OHernOh Well

By Brian HewittFebruary 23, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. -- So Tiger Woods, the focal point of every tournament he enters, has lost in the third round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play to little-known Aussie named Nick O'Hern, the same player who stopped him in this event two years ago.
 
The streak that Tiger didn't really think was a streak is over now. Woods had won seven straight PGA TOUR events. Now he can focus on a streak that's more important to him: Winning his third straight major - at Augusta in April.
 
It was extremely interesting to note, after two rounds, the credentials of the other 15 players, besides Woods, that remained alive in the draw.
 
Henrik Stenson, the last man to beat Woods in a medal play event, earlier this year at Dubai, had stopped Zach Johnson and K.J. Choi.
 
Nick OHern, the last man to beat Woods prior to the third round in this event, had gotten past Lucas Glover and Rory Sabbatini.
 
Charles Howell III, who had a more recent winning streak than Woods by virtue of his win at the Nissan Open last week, had won both of his matches (Stuart Appleby, Sergio Garcia) before they reached the 16th hole.
 
Trevor Immelman, the last man to win a PGA TOUR event in which Woods was entered (last July at the Cialis Western Open) had dusted Thomas Bjorn and beaten Chris DiMarco.
 
Chad Campbell, the last man to beat Woods in this event, 1-up in the third round last year, had gotten past Angel Cabrera and upset Jim Furyk.
 
Shaun Micheel, the last player to beat Woods in an individual match play event (last year at the HSBC Match Play) had stunned Adam Scott and eliminated Rod Pampling.
 
Paul Casey, the last player to win an individual match play event in which Woods was entered (the same HSBC Match Play) had gotten by Mike Weir and Colin Montgomerie.
 
And finally Geoff Ogilvy, the last player to win a major championship (the 2006 U.S. Open) in which Woods was entered, had cruised past Steve Stricker and come from behind to beat Jose Maria Olazabal.
 
Almost everybody left in the field, it seemed, had a reason to believe that Woods had reason to believe that he had a score to settle.
 
And everybody knew how long Woods memory was. Asked before the tournament began to recount his earliest match play memories, Woods said, Yeah, I played in the Southern California Junior Match Play. We played at El Dorado and I lost in the quarterfinals. It as something that I didnt understand because I won, I think, two or three matches and got to the quarters. I shot 69 that day; got to the 18th hole and lost.
 
I didnt quite understand that. I just came home and told Dad, I dont understand. I shot a better score than he did, but he won the match. That doesnt seem right. He explained it to me. That was the first time I had ever experienced anything like that before. So we went out the next couple of days and played match play.
 
Woods said he thought he was 13 at the time and the name of the player who beat him, he thought, was James Mohan.
 
Somewhere, James Mohan is shivering.
 
Tiger learned. He won three straight U.S. Juniors in match play followed by three straight U.S. Amateurs in match play. He also won this event in 2003 and 2004. My, how he learned.
 
The whole idea is to put as much pressure as you can on your opponent right from the first tee until its over. Keep hitting a bunch of fairways, keep hitting the ball on the green, giving yourself chances and forcing your opponent to make a mistake. Thats the hard part. Thats also the fun part as well.
 
Against O'Hern, Woods never led.
 
Meanwhile the only fun last years champion, Ogilvy, was having in 2006 at this event was after the last hole. His first four matches went 19, 21, 21 and 19 holes, respectively. It was his first appearance in the WGC-Accenture Match Play and it was exhausting. In his third round victory over Mike Weir he was four down with four to play.
 
Psychologically, Ogilvy was just happy to be in the semi-finals. And it showed. Tom Lehman posed no problem in the semi-finals where Ogilvy won 4 and 3 and Davis Love III succumbed in finals 3 and 2.
 
The physical part wasnt so bad, Ogilvy said. We play all the time. But from a stress standpoint, he added, it was like three golf tournaments in one week.
 
And strategies are all over the map. Immelman insisted he played the guy, his opponent in match play. Stenson said, I think I try to play the course as well as I can and see where that takes you.
 
To the winner will go the spoils'$1.35 million and pile of FedExCup and world ranking points'and a well-earned rest.
 
I definitely had to take it easy for a few weeks, Ogilvy said of last year. I didnt play the week after. If I had, I would have been no good. The way I did it. And I drove home, too, from La Costa to Scottsdale, and that was a six-hour drive in the car, so it was lots of sleep the next few days.
 
Good sleep.
 
Ogilvy, Immelman, O'Hern, Campbell, Stenson, Justin Rose, Stephen Ames and Casey all advanced Friday.
 
As for Woods, right about know? You can be certain he's thinking more about the Masters than he is thinking about Nick O'Hern.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.