Haney Weighs in on Jordans Game
To put it politely, its no secret Jordan enjoys a friendly wager on the golf course every now and then. Wednesday, Jordan showed off his game to the world when he teed it up at the Pro-Am for the Wachovia Championship.
When I contacted Hank Haney, Tiger Woods swing coach, he had this to say about Jordan and his game: It is a real good swing, Haney said of Jordans action. But, Haney added, it is a little tough to play golf when your hands are as large as his, but he does real well.
As long as we were on the subject, I couldnt resist quizzing Haney on the contortionistic swing of Charles Barkley, a close friend of Woods and Jordan. He (Barkley) is one of my favorite people, Haney said politically. And I am looking forward to fixing his swing.
FOR PEETES SAKE:
Speaking of hands and the golf swing, Calvin Peete had this to say when I asked him how he would solve Phil Mickelsons driving accuracy problems if Mickelson asked him:
If the hands arent in the right position, its impossible to square up the clubface.
Peete said the way to remedy a wayward driver is by practicing short wedges. If you cant fix it with the short shots, youre not going to fix it with the long ones.
Peete won the 1985 PLAYERS Championship and to this day remains one of the straightest drivers the game has ever known, leading the TOUR in driving accuracy for 10 straight years (1981-1990).
In Mickelsons defense, since switching from instructor Rick Smith to Butch Harmon he has played in just one event, last weeks EDS Byron Nelson Championship. And despite a relatively poor (by his standards) putting week, Mickelson finished tied for third.
Interest in Zach Johnson refuses to die down in and around the Illinois-Iowa border region near where the John Deere Classic takes place. When Johnson, an Iowa native, tees it up at the John Deere in July it will mark the first time in the 37-year history of the event that the reigning Masters champion will be in the field.
How can the John Deere be so sure Johnson will commit to their event?
For starters, Johnson sits on the tournaments board of directors. Tournament director Clair Peterson tells me local interest in Johnson has spiked so high that officials have been forced to implement their internet ticket sales a month ahead of when they normally start.
Peterson said Johnson is an invaluable resource in helping him take the pulse of the TOUR and keep up with the kind of issues he must know about when recruiting players and setting up his tournament week. Johnson regularly conferences in from the road for the monthly executive committee meeting.
Having Johnson on the board, Peterson said, is something of a trend. Other tournaments, he said, are increasingly enlisting the expertise of TOUR players from their area in making decisions related to their event.
The Wachovia Championship is known among many players and caddies as the event with the best perks on TOUR.
The good folks at Wachovia go so far as to provide a Mercedes courtesy car to the caddie of the defending champion.
This year that lucky looper is Jim Furyks bagman, Mike Fluff Cowan. Problem is Cowan decided to drive his own car down from Washington D.C. to North Carolina for this weeks tournament.
Tournament director Kym Hougham told me that if Cowan changed his mind and decided to leave his car at the hotel, his Mercedes would be waiting for him all week.
All he has to do, Hougham said, is pick it up.
MANHATTAN ISLAND GREEN: If you are in New York City next week, you might want to check out the interactive exhibition at Rockefeller Center in the heart of Manhattan. Its a replica of the famously infamous 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass.
The concept was turned into reality by UBS, a partner of THE PLAYERS, which will take place next week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The host for the exhibit is Tishman Speyer Properties which made news for itself in New York business circles earlier this week when it sold the New York Times building for $525 million after paying $175 for the same property just three years ago.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
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."
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.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.