The Next Big Things on TOUR

By Brian HewittAugust 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
Brandt Snedeker, instantly likable as a player because hes so winningly long on enthusiasm and so blessedly short in the amount of time he needs to prepare for his next shot, fired a 63 Sunday in North Carolina and seized the Wyndham Championship.
The victory did a bunch of things for the 26-year-old Snedekers PGA TOUR resume.
It established him as the odds-on favorite to be voted Rookie of the Year by his peers at the end of this season. (The list of past winners, by the way, is a fast company. Other names on it include Wood, Els, Singh, Daly and Cink, just to name a few.)
It got him into next years Masters and the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
It made him exempt on TOUR through 2009.
And it marked him as, arguably, the hottest player in the field going into next weeks inaugural FedExCup event'The Barclays'which kicks off golfs new four-week playoff system. Prior to holding off Jeff Overton, Billy Mayfair and Tim Petrovic by two shots Sunday, Snedeker had posted three top-10s in his last five starts. After barely making the cut at last weeks PGA Championship in the wicked heat of Tulsa, he carded a 69 and a 70 on the weekend to grab a share of 18th.
Pretty heady stuff for the former Vanderbilt all-American and U.S. Public Links champion.
But not, if you delve into his golfing history, all that surprising.
Lets flash back to 2006 when Snedeker was struggling on the Nationwide Tour. The problem was he was trying too hard and he knew it. At the LaSalle Bank Classic near Chicago he made a conscious decision to cool it.
I decided I would just stop trying to shoot 62 every round, he said at the time. I guess I just decided to get out of my own way.
Funny thing was, not long thereafter, he fired a 62 in the first round of the Nationwide Tours Chattanooga Classic. By the end of last year he had jumped to No. 9 on that tours money list which punched his ticket to the Big Show.
In this seasons fourth PGA TOUR event, the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines near San Diego, Snedeker blazed his way to an opening round 61 on Torrey Pines North course. His card included nine birdies and an eagle.
I played phenomenal, he said.
Snedeker didnt win. But he got everybodys attention.
Sunday at Greensboro Snedeker went out in 6-under 30 and took the outright lead at 21 under with a birdie, his third straight, at the par-5 15th.
Its a great day, he said.
This great day for Snedeker also boosted him to No. 9 in the FedExCup point standings which guarantees him a spot in all four playoff events. Snedeker began the week 26th in that points race.
Its not quite time yet to declare Snedeker the next big star of the future. But hes doing a pretty good imitation and you cant ignore his confidence at the moment.
Snedeker also managed to put a bold-faced exclamation point on the Wyndham Championship. It began Thursday as an event that didnt have one player in the top 30 in the world rankings because it came the week after the PGA. And it wound up forcing the golf world to pay attention to all the hustling going on for the final FedExCup spots.
The FedExCup is still a work in progress. But it has a window right now to grab sporting headlines. College and professional football havent begun their seasons in earnest. And the baseball pennant races wont command center stage until next month.
Its setting up very well, said PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem Sunday. Its gonna take finishing these playoffs for people to really understand fully what the Cup is all about. And it sets us up for next year and the year after that.
Brandt Snedeker, by the looks of it, will be around for next year and the that. And the year after that ... And the year after ...
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    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."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    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.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    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.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    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. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    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.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “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.