Who Gets the Thumbs Up

By Brian HewittNovember 10, 2003, 5:00 pm
I am reminded of the good old days of superstation television when movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would debate the relative merits of the nominees for the Oscars. They rarely agreed. But both grasped the difference between the actor who 'should' win the academy award in his or her category and the actor who 'would' win the academy award.
It's the same with the Player of the Year race on the PGA Tour. The season is over now. Chad Campbell won Sunday by three shots over Charles Howell in Houston. The two top Player of the Year candidates--Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods finished tied for fifth and tied for 24th, respectively, in the 31 man field at the prestigious Tour Championship.
And the double debate is cranking up all over again. PGA Tour members who have played in more than 15 events in 2003 will have most of November to decide upon whom to vote. The Tour says it will announce the winner early next month.
That player will almost certainly be Singh, who won the money title by close to a million dollars over Woods, or Woods, who won a Tour-leading five events along with the Vardon Trophy for low adjusted stroke average.
Without further ado here is my opinion: Singh should win the Player of the Year award. Woods will win it. The reason Singh should is he showed up, shrugged off a poor first round and fought his way into his share of fifth by the time the dust had cleared Sunday. Woods showed up, fought his putter most of the week and slogged his way to a Sunday 74, three over par.
The competition was seen to be 'this close' before the Tour Championship began. In my mind, Singh's superior performance over four days broke the tie. The reason Singh won't win the award, however, is that POY has become something of a popularity contest. Popularity is something Woods has more of among his brethren right now than does Singh. Don't get me wrong. Woods has earned his No. 1 spot in the official world rankings. He has played the game at a higher level, especially during the 2000 season, than any player who ever lived. But 2003 was not his year.
Meanwhile, we should give some props to 29-year-old Chad Campbell. This was his first PGA Tour victory. It won't be his last. And what a grand stage he picked upon which to break his maiden. And, oh by the way, the check they gave him was worth $1.08 million.
Campbell is an unassuming 29-year-old West Texan who already is being compared, in certain quarters, to Ben Hogan because of his flat swing and Lone Star roots. The Hogan part is still a bit of a stretch. But the unassuming part is all true.
'Chad doesn't know how to splurge,' said his publicist, Mike Biggs, Sunday afternoon. 'He doesn't have a hint of an ego.'
What Campbell does have is a new home, a Hummer H2 vehicle and plans to hunt and fish in the off-season. That's plenty as far as he is concerned. 'He knows in his heart what he can do on a golf course,' Biggs said. 'But he'd probably be a little embarrassed by those Hogan comparisons.'
Meanwhile Player of the Year, Chad Campbell will tell you, is something for somebody else to worry about.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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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.