Picking Tiger Picking on Tiger

By Dena DavisMarch 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: As a part of the creative braintrust in the GOLF CHANNEL news department, Dena Davis thrives on uncovering compelling stories in golf for our shows, and finding unique, fresh ways to give viewers their golf news. These are her weekly thoughts, some random musings, and even a few programming notes. And she would like you to remember: It's all said in good fun.
 
You Know I Dont Speak Spanish!:
Well, nows as good of time as any to clear this up, as People magazines 2006 Hottest Bachelor is back in our lives this week in prominent fashion. Yes, as our dreamy, dapper-dressed Colombian golfer returns to the sight of his coming-out party in 06, its paramount we address the pronunciation of his name right here and ahora, so as to avoid all of those unnecessary disgruntled emails akin to those weve received over the past few years. (You know who you are!)
 
Ca-ME-lo Be-JAY-gahs. Say it with us. Camilo Villegas. Just as our British friend Tom Abbott says the English word toe-Mah-toe differently than Americans, there are varying dialects and pronunciations also within the Spanish language. (We know you know this.)
 
But in case you dont know this, we (Rich Lerner) DID ask the four-time All-America from University of Florida at the beginning of his rookie year at the 2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. And he clearly explained how to say his name to us on-camera. We even aired it on Golf Central. And weve been saying it that way ever since. Wont you say it with us?
 
Oh, Louise, Louise, oh, oh:
Louise Friberg. You know her, you love her! Wait. No, you probably dont. She had only played in three LPGA events before last weekend. Shoot, we all did double and triple-takes (and then squints) at the giant leaderboard in the newsroom on Sunday... when she came from TEN strokes back (only Mickey Wright and Annika have done that!) to capture the MasterCard Classic in Mexico. The Swede (she does have a victory in 2005 on the Swedish Tour) had posted opening rounds of 72 and 73. But on that day, she made an eagle, six birdies and a bogey and carded a Bosque Real course record 65 - the best score by three strokes in the final round, leaving everyone in her wake. 'I guess Sundays are my day,' Friberg said. 'A lot of times I've played good in the last round and I did today. Well, one things for certain. She picked the right sport.
 
Out of Africa. Again:
In my first entry here I jested about unattainable 3-year plans, making light of Ernie Els goals to overtake Tiger in the world rankings. In all actuality, Ive always been a huge fan of the South African, which is probably why I give him a hard time. But I will not be giving golfchannel.com reader Ronald Mutebi a difficult time about his FIVE-year plan. No, Mr. Utebi, a Uganda native now residing in Chicago, is an avid golfer (plays to a 10 handicap) who has rather noble, admirable aspirations of which I believe he can achieve. He certainly seems to have the passion.
 
You see, his dream is to introduce the underprivileged youth in his homeland to our dear game. He wrote in to me after I mentioned Ugandas celebration of 100 years of golf last week. While his country does enjoy a century-long history of the game, not all inhabitants have been able to really enjoy it. Growing up in a lower middle class family there, Mr. Utebi was not afforded the opportunity to play, as it was (and is) a game strictly for the wealthy and elite. Instead, he played soccer as a child like most Ugandan kids. It wasnt until he suffered a knee injury while living in the United States as an adult that he grabbed a set of clubs, rather than a soccer ball. Now, after living in the U.S. for almost nine years, he is outlining designs to open up a youth golf school and a practice range in the capital of Uganda where he is a member of the main golf course, Kampala GC. Mr. Utebi is quickly becoming my favorite Ugandan golfer.
 
When His Chip Comes In?:
To borrow from (the love of my life) Stephen Colbert, in today's 'Better Know a WGC-CA Competitor' segment, meet the fightin' S.S.P. Chowrasia! He's the 29-year-old son of an Indian greenskeeper. He picked up the game at the age of 10 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club where his father worked. S.S.P. (Shiv Shankar Prasad. Say that three times fast!) is a self-taught golfer who recently claimed the biggest prize of his career when he defeated an elite field (which included Els) to win the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters, a co-sanctioned event by the Asian Tour and European Tour. You can call him Chowrasia, or you can go with his nickname: 'Chipputtsia', given to him because of his exceptional short game. Speaking of short, aren't nicknames traditionally supposed to save time and breath? Oh well. Here's wishing that our friend Shiv Shankar Prasad 'Chipputtsia' Chowrasia's Stateside ship will come in this weekend!
 
