Harrington a Good Bet for Future Captain - COPIED
Sunday Harrington became the first European to win a major in the 21st century when he outlasted Sergio Garcia in a memorable playoff at Carnoustie in the British Open. The win also made him the first Irishman in 60 years to get his hands around the Claret Jug. Earlier this year Harrington became the first Irishman in 25 years to conquer the Irish Open. And in 1997, Harrington and countryman Paul McGinley were the first Irishmen to capture the World Cup in 40 years.
One former European Ryder Cupper told me this week that it is now a virtual cinch that Harrington will one day captain a Ryder Cup team. The only question is when.
Meanwhile the only sure thing picks ahead of Harrington in the European captaincy queue are Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The 35-year-old Harrington isnt likely to be named captain until 2014 at the earliest. He would be 43 by the time the matches were played that year at Gleneagles in Scotland. Englishman Tony Jacklin was 39 when he captained the Euros against the Americans in the 1983 Ryder Cup.
But there is a strong sense that Harringtons victory at Carnoustie may have pushed him ahead of Northern Irelands Darren Clarke in the unofficial race to become the first Irish captain. Clarke is four years older than Harrington and another sure bet to captain the Euros one day.
Clarke has played in five Ryder Cups, Harrington four.
SOUTHERN HILLS UPDATE:
The major season will conclude the week after next with the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. Superintendent Russ Myers wishes it was today.
Myers said Tuesday his golf course is exactly where Kerry Haigh, the PGAs course set-up guy, wants it. That includes greens running at between 11.5 and 12 on the Stimpmeter and rough that is strong, thick and dense.
Myers said temperatures in the 90s are predicted for Tulsa the next several weeks and will force his grounds crew to treat the grasses with extra care because of the heat. The good news, he said, is all the rain Tulsa has had for the last two and a half months.
May was the fourth-wettest in Tulsa history, he said. There were only five days in June that we didnt get rain, and the first two weeks in July it rained almost every day.
Myers said the course was flooded out more than once during that time. But the upside was that fewer rounds were played by members and cart usage was extremely limited. The temperatures never got too high on us during that period, he said. We survived it well.
The rains finally relented a week ago. So now the first thing the players will check out when they arrive at Southern Hills is the ninth and 18th greens. In 2001 at the U.S. Open both those elevated greens had to be altered during tournament week. Their pitch from front to back was too severe to hold approach shots while keeping them at the same speed as the other 16 surfaces.
The result was an inconsistency that forced a renovation three years ago. Thats when course architect Keith Foster spearheaded a re-design that lowered the back of the ninth and 18th greens while raising the fronts. The net effect was a leveling of the putting surfaces and a better receptivity to well-struck shots. It also enabled the PGA to pick up a new front left hole location on the 18th that would have been unthinkable in 2001.
If we could have the tournament here this week, Id be ecstatic, Myers said. Right now there are no issues.
Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old golfing mighty mite from Hawaii, will make his PGA TOUR debut as a professional next week at Reno-Tahoe Open.
Sources say Fujikawa hasnt spiked ticket sales. But he has already visited the Montreux Golf and Country Club to play a couple of practice rounds.
Tadd knows this isnt Hawaii and it isnt Japan, said tournament director Jim Kline, who granted Fujikawa a sponsors exemption but cant, by the TOUR rules, pay appearance money.
Kline said despite normal ticket sales there has been a buzz surrounding Fujikawas debut. And Kline intends to take advantage of that by slotting Fujikawa into the Monday and Wednesday Pro-Ams. He will pair Fujikawa with First Tee kids on Monday. And, Kline predicted, Fujikawa will go near the top of the blind draw draft at the pairings party Tuesday night when amateurs get to pick their pros for Wednesdays Pro-Am.
This has certainly been no type of Michelle Wie effect, Kline said. But people here are excited.
The Reno-Tahoe Open is being played the same week as the PGA TOURs WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in Ohio.
So exactly when, a lot of people want to know, will the Open Championship be returning to Carnoustie, the Scottish golf course that delivers all that high drama.
Currently the R&A has only announced it Open Championship schedule through 2010 when it will convene at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
A highly-placed senior tournament official pointed out that there are nine British Open venues at the moment. St. Andrews gets the Open Championship roughly every fifth year. The other eight host approximately every 10th year.
The best guest is that Carnoustie will host again in 2017, give or take a year. To put that in perspective, Tiger Woods will probably have turned 40 the next time the Open Championship gets to Carnoustie.
Meanwhile the R&A has stated publicly that it wants to return to Carnoustie provided, the official said, Carnoustie Links would have them.
Right now there is no reason to think they wouldnt.
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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.