comeback in eight years when Woods rallied from a four-shot deficit with an array of impressive shots that make him look tougher to beat than he already is.
 
'I'm just happy to get a win out of this,' Woods said.
 
It was the third time Woods has started his season 2-0, another sign that he could be headed for a big year. He now has won his last four official tournaments, and six of his last seven dating to the Bridgestone Invitational in early August. Woods also won his unofficial Target World Challenge by seven shots in December.
 
'It's the ideal start, isn't it?' Woods said. 'You play to win. So far, I've done that this year.'
 
Woods finished at 14-under 274 for a one-shot victory over Martin Kaymer of Germany. Woods had already posted his score when Kaymer, who won two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, closed birdie-birdie-eagle for a 66.
 
But the real victim was Els.
 
He started the final round with a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and was four shots clear of Woods. The 38-year-old South African missed par putts inside 5 feet on the 11th and 12th holes to lose the lead, but he still had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the par-5 18th. Instead, Els hit 5-wood that came up well short and ended up in the water.
 
He finished with a bogey for a 71 and tied for third with Louis Oosthuizen.
 
It was a devastating blow to Els, who stared at the ground as he walked toward the 18th green. He is in the middle of a three-year plan to overtake Woods at No. 1 in the world, and said at the start of his season that he needed to start winning.
 
This was the perfect occasion, and he let it slip away in familiar fashion. Two years ago at Dubai, Woods birdied the last two holes to force a playoff against Els, then beat him when the South African hit his second shot into the water on No. 18.
 
This one never had a chance.
 
'The second shot on the 18, it was right where I had it, but I could see the gust got it in the air and it didn't have much of a chance in the end there,' Els said.
 
Reaching No. 1 now looks like a lost cause.
 
Woods has more than double the points over second-ranked Phil Mickelson, and when asked about the gap over Mickelson, Woods playfully said, 'I thought Ian Poulter was No. 2?'
 
That was a reference to Poulter being quoted in a British magazine that he was the only one capable of challenging the world's No. 1 player. Poulter closed with a 76 on Sunday and tied for 39th.
 
It was the largest comeback for Woods since he made up a five-shot deficit at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2000, a final round that included holing out from the 15th fairway.
 
This was almost as impressive. Woods lost momentum with bogeys on the sixth and ninth holes, but he poured it on along the back nine with six birdies to win Dubai for the second time.
 
'All of sudden I was in the mix, out of the mix,' Woods said.
 
It started with a chip-in for birdie from a thick lie in the rough. Then came a tough flop shot from a tight lie, a bunker between Woods and the hole, that he caught perfectly to about 5 feet for birdie on the 13th.
 
'I thought I had to shoot 30 to get into a playoff,' said Woods, who shot 31 on the back nine. 'It just happened to be good enough.'
 
Woods hit a perfect drive on the 359-yard 17th to just left of the green, leaving him a good angle for a chip that he hit to 8 feet for birdie. Then came the 18th, when Woods though his 5-wood for a second shot was perfect.
 
It went long, just short of the bunker, leaving Woods an awkward chip down the slope, with water on the other side.
 
'I could easily chip the ball in the water,' Woods said. 'You have to make your mistake short and if I leave it too short, just chip up and try to make a par and (I'm) probably not going to win the tournament, but see what happens.'
 
He came up short, but holed the 25-foot birdie putt that turned out to be good enough.
 
Woods also won his first two events of the season in 2000 and 2006. In both those years, Els was among his early victims.
 
He now has won 72 times worldwide in his career, 62 of those on the PGA TOUR. A week ago at Torrey Pines, Woods won by at least eight shots for the ninth time in his career. This was much tighter, and Woods made no secret which one he prefers.
 
'I like (winning) by seven or eight a lot,' he said. 'It's a lot less stressful.'
 
Woods has until Friday to decide whether he will play the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, although he likely will not return until the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, which begins Feb. 20.
 
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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.