Major Bubble

By Brian HewittOctober 22, 2003, 4:00 pm
It wasnt supposed to be this way for Shaun Micheel. Micheel won the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in New York in August with the single most dramatic golf shot of the year, a 7-iron on the 72nd hole that stopped two inches from the cup.
Micheel wasnt supposed to arrive at the Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort on the bubble. But thats where he finds himself upon his return from England, where played in the HSBC World Match Play Championship last week.
Micheel has dropped to No. 30 on the money list. He is THE current bubble boy for the Tour Championship which will be played in two weeks in Houston.
Obviously being in the top 30 on the money list gives you more of a standing in the golf community, he says. Of course we all want to be at the top of that list, but there is only room for one of us. As I hover on the bubble, the depth of the tour is apparent. It shows that even though you win a major, you arent guaranteed anything.
One of the little-known facts of Micheels victory at the PGA Championship was how close he and caddie Bob Szczesny came to parting ways before the tournament.
I have always been loyal and dont change caddies just because Im playing poorly, Micheel says. But there was a time this year when I had missed three cuts in a row when I thought that a change might be imminent. We righted the ship with a 10th place finish at Hartford and just like that we were a team again. I knew all along that it wasnt Bobs fault. Caddies do not hit the shots. Ultimately, Bob is my friend.
One of the people who helped talk Micheel into keeping Szczesny was his wife, Stephanie, who is pregnant with the couples first child. I am grateful that he (Szczesny) didnt fire me after missing those cuts, Micheel says.
And as for the importance of his wife: Stephanie is my life, he says. She has put up with my life since 1994 and if I didnt have her to push me along I dont think I would be in the position that I am in right now.
Stephanie Micheel is an attorney and played soccer at LSU. And, Shaun says, She knows the dedication that sports require from individuals and the amount of time that is required to be at the top level.
And she has understood the separations imposed by the incessant travel. There has never been one time when she has asked me to come home, he says. If that is not support, then I dont know what is. Since January of 1994 there have been maybe 20 days in which we have not spoken. And that includes my travel overseas. I am a long distance carriers dream.
I love her and I am going to do anything to make sure that I hear about her day and to let her know that she is in my thoughts.
Sometimes players change after winning a major championship. Sometimes that change is for the worse. Its nice to see that this is not the case with Shaun Micheel.
As for the bubble: If he makes it, great for him. If he doesnt, Micheel will survive. It isnt like he has played poorly since Oak Hill. Micheel has made the cut in all three PGA Tour events he has played in since then.
Its just that balancing golf with a new house and a baby due soon has been draining. But, he says, it is all good and I am enjoying it.
Editors Note: Shaun Micheel will be Vince Cellinis special guest on Golf Talk Monday, Oct. 27 at 8:00PM (ET).
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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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).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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 contacted 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.