Power Rankings: WGC-Cadillac Championship

By Will GrayMarch 4, 2014, 10:38 pm

This week marks the 16th (and 17th) events of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, with each of the top 50 players in the world teeing it up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship (our rankings for the Puerto Rico Open can be found here). A field of 69 players will tackle the Blue Monster at Trump Doral, where Gil Hanse has recently renovated one of the longest-tenured venues on Tour.

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World No. 1 Tiger Woods returns to defend the title he won last year by two shots over Steve Stricker. Here are 10 players to watch this week outside Miami:

1. Rory McIlroy: Despite his late collapse at the Honda Classic, McIlroy is inching ever closer to the form that won him two majors by the age of 23. The newly-renovated Blue Monster will reward his aggressive play off the tee, and McIlroy has finished inside the top 10 each of the last three years here, including a third-place showing in 2012. The Ulsterman has shown before that he has a short memory when needed, and he could put last week's disappointment behind him quickly with a high finish at Doral.

2. Adam Scott: The Aussie will play alongside Tiger Woods each of the first two rounds, and has his sights set on taking the top spot in the world ranking from him by week's end. Scott quietly notched a tie for 12th at PGA National, shooting par or better in each of his four rounds, and has finished T-6 or better twice in his last three starts at Doral. He continues to try to sharpