Long vs Straight Its No Contest

By Brian HewittFebruary 7, 2005, 5:00 pm
If it isnt already, this fact should be patently obvious now as the 2005 PGA Tour season begins to take nascent shape:
Driving accuracy is significantly insignificant. And here are the numbers to prove it:
Phil Mickelson won the FBR Open Sunday near Phoenix because he ranked second in putts per round and 12th in driving distance. It did not hurt him that he finished 51st in driving accuracy for the week.
Tiger Woods won the Buick Open January 23 near San Diego because he ranked second in putts per round and fourth in driving distance. It did not hurt him that he finished tied for 68th in driving accuracy for the week.
Vijay Singh won the Sony Open in Hawaii January 16 because he tied for eighth in putts per round and seventh in driving distance. It did not hurt him that he finished tied for 41st in driving accuracy for the week.
Oh, and by the way, Singh, Woods and Mickelson are ranked first, second and fourth, respectively, on the current PGA Tour money list.
Oh, and by the way II, Singh, Woods and Mickelson are ranked first, second and fourth, respectively, in the current Official World Golf Ranking.
Ernie Els ranks third in the world and No. 5 on the 2005 money list with stats that are not dissimilar.
It is easy, and not entirely unfair, to proclaim that professional golf has become a safe haven for the so-called bombers. But who among us knows off the top of his or her head that John Elliott ranks No. 1 in driving distance at the moment and tied for No. 134 on the money list.
No, the formula is just a little more complicated than that. The long and the short of it is the long and the short of it. The preponderance of dominant players right now are driving it long and chipping and putting like demons.
There is also this matter of vectors. It drives Hank Haney, Woods instructor, to distraction that people compare Tigers driving accuracy to, say, the machine-like precision of a Fred Funk. If Funk misses his line off the tee by five percent he will still usually wind up in the fairway. If Woods, who carries the ball much farther with his driver than Funk, misses by five percent, he is often in the first cut and, yes, sometimes in the junk.
Woods, Singh, Mickelson and Els have all made a conscious and collective decision that they would rather be hitting a wedge from the rough into par 4s than a 5-iron from the middle of the fairway. And it is impossible to argue against the merits of that decision.
Dont think Jay Williamson and Olin Browne, just to name two, wouldnt do the same if they could bomb it as far as the Big Four. Williamson currently ranks No. 2 in driving accuracy and No. 120 on the money list. Browne is No. 3 in driving accuracy and No. 145 on the money list.
This doesnt mean that a Williamson or a Browne cant compete. There are still weeks when a Justin Leonard, 12th in driving accuracy and 125th in driving distance, will win on certain courses. But the percentages tilt decidedly toward the longer hitters.
This has been a developing trend. But never have the numbers been easier to interpret than they are right now.
The question becomes whether or not this is good for golf.
And the answer is simple:
As long as its inside the rules, do what you have to do. And dont hold your breath waiting for any of the world tours to change their course set-up philosophies. Meanwhile, if you arent a worldclass putter and chipper, you wont become a world-class player, no matter how long or short off the tee you are.
But if, say, Heath Slocum, who ranks seventh in driving accuracy, wants to win more golf tournaments on a regular basis, he will probably need to hit it longer.
By the same token, if Tiger Woods wants to return to the form he enjoyed in 2000, he would do well to start finding more fairways.
It works both ways. And everybody should be looking to get better every day. Woods, for one, lives by this mantra.
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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.