Stories Behind the Stories

By Brian HewittJune 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
The reporting day started early Friday. It was raining in Dublin, Ohio, home of The Memorial. There was nothing newsy about the rain. It always seems to rain on Jack Nicklaus annual golf parade at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
 
But there was a question about whether the weather would allow tournament officials to complete the tournament without going into Monday.
 
This was important because of all the players in the field scheduled to play in 36-hole Monday sectional qualifyings for the U.S. Open which begins a week from next Thursday at storied Winged Foot in New York.
 
The consensus was that the guys in Jacks tournament would get a one-day reprieve. That is to say, those of them scheduled to play in the two Columbus, Ohio sectional sites would be all right because the USGA would simply move the sectional back to Tuesday.
 
It got more interesting when the USGA was forced to consider what it would have to do for the players in Jacks event scheduled to play in Sectional qualifying at the Canoe Brook site in New Jersey.
 
Would the USGA push that Sectional back until Tuesday to similarly accommodate the Canoe Brook players stuck in Ohio?
 
When I called the USGA communications office, I was told to call the Metropolitan Golf Assn. in New York because the Met was running the Canoe Brook Sectional for the USGA.
 
So I called The Met and was told that under no circumstances would Canoe Brook Sectional be moved back to Tuesday. When I explained that might not necessarily be fair to certain players at The Memorial stuck in Ohio finishing Jacks event Monday, I was told by The Met that it needed to check with the USGA.
 
The Met said it would call me back. So did the USGA.
 
Meanwhile the weather got better at The Memorial and the calls never were returned.
 
Then a call came through from B.J. Wie, Michelles father. He reported that his daughter had played 18 holes at the north course at Canoe Brook Friday. She didnt keep score. She was paying more attention to how to play the course.
 
Wie, in case you dont read the papers or watch The Golf Channel (shame on you) is playing in the Canoe Brook Sectional Monday. Then she is playing in the McDonalds LPGA starting next Thursday.
 
In a day full of what ifs one of the biggest was what if Wie had been forced to try and qualify on Tuesday.
 
To put it mildly, there were a lot of reportorial balls in the air Friday afternoon where there was a six hour and nine minute rain delay. Then the sun came out. Now it looked like a Sunday finish was likely at The Memorial.
 
That became uncertain again, however on Sunday. With leader Carl Petterson on the 12th hole, dangerous weather forced another delay.
 
J.J. Henry is scheduled to play at Canoe Brook. He finished his final round in Ohio before the stoppage. He would make his 7:30 flight to Newark, just a 15 minute drive from the golf course.
 
I would have driven from Ohio to New Jersey if Id had to, Henry told me, so excited was he about the prospect of playing a U.S. Open at Winged Foot near where he grew up in Connecticut.
 
Vaughn Taylor, however, wasnt so sure after the stoppage. He had only made it through 15 holes before the Sunday afternoon rains came.
 
Another phone call to the USGA revealed that the contingency plans called for Taylor to be allowed into one of the Columbus Sectionals if he finished too late to make his flight to New Jersey.
 
There was also a possibility that these late adjustments could cause the USGA to decrease the number of spots at Canoe Brook from 18 to 17. This would be good news and bad news for Wie. Fewer Tour players would be in her field at Canoe Brook but there might be less spots.
 
Happily, the sun came out. The rain delay lasted just half an hour at Muirfield Village. And even Taylor finished in time.
 
So now the golf worlds full attention can focus on Wie.
 
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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.