Notes: Tour says officials need to be on course

By Doug FergusonMay 21, 2013, 9:25 pm

The number of people calling PGA Tour events after seeing possible rules violations has gone up since Tiger Woods took what turned out to be an illegal drop at the Masters. That doesn't mean the number of violations is increasing.

''The rate of irrelevant call-ins has gone up dramatically, too,'' said Tyler Dennis, the Tour's vice president of competition.

What might seem like a simple solution – have a rules official monitor the telecast to look for any violations that cause fans to call from home – is not that simple. Years ago, the Tour had one official devoted to watching the tournament on TV and found it to be a waste of time when no one called.

''We constantly talk about it,'' Dennis said on Tuesday. ''Because we're running 50-odd events a year, we want to use our resources in the best way we can. It's far better to have someone on the course than having someone watching the telecast.''

The Players Championship had rules officials from all over the world. Dennis, who scored well enough on his USGA rules exam to help officiate a Nationwide Tour event when he was 16, didn't have a specific assignment and decided to monitor the telecast himself in the final round.

''Quite honestly, we had enough people here, and I had the ability to do it,'' Dennis said. ''I felt it was a day that was important to do. I don't know that we'll make a program of this. I just happened to do it at The Players.''

About the only big issue was the drop Woods took after his tee shot found the water on the 14th hole. Dennis, who watched the replay with chief rules official Mark Russell, saw nothing inappropriate.

''In our professional opinion, you couldn't tell anything definitive on TV, and the players agreed 100 percent on where it crossed,'' Dennis said.

Dennis said the Tour is focused instead on working with the USGA and R&A on what rules might need an adjustment to ''reflect the modern state of the things.''

OPEN DEADLINE: Thongchai Jaidee was runner-up to Graeme McDowell last week in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, and it came with a consolation prize. Jaidee moved up 10 spots to No. 49 in the Official World Golf Ranking, assuring him a spot in the U.S. Open.

Now the pressure shifts to Chris Wood on the European Tour and Marc Leishman on the PGA Tour.

The end of this week is the first deadline to earn an exemption from the U.S. Open by getting inside the top 60 in the world. Players have one more chance to get inside the top 60 the Sunday before the U.S. Open begins.

Wood is at No. 60 and playing the BMW PGA Championship. Also at Wentworth is Marcus Fraser (No. 65) and Alex Noren (No. 69). Leishman is No. 58 and playing this week at Colonial, along with Russell Henley (No. 55). Among those not playing at Colonial are Jimmy Walker (No. 63) and Charles Howell III (No. 67).

Sunday also is the cutoff to be in the top 50 to earn an exemption to the British Open. Billy Horschel (No. 51) is not playing this week.

BABIES AND MAJORS: Phil Mickelson famously carried a pager with him at Pinehurst No. 2 for the 1999 U.S. Open. Payne Stewart beat him with a par putt on the final hole, and Mickelson's first child (Amanda) was born the next day.

Turns out Mickelson wasn't the only guy who had a beeper at a major. Justin Leonard had one with him at Augusta National, of all places, because his fourth child (Skylar) was due the week after the 2010 Masters.

Not to worry. No rules were broken.

''It was a Masters-issued pager,'' he said. ''I'd never had a pager.''

Leonard's four children all were born around golf tournaments. His second daughter, Avery, was born the week before the 2005 Masters. Leonard flew into Augusta National on Wednesday and then tied for 13th. His oldest daughter, Reese, was born in September 2003. He was near the lead at the John Deere Classic preparing for a 36-hole Sunday when his wife called. Leonard withdrew. His third child, Luke, was born the week of the 2006 British Open, which Leonard did not play.

One thing is clear about golfers and big occasions. They're geared around the schedule.

Hunter Mahan is expecting his first child. Asked when the baby was due, wife Kandi replied, ''The week of Greensboro.'' That would be the third week in August. Louis Oosthuizen said his baby was due Saturday of the U.S. Open.

''We all think that way,'' Leonard said. ''We have no idea what the date is.''

Leonard then turned to his daughter, Reese, who was born in September, about three weeks early.

''We thought you were supposed to be a Texas-OU baby,'' he told her before catching himself. ''See, it's still not a date. It's an event.''

COLES RETIRING: Hall of Fame administrator Neil Coles is stepping down as chairman of the board on the European Tour.

Coles became chairman in 1975, the year before a 19-year-old Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros first showed his skill at the British Open. In 38 years, he has overseen the international growth of the tour, along with the development of the Challenge Tour (1989) and European Senior Tour (1992).

The 78-year-old Coles, inducted in 2000 into the World Golf Hall of Fame, said he decided it was time to step down in December, about the same time he agreed that the European Tour board of directors should be restructured.

He will stay on until a successor is found.

''I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chairman, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve such a prestigious organization in a sport which has been my life, both inside the ropes and inside the boardroom,'' Coles said.

DIVOTS: Jennifer Johnson became the third member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team from 2010 to win on the LPGA. The others were Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson. ... The Royal Trophy, matches between players from Europe and Asia, will be held Dec. 20-22 at Dragon Lake Golf Club in China.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Six players who were outside the top 200 in the OWGR have won on the PGA Tour this year.

FINAL WORD: ''I didn't hit a 1-iron. I hit a 3-hybrid. I think Hogan probably rolled in his grave, to be honest with you.'' – McDowell, on playing a shot on the 18th hole at Merion next to the plaque commemorating Ben Hogan's 1-iron in the 1950 U.S. Open.

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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.