Spieth to play Aussie dream courses; eyes Long Island

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2015, 5:22 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Jordan Spieth knows how to mix business with pleasure. His business is playing great golf. His pleasure is playing great golf courses.

Spieth leaves this week for Down Under, where he defends his title Nov. 26-29 in Sydney at the Australian Open. The first stop is Melbourne and a chance to play the fabled sand belt courses. He has games lined up at Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath.

''I've heard Kingston Heath is unbelievable,'' Spieth said. ''And then Royal Melbourne, I hear you get on the first tee and think, 'Piece of cake,' and then watch your tee shot bounce in the air. There and then Long Island, the courses there, are on my bucket lists of courses I haven't played yet.''

Spieth surely has a long list. He's only 22 and just completed his third year as a pro.

What intrigues him about Melbourne's sand belt and Long Island (Shinnecock, National Golf Links) is ''that style of golf was meant for that area.''

He missed his chance at Long Island in August during The Barclays, although that was never the plan even before he missed the cut. He was supposed to play with Justin Thomas at Pine Valley the Monday after the tournament. When he missed the cut and had an extra day on his hand, Spieth chose to play Baltusrol with Rickie Fowler (who also missed the cut) to see it ahead of next year's PGA Championship, and then headed to Boston to work on his game.

Not to worry. That's an easy trip to plan.

After that?

''I've done pretty much everything I want to do,'' Spieth said. ''I still haven't played Oakmont (next year's U.S. Open). We have Royal Troon coming up. I haven't played Carnoustie. But sought after? Sand Hills in Nebraska, the Coore-Crenshaw. I've heard it's supposed to be that good, from Crenshaw and everyone down there.''

One area he failed to mention was Chicago Golf Club, one of the five founding courses of the USGA.

''Chicago Golf and Butler, I don't have as much of a desire. I heard they're great, and it will happen at some point,'' Spieth said. ''But for a style of golf that is so unique to the area, that's what I'm looking for.''

And that's what he's about to get in Melbourne.



SPRINT TO DUBAI: Danny Willett needed to finish alone in 28th at the BMW Masters to lead the Race to Dubai, but a bogey on the 17th hole at Lake Malaren meant a three-way tie for 28th. Rory McIlroy is still in the lead, but just barely.

McIlroy, who has been atop the European Tour ranking since his tie for fourth in the Masters, leads by 1,613 points. That's not much considering the winner of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week gets 1,333,330 points.

And it's not just a two-man race.

Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace could win the Race to Dubai with a victory. Byeong Hun An, who tied for third at the BMW Masters, also has a mathematical chance.


HOME BOY: Kevin Kisner is happy at home, living in a 1950s era house off the 17th fairway at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C.

He'll be living at Sea Island through at least the end of the year as the house gets expanded. They haven't had a garage, and now they have a family with an 18-month-old daughter.

''I told (wife) Brittany, 'Either find us a new place or find somewhere you want to move, a new house.' And she wanted to stay there,'' Kisner said.

Sea Island is a popular spot with several PGA Tour players, along with a sister-in-law who can help when Kisner is traveling. Kisner wouldn't rule out moving there at some point in his career, though he can see some disadvantages that have nothing to do with golf.

''My off-course activities are not good for that area, like hunting, being in the woods, getting away with people who don't play golf,'' he said. ''It's all golf down there. All my buddies at home don't play golf professionally. They play recreationally, and they don't ask me about golf all day, which I like.''


OPEN TICKETS: The R&A will start selling a ''twilight ticket'' for the British Open at Royal Troon next year.

Along with reducing the price of tickets bought in advance, the R&A will offer a ticket for 25 pounds that allow fans onto the course after 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. That might not sound like much time in America, but not in Scotland. The last time it was held at Royal Troon, the last tee time was 4:21 p.m.

''We recognize that many people have work commitments during the week, and the new twilight tickets will give them an attractive option to attend the Open,'' R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.

The R&A also will reduce the price of daily tickets to 60 pounds if purchased before May 31. Daily tickets are 80 pounds after that. Weekly tickets (Sunday to Sunday) will be 230 pounds if bought before May 31, which is 10 pounds less than 2015. Those tickets are 260 pounds if bought after that date.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Americans have won only six of 30 official events on the LPGA schedule this year going into the CME Group Tour Championship.


FINAL WORD: ''I think that's why golf is the ultimate mental sport because you have all the time in the world to ask yourself all the crazy questions.'' – Graeme McDowell.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''