Turrrrrble Tiger:
So, Woods stinks. I dont know what all the fuss is about the man. He cant dance. He cant sing. He CANNOT hoop (Barkley said so). Hes an awkward high-fiver. He cant play a musical instrument. He cant speak Spanish (Camilo said so). He cant perform open-heart surgery (Dr. Gil Morgan said so?). He probably has no game on the dart board (which is key). When you stop and think about it, the dude really has limited skills. Trust me. Friends of mine who have hung out with him tell me these things. (Editors note: this may or may not be credible). All I know is, I can draw and paint circles around him. I can also strum a mean Take Me Home Country Roads on the guitar. Top that, Tiger! Oh, and Id like to see him blog on this Web site THREE WEEKS IN A ROW. Now, thats a streak.
 
The Iron Is Not Unkind!:
Okay, I promise I wont be so intertwined with college basketball hoop-twine every week. But until all those nets are cut down court to course: my sports madness knows no boundaries. Surely you can understand, given this time of year. So, marching on, here are my picks for this week at Doral and The Dance:
 
WINNER:
  • That guy who stinks. (See above). Five in a row. Hes a machine. Its so utterly ridiculous, I am looking for things he CANT do, because nothing else can be said about what he CAN do unless he does it again which he will. (Cripes! Im gonna need a better thesaurus.)
     
  • Michael Beasley (I don't care what anyone says, he's the best player in college basketball. Yeah, Tyler Hansborough is great ' blah, blah, blah. But Psycho-T's got a cadre of talent around him, which makes him look better. Although, he does looks pretty silly whilst running down the court in his fist-pumping crazed celebratory high-steppin'.)
     
  • UCLA (Well, I cant very well pick Kansas! Theyve burned me and my brackets too many times in years past. The Jayhawks cannot be trusted, kids.)
     
    SLEEPER:
  • Martin Kaymer. (The 2007 European Tour ROY won his very first event in his very first start of 2008 -- the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, and then followed up that performance with a second-place finish to Tiger Woods at the Dubai Desert Classic. This 23-year old German golfer is poised to break out this weekend in an international field.
  • Purdue. (The Boilermakers should go deep with their guards.)
     
    CINDERELLA:
  • Richard Sterne. (The South African will finish in the top 10 this weekend and well all learn how to say his last name. Stir-knee.)
  • Davidson (Theyll defeat the Cinderella of yesteryear -- Gonzaga!)
     
    AVOID AT ALL COSTS:
  • Anyone bearing a surname resembling Hansen/Hanson, bro. (Soren, Anders, and Peter, respectively, have never played at Doral or in this particular tournament, nor do they have impressive WGC records.)
  • Bear Stearns stock
  • George Mason (its not 2006 anymore, people!)
     
    UPSET SPECIAL(S):
  • Sergio controlling his saliva. (The bottom of the cup at the 13th hole beckons. Can he resist lubricating it this year at Doral? We think he can.)
     
  • St. Mary's taking down The U - Miami. (If the 10th-seeded Gaels can set and keep a fast-paced tempo and spread the floor, theyll edge the seventh-seeded Canes.)
     
    HOME COOKIN FAVORITE(S):
  • Camilo Villegas. (Theres a muy grande community of Colombians in South Florida and theyll be out in full-force. Remember how Camilo fed off of that fan frenzy in 06 at the Ford Championship, finishing one stroke behind Tiger for second place? Repeaten, por favor.)
     
  • South Alabama. (At first glance, this up-and-coming mid-major doesnt seem to have much of a chance against the uber mid-major Butler. But considering the game is in BIRMINGHAM, we love the Jag's chances. Also, SoBam has the best player in their conference in their dynamic guard, the 6'4' 200 lb Demetric Bennett, who teams with two other guards to create a fierce backcourt. Giddy-up, Jags.)
     
    NEAT-O NEWCOMER TO WATCH (aka this years Prom Meesawat -- The Dolphin was a fun feel-good story in 2007. However, he sunk to a final T68.):
  • Chapchai Nirat. (His compatriots call him 'King Kong' due to his heavy hitting off the tee. The 24-year-old Thai who turned pro at age 15, recently won the 2007 TLC Classic, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. That's something to beat your chest about!)
     
  • American University (I'm pretty sure this is the school Eddie Murphy said he attended in 'Coming to America'. That alone, is neat enough for me to watch the Patriot League Champs play...even if it's against Tennesee, they'll give the Vols their all.)
     
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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

    Getty Images

    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”