Can You Say The Big Two

By Brian HewittSeptember 11, 2006, 4:00 pm
Never, perhaps, has ascension of one player to the rarefied air near the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings been so stealthy.
 
But when the sun came up on the continental United States Monday morning, there was the name of Jim Furyk right next to the number 2.
 
The golf world has had this fascination with the adjective Big followed by a number going all the way back to the heyday of a triumvirate of icons named Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. They were, of course, golfs original Big Three.
 
More recently we engaged ourselves in heated debates about our sports Big Five'Woods, Mickelson, Singh, Els and Goosen.
 
Furyks name never, as they say in horse racing, got a call.
 
Then the discussion shifted to golfs new Big Three'Woods, Mickelson and Singh.
 
No talk of Furyk then either.
 
Soon all the palaver had morphed into Big Two talk'Woods and Mickelson--after Mickelson won his second Masters earlier this year.
 
Then an unfunny thing happened. Mickelson gave away the 2006 U.S. Open with an embarrassing 72nd hole meltdown at Winged Foot. And suddenly the only name above base camp was Tigers.
 
It is interesting to note that Furyk frittered away a genuine opportunity to win that day at Winged Foot as well. And in the aftermath of Geoff Ogilvys win in New York, Mickelsons form never really returned (yet).
 
Furyk, on the other hand, kept grinding.
 
The word grinder is often a euphemism in golf for a player whose ability to try exceeds the sum total of his God-given talent. That concept does a disservice to the word and to Furyk.
 
Fact is, Woods is a grinder of the first order and nobody in the game today possesses his physical gifts. Furyk has a ton of talent. But because he doesnt swallow up par 5s in great big gulps; and because his swing is idiosyncratic, he is a grinder.
 
Well, guess what? Weve got two grinders at the top of the world rankings today. Woods and Furyk.
 
Golfs new Big Two.
 
Mickelson has slipped to third.
 
And isnt it almost bittersweet that Woods and Furyk will almost certainly be playing together as partners in a widely-anticipated Ryder Cup that will take place late next week in Ireland?
 
Bittersweet because the Americans, after all, are trying to convince the rest of the world that they are underdogs for those matches because, in part, the underdog mentality seems to work so well in this pressure cooker of a competition. The case for Americans as underdogs gets much harder to make when your bell cow pairing comprises the top two players in the world'The Big Two.
 
Woods and Furyk.
 
Probably the best tribute to Furyks climb comes from Woods himself. Too few have been listening.
 
For years Tiger has been asking various and sundry Ryder Cup captains to pair him with Furyk. Tiger sees things in golf that others dont. It is almost as if he knew Furyk would, one day, get to No. 2.
 
That day is now.
 
It is a day that is more important in America for remembering what happened on 9/11/2001.
 
But in its corner of the sports world, golf today acknowledges the steady rise of a hard-working, no-nonsense, all-business grinder.
 
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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.