A Tale of Two Deserts

By Brian HewittFebruary 5, 2007, 5:00 pm
There are big sandy stages. And there are Bigger Sandy Stages.
Aaron Baddeley missed the cut at the FBR Open in 2003. And 2005. And 2006. And he tied for 49th there in 2004.
He won there Sunday.
Aaron Baddeley
Aaron Baddeley reacts to his second PGA TOUR victory. (WireImage)
So much for horses for courses (or should that be camels for oases?) Anyway, go figure. And while youre at it, riddle me this: When will the real Phil Mickelson arrive?
In Arizona last week, Mickelson missed the cut. Its not the start that I want to the year, said Mickelson, who hasnt scored a top-10 since coughing up the U.S. Open like it was a fur ball last June at Winged Foot.
For his part, Baddeley putted like Crenshaw in his prime at the TPC of Scottsdale (nine one-putts in a row Thursday). And he drove it like Norman in his prime (long and straight).
Yet none of his heroics -- Sunday birdies on 15, 16 and 17 -- or Jeff Quinneys bitterly-disappointing late Sunday failings -- bogeys on 17 and 18 -- or the cauldron of noise that is the par 3 16th, measured up to what the big boys delivered in another desert halfway across the world.
The PGA TOUR is still the major leagues of golf. Week in and week out it is must see TV. Know anybody who belongs to a fantasy golf league for the European Tour?
But the European Tour, at least for one week, turned out to be more compelling drama probably because Tiger dueled Ernie and both lost when Henrik Stenson, the best underappreciated player in the world, got up and down on the 72nd hole to capture first prize.
If youre a European Tour regular on Golf Channel, you know what Im referencing here. There was a 15-minute period in the middle of Sundays back nine at Dubai that was as dramatic as it gets. First, Woods, called The Tiger by Euro anchor Renton Laidlaw, fatted a 3-wood on the 10th hole en route to a bogey. Then on 11, he mis-hit a short chip shot that responded by dribbling into a greenside bunker. Another bogey.
I have now, said Laidlaws sidekick, Warren Humphreys, seen absolutely everything.
Moments later, Els, valiantly chasing Stenson despite going 3 over par for the day early in his final round, holed a bunker shot on 14 for a birdie. AIR-knee-else, Laidlaw exclaimed.
Stenson responded with a lengthy birdie putt on the same hole to regain sole possession of the lead. And soon after that here was The Tiger chipping in on the 15th hole for his third straight birdie.
It was all wonderful stuff. And it made Stenson, who like Baddeley, drives it long and straight and putts pretty well, too, a player to watch in the run-up to the Masters Tournament in April, where he missed the cut in his first appearance last year.
I might not feel that I played my absolute best but it was fairly solid, Stenson said afterward.
Fairly solid, indeed, for the Swede who was grouped with Els all four days and reckoned it was the first time he had won a tournament in which the redoubtable Woods was entered.
Meanwhile, back in America where John Rollins has quietly charged to the top of the FedExCup point standings, the glass was both half empty and half full for Quinney, who has held at least a share of the lead in three events this year while winning none of them. After making only one bogey in his first 36 holes at FBR, he said this: I dont really dwell on bogeys.
But it will be hard not to do so after bogeying the 71st and 72nd holes in Arizona.
For his part, Baddeley moved up 46 places on the world rankings to No. 44. I want to be the best, he said. ... its a long way to go yet.
Stenson is much closer. He advanced four spots in those same rankings and now sits at No. 10. He is now the 65th player since the Official World Golf Ranking began 21 years ago to reach the top 10.
To Stenson, who resides now in Dubai, it must feel like an oasis.
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry