Americans May Be Underdogs

By Brian HewittOctober 29, 2003, 5:00 pm
Increasingly, in the days ahead, you will be hearing more and more about the Presidents Cup matches scheduled to be played at Fancourts Links Golf Course in South Africa. One of the themes in the pre-Cup build-up will focus on trying to figure out which team'the Americans captained by Jack Nicklaus or the Internationals captained by Gary Player--is the favorite to win.
 
And isnt that a novel idea?
 
The Americans are always favored. Arent they?
 
Its been a little bit of a drought for the U.S. in these Cups, says Jeff Sluman, who will serve as a special assistant to Nicklaus in South Africa. They might even be favored.
 
It has been more than a little bit of a drought for the U.S. Our country lost the last Ryder Cup, the last Solheim Cup, the last Walker Cup and the last Palmer Cup. Moreover, the world ranking status of the Presidents Cup participants on the International side rivals that of the Americans.
 
Seventeen of the top ranked 21 players in the current official world golf rankings will be at Fancourt. Nine of those 17 will be playing for Player. Our team is a lot stronger than it has been, said Zimbabwe native Nick Price. But to say were favoredI dont know.
 
Nobody wants to be favored in these things anymore. The Euros found out the benefit of being underdogs in the Ryder Cup more than a decade ago. It breeds team unity. Dont think for a minute Sluman doesnt believe the Americans have the best team. But hes smart enough not to declare that in public.
 
On the subject of Sluman, his presence will be invaluable to Nicklaus. Nicklaus captained the American squad at the Presidents Cup in Australia in 1998. And the Internationals massacred his team 20 to 11 . Nicklaus critics said he should have been more hands-on. His special assistant that year was his son, Jackie.
 
And Jackie Nicklaus is one of the nicest people in golf. He is not without knowledge of the game. But he doesnt know the ins and outs of tour players like Sluman who, by the way, will make a superb sub if another American pulls out at the last minute.
 
I know the players personally as friends and professionally, Sluman says. And I know exactly whats going on with them. I can funnel that to Jack. I think there will be more camaraderie within the team and I dont just mean laughing and giggling.
 
OK, then. We now know the Presidents Cup will be more than a hit-and-giggle for the Americans. For the Internationals, the Presidents Cup has always been their version of the Ryder Cup, an event that still commands more interest worldwide even though its geographic parameters are narrower.
 
This will be the biggest event in South Africa since the Rugby World Cup, says South African Retief Goosen. In 1995 South Africa won the first Rugby World Cup ever staged on its soil.
 
The matches are going to be close, Goosen says. Yes, Id like to say were the favorites. And a Tiger-Ernie singles match on the last day to decide the Cup would be great. But well have to see.
 
Price, too, would love to see a Woods-Els singles match-up. What he wouldnt like, at age 46, is the deciding match being his. No, he said. My nerves are too frayed.
 
Well have to see about that, too.
 
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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.