Notes Webb Browsing Ochoa Learning

By Brian HewittMarch 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Not a bad year. Karrie Webb won five times in 2006 and is the defending champion here this week at the Kraft Nabisco. Yet most of the attention last year in womens golf focused on the ascendancy of Lorena Ochoa (Player of the Year).
I changed my swing, probably two and a half years ago, Webb said. And I think its still a work in progress for me. The only difference is I have a little bit more of an understanding of the swing that I have now.
And she has more confidence. Which, by the way, is what she sees in Ochoa, who fired a 62 in the first round here last year but couldnt hold on through Sunday.
I think she learned a lot from this tournament last year, Webb said. Because later in the year she had a couple of tournaments where she had leads and won. And then at Samsung she beat Annika down the stretch.
At the Samsung World Championship last October at nearby Bighorn Golf Club, Ochoa fired a final-round 65 to Sorenstams 70 to beat Annika by two.
It (Kraft Nabisco last year) was her (Ochoas) tournament to win and she didnt get the job done, Webb said. But, she added, I think those experiences after this experience really gave her the confidence to really continue playing as well as she did last year this year.
That confidence spilled over in to a victory last week at the Safeway International in Arizona where Ochoa birdied four of the last five holes to win at an event where, two years earlier, she had squandered a four-shot lead with three to play before losing to Sorenstam in a playoff.
What happened last year at Kraft Nabisco? Ochoa insists it was the third round when she threw away several shots needlessly en route to a 74.
Especially on the back nine, she said. I gave away two or three shots that I should have just kind of, like, gotten it done to make sure I had a good lead for Sunday.
A lot of people have forgotten that Ochoa birdied 16 on Sunday and eagled the par-5 18th to get into the playoff with Webb that she would eventually lose.
I was really proud of myself, Ochoa said. I wont forget the way I finished. Those are things I will never change.
Webb was asked how the men would react to having to play Pro-Ams the week of a major championship. I dont think theyd stand for it, she said.
The women in the field here are required to play in Pro-Ams on Tuesday and Wednesday of tournament week. One of those Pro-Ams takes place on a course other than the Mission Hills course on which the championship will take place.
Ochoa, on the other hand, said she had a blast in her Tuesday Pro-Am, mainly because one of her amateur partners was comedian George Lopez.
I get all of the jokes because they are half and half, English and Spanish, Ochoa said. Im lucky to understand both. He was very funny.
Ochoa has developed a reputation for having an unfailingly sweet disposition and the best part about it is that it comes across as being genuinely natural as opposed to syrupy.
When I asked her if she ever gets mad, she said, Oh, yes.
On and off the course?
Both, she said.
I asked her if she was aware of the rule Butch Harmon used to have with Tiger Woods: If Tiger hit a bad shot, he was allowed to be angry for 10 yards. Then he had to put it behind immediately.
You have to get it out, Ochoa said. I agree with that.
Then, after a pause, she added with a smile, Sometimes it takes me more than 10 yards.
The marquee pairing for Thursday and Friday are Webb and Ochoa together Thursday at 11:50 a.m. local time and Friday at 8:48, and Sorenstam and Paula Creamer together at 8:48 Thursday and 11:50 Friday.
The strangest tee time is the 1:29 p.m. Thursday pairing off the 10th tee for Morgan Pressel and Veronica Zorzi. Its the last tee time of the day off No. 10. And its hard to imagine Pressel, the 17th ranked woman in the world, being happy about it.
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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.