Dufner shares Doral lead; Woods makes it through 10

By Doug FergusonMarch 6, 2014, 11:40 pm

DORAL, Fla. - Tiger Woods made it through only 10 holes Thursday - this time because of the weather, not his back.

The debut of the new Blue Monster, and the return of Woods, received an incomplete grade Thursday when the opening round of the Cadillac Championship was halted more than two hours because of menacing thunderstorms.

Harris English was among only six players who finished the round, hitting 5-iron into the par-3 ninth hole and rolling in a 45-foot birdie putt for a 3-under 69.

The golf course and the world's No. 1 player showed enough.

Woods, who walked off after 13 holes Sunday in the Honda Classic because of lower-back pain and spasms, said he warmed up well and felt good during the delay. His golf didn't look all that great. He was 2 over par through 10 holes, ending the day with a wedge that came up some 20 yards short of his target, leading to a three-putt for bogey from about 55 feet.

''I'm ready to go back out tomorrow and play well,'' he said.


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Trump National Doral, completely overhauled by Gil Hanse, showed plenty of bite on a windy, cloudy afternoon. Jason Dufner was going along beautifully for 10 holes until he struggled to find fairways in a crosswind. Brett Rumford began his round by hitting four shots before he put one in play. Three went into the water on the par-5 10th, and he started out with an 11.

''Mr. Trump wanted a very tough test on the Blue Monster, and I think that's what he got,'' English said.

The course average was at 73.8.

Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed also were at 3 under when the round was suspended by darkness. The 62 players who failed to finish will return Friday morning to complete the round.

Russell Henley, coming off a playoff win last week at the Honda Classic, made only one par in six holes on the back nine – along with two birdies and three bogeys. He was in the group at 2 under that included Masters champion Adam Scott, who is in the world Nos. 1-2-3 group with Woods and Henrik Stenson.

Stenson might have hit the most memorable shot of the day - a cold shank from the middle of the second fairway that sailed at a 45-degree angle into bushes.

Scott has a chance to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world if he wins this World Golf Championship and Woods finishes worse that fifth.

Rory McIlroy got off to a blazing start with four birdies in five holes, only to end the back nine with back-to-back bogeys with a long three-putt bogey and a tee shot on the 18th that caught the edge of the water and bounded into the hazard.

That might be the most penal aspect of the new Doral. Anything hit toward some of the edges feeds toward the water, and there's a lot of water in play.

Not even English was immune. His tee shot on the 18th found the water, and he still had 4-iron to get to the green. But he bounced back on the par-5 first hole by smashing a tee shot so far with help from the wind and the firm fairways that he had a 7-iron left from 213 yards. He hit that to 12 feet for a two-putt birdie, and he was bogey-free the rest of the way.

Dufner said he hasn't had to think his way around a golf course this much since he was at Muirfield last year for the British Open, even though the tracks are nothing alike.

''This used to be a golf course where you grab your driver on every hole, swing for the fences and play from there,'' he said. ''You can't get away with that here at Doral anymore.''

Dufner didn't feel comfortable with driver on the 14th, so he laid back and had 236 yards left to the par 4. He hit 3-iron and made birdie, anyway. Other times, he failed to dial it back and paid the price.

''You're not going to go through this tournament on this golf course anymore with no bogeys,'' he said. ''Everybody is going to be making some bogeys here and there, so pretty happy with where I'm at.''

Jordan Spieth already had three bogeys and a double bogey on the par-5 12th hole. He countered with five birdies and was even par through 15 holes. Only 19 players were under par when the round was stopped.

Woods made two bogeys without a single birdie. He'll have eight holes remaining Friday morning to make up some ground.

''Should be a long day for all of us,'' Woods said. ''Hopefully, tomorrow I can get back out there in the morning, play well and work back to even par by the end of the first round, then shoot a low one in the afternoon.''

DIVOTS: Brendon de Jonge said he injured his right ribs in the final round at the Honda Classic. He is on pain medication, which he said makes him feel a bit light-headed. The Zimbabwean opened with a 76. He said he would take next week off and have an MRI. ... Jason Day withdrew before the round began with an injury to his left thumb, which he said was hurting him when he won the Match Play Championship two weeks ago.

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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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."


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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.