McGladrey taking multiple-course trend to East Coast

By Doug FergusonOctober 28, 2014, 11:13 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The McGladrey Classic will be the fourth PGA Tour event next year to use multiple courses, and the first that is not in California.

It's all about timing and opportunity.

The McGladrey Classic will be the last official event in 2015, taking the spot now held by Mexico. But once daylight saving time arrives at the end of October, it's a scramble for even a 132-man field to finish.

The plan is to use the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island Golf Club. Not only will using both courses allow the rounds to finish with plenty of daylight, the field can be expanded to 156 players at a time when Tour graduates are trying to get spots. Davis Love III, the tournament host, also expects a stronger field because it will not be the week before or after the Asian swing. 

''Some guys like it, some guys don't,'' Love said of the multiple courses. ''But if we get a better field - 10 guys better because it's the last one of the year, and no conflicts going to Malaysia - then you lose 12 spots when you go down to 132 players. We want to play two (courses) so we can get as many guys in as we can.''

The one drawback could be the weather. It can get chilly the week before Thanksgiving, especially along the water.

The McGladrey has never had the same date in its five years. Love would like to go first, though that spot is held down by the Open. If nothing else, it's critical that it not be the same weekend as the Georgia-Florida game. St. Simons Island is the home base of Georgia fans the week of the game.

MONEY LIST: The PGA Tour was ready to base all its criteria on the FedEx Cup points after making it through the first wraparound season. That was until the four players on the PGA Tour policy board stepped in on behalf of the money list.

As a result, players can still keep their card by finishing in the top 125 money list this year - and maybe for following years.

One of the four player-directors - Paul Goydos - made one interesting distinction in his request. Instead of the board voting each year whether to keep the money list to determine who keeps their cards, the board would have to take action to remove it.

So far, it hasn't made much of a difference.

Nicholas Thompson, Mike Weir, Jim Renner and Charlie Beljan kept their cards for the 2014-15 season by finishing in the top 125 on the money list. A year ago, four players who didn't make the FedEx Cup playoffs also kept their cards.

CADDIE CAROUSEL: Chris Kirk will use three caddies in his next five tournaments, and that's by design.

In an era when players tend to stick with one caddie until the relationship gets stale, Kirk likes to bounce around. Laddie Cline was with him at Sea Island and will be on the bag for the BMW Masters and HSBC Champions in Shanghai. G.W. Cable, who normally caddies for Heath Slocum, will work for Kirk at the Hero World Challenge and the Franklin Templeton Shootout in Florida.

Bill Harke, with whom Kirk won twice last year, will rejoin him at Kapalua.

''Harke is kind of my caddie now, but he takes breaks,'' Kirk said. ''That's just how I like to do it. It keeps the conversation fresh, helps me relax and play well. It's taken me years to get the formula just right.''

CINK'S COMPANY: Stewart Cink hasn't won a tournament in more than five years dating to his British Open title at Turnberry. But he hasn't lost perspective on a game that takes far more than it gives. 

''You know what you can do,'' he said. ''And when you're continually not doing it, it's easy to get down on yourself. But you've got to realize you're not the only one who has a rough day or a rough hole. A lot of times you can feel like an island out there.''

That led to a query - is it better to spend time around those who are struggling or those who are succeeding.

''It's dangerously easy to hang out with the strugglers,'' he said. ''You want to commiserate, but it's easy to spiral. There are plenty of guys out here who will tell you about struggles. You want names? Everybody who's ever started in a PGA Tour event.''

Cink has gone 30 straight events since his last top 10 - the AT&T National in 2013 - though he doesn't lack of motivation. And while he finished just outside the top 30 in his two starts this year, he is seeing enough good signs. He opened with a 64 in Las Vegas and shot a 63 in the third round at Sea Island.

''When you see good scores come out early in the season, it leads to a confident attitude,'' he said. ''You come out with a different set of goals. And I've always felt if you're making a lot of birdies, it's easier to iron out mistakes than to try to make birdies out of nothing.''

MILLER & SON: Johnny Miller is stepping out of the broadcast booth and onto the golf course.

Miller and his son Andy, who missed the cut in the Open earlier this month, will play in the PNC Father-Son Challenge on Dec. 12-14 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. It will be the first time since 2006 that Miller played in the event.

Andy Miller played one year on the PGA Tour before going off on a mission.

''We will play hard,'' the two-time major champion said. ''But this will be more to have an enjoyable, relaxing weekend. He is going to have to do most of the work off the tee. I still hit my irons pretty good and I'm putting better. The bottom line is it will be a good time to be with Andy and spend some days with him. It will be a lot of fun.''

DIVOTS: One Las Vegas bookmaker listed Rory McIlroy as the 5-1 favorite to win the Masters, followed by Tiger Woods (12-1) and Adam Scott (15-1). Defending champion Bubba Watson is in the group at 20-1 with Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. ... The European Tour has another tournament in China. The Shenzhen International will be April 16-19, the week after the Masters, at Genzon Golf Club. ... Bob Ford, the head pro at Oakmont and Seminole, will start hosting a monthly radio show in January on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio that concentrates on competitive amateurs.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Zach Johnson is the only player from the top 25 in the world ranking who has not competed outside the United States in the past five years except for the British Open.

FINAL WORD: ''When your short game is no good, then you can't get it up and down. So you can't shoot 70 or 71 on those halfway days and stay in the golf tournament.'' - Will MacKenzie

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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."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.