Garcia (61) leads WGC, breaks back-nine record

By Doug FergusonAugust 1, 2014, 10:31 pm

AKRON, Ohio -- Sergio Garcia doesn't know anything about being in a zone. He had no trouble identifying the best round of his career.

Garcia one-putted the final 11 holes and made birdies on his last seven holes Friday in the Bridgestone Invitational to tie the course record at Firestone with a 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead into the weekend.

He had a birdie putt on every hole on the back nine, missing only a 15-footer from the fringe at No. 11. Garcia shot 27 on the back nine, a course record.

''Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy, and you wish there were no end,'' he said.

It matched the tournament record held by Tiger Woods, who shot 61 in 2000 and 2013, and Jose Maria Olazabal, who shot his 61 in 1990. Woods went on to win by 11 shots in 2000 and seven shots last year. Olazabal won by 12 in the World Series of Golf.

Garcia still has work to do.

He was at 11-under 129, three shots clear of Justin Rose, who had a 67. British Open champion Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes for a 64 and joined Marc Leishman of Australia (67) four shots out of the lead.


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McIlroy played in the group behind Garcia, and could hear what was going on if he couldn't see it.

''Every time I looked, he was putting a ball in the hole and the crowd was cheering,'' McIlroy said. ''I knew that he was making a few birdies.''

Garcia was five shots out of the lead when he had to scramble to save pars on back-to-back holes to close out the front nine on what seemed to be an ordinary round. Two good swings on the 10th hole led to a 20-foot birdie putt. He hit 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 12 and 3 feet on No. 13 for the easiest birdies he had all day, and those turned out to be the start of his big run.

The Spaniard finished in style, making birdie putts of 15, 25 and 20 feet on his last three holes.

It reminded Garcia of the Travelers Championships earlier this summer, when Kevin Streelman closed with seven straight birdies to beat Garcia and K.J. Choi by one shot.

''When I made the one on 17 I thought, 'This kind of looks familiar from what happened not too long ago,''' Garcia said. ''Obviously, Sunday would be even nicer. But I'll take what I can get.''

His previous best score was a 62 on three other occasions - as a 19-year-old at the Scottish Open and Byron Nelson Classic in 1999, and at Mount Juliet in 2002 at the American Express Championship.

Woods also shot his 61s at Firestone in the second round. He could have used something remotely close to that to stay in range of Garcia. Instead, Woods hit only four fairways off the tee and couldn't seem to make anything on the green. It added to a 71, leaving him 10 shots behind.

''I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well,'' Woods said. ''The only thing I did well was I fought hard. Grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very good day.''

Starting times for the third round were moved up to Saturday morning, with threesomes off both tees, because of a forecast for storms. That figures to only keep Firestone soft, allowing players to attack the pins provided they're in the short grass.

Rose missed only two greens in posting a 67 as his momentum builds toward the final major of the year next week at the PGA Championship. He wouldn't mind adding a WGC title this week. Either way, there is a long stretch of big tournaments, and Rose is headed in the right direction. He won back-to-back starts at Congressional and Royal Aberdeen before stalling slightly at the British Open.

''I'm feeling good about peaking at this time of the year,'' Rose said. ''Every week is big. You could argue a major championship in the middle of it all is the one you'd really love to peak for next week. But at the same time, there's not a bad golf tournament now for about two months. Looking forward to the whole stretch.''

He didn't realize when he finished that Rose would have three shots to make up on Garcia starting out the third round.

It didn't come entirely out of the blue for Garcia. Just two weeks ago, he challenged McIlroy briefly at Royal Liverpool until tying for second in the British Open. But this was something special, and Garcia could sense it.

''It feels great to be able to ... equal the course record on a course like this. Even playing soft, it's not that easy a course,'' Garcia said. ''You have to drive the ball very, very well. You have to put the ball on the greens on the right spots because you can get some really, really fast putts.

''Being in a group with Tiger and Jose Maria, it feels really good.''

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.