Playoffs Week 1 A Solid B

By Brian HewittAugust 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
These days it just seems it isnt a golf tournament if it doesnt have a hot topic attached to it. And Im good with that.
Heat in golf is mostly a good thing'unless of course its coming from the oral cavity of Rory Sabbatini on a Saturday night and the subject is Tiger Woods. More on that a few paragraphs down in this column.
One of the obvious hot topics after The Barclays was this: Assign a letter grade to the first week of the FedExCup playoffs.
Ever since Rich Lerner anointed me Professor Hewitt of FedExCup-ology on 'Golf Central' last week, I take these matters very seriously.
So put the The Barclays down for a solid B.
Why not an A?
Tiger wasnt there. And too many people, at least partly because they werent inclined to do their homework, didnt know how this FedExCup thing worked.
Why not a C or a D?
Several reasons:
  • Westchester is a terrific golf course that got extremely tough around the green complexes Sunday.
  • The field, even without Woods, was loaded.
  • The tournament within the tournament'seeing which players ranked between 120 and 145 would play their way into next weeks second playoff event near Boston.
  • And then there was the Sabbatini watching. And the Stricker watching on Sunday.
    First, the tournament within the tournament: The winners were Rich Beem and Doug LaBelle. Beem wound up tied for seventh at The Barclays which jumped him from 134th to 113th and advanced him to Deutsche Bank which starts Friday and concludes on Labor Day Monday. One of the story lines that played out during the week was every players desire to stay alive in the playoffs. Most of them are longshots for the $10 million first prize in deferred money that will be credited to the account of the winner after the fourth playoff week.
    But these guys are not only good, they have pride. None of them likes to be told they cant play next week. Only 120 advanced from The Barclays. No. 121 at the start of the week was LaBelle, who needed a birdie on his 72nd hole to move up 120. Jason Dufner needed a 6-foot putt for birdie on his last hole Sunday to stay alive in the playoffs. He missed.
    Stricker birdied four of his final five holes, including the last three to beat out second-place finisher K. J. Choi and third-place finisher Sabbatini. It was Strickers first win in the States since 1996 and it moved him past Woods and into first place in the latest FedExCup point standings. Choi is now second, Sabbatini third.
    It was hard, but it was a lot of fun, Stricker said when it was over. I never knew if I was going to win again. Ill tell you what, this is sweet.
    Numbers 4, 5 and 6, respectively, in the FedExCup point standings are now Woods, Mickelson and Singh which means those three will be playing in the same group the first two days at Deutsche Bank. How often do you get that? Can I raise my grade to a B+?
    Sabbatini, The Mouth That Rory-ed, had made an early statement Thursday with an 8-under 63 that was one of the best rounds on the PGA TOUR all year. Then he slowly fell back until he found himself four shots back of Strickers third-round lead.
    Not a problem, Sabbatini roared out the blocks Sunday with five birdies on the front nine. At that point he was tied with Stricker for the lead.
    Meanwhile, the FedExCup projection guys were reminding us that we could have had Woods and Sabbatini together in the same group the first two days at Deutsche Bank. Sabbatini sabotaged that notion by making three bogeys on his inward half. Stupid golf, Sabbatini called it.
    To be sure, as stated earlier, Woods wasnt in New York this time. But how could you not root for another round of Woods vs. Sabbatini (with all due respect for the likable Stricker)? Once again, this was a case not of rooting against somebody but, rather, rooting for the story.
    So instead we get two days of Tiger and Phil and Vijay, who by the way, missed the cut at The Barclays. Whats up with that? The answer depends on who you ask and is just one more interesting story line as golfs playoffs move into Week 2.
    There has been so much criticism of the FedExCup all summer long. A solid B grade, at the moment looks pretty good. Plus, theres still time to pull the overall grade up to an A.
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
    Related Links:
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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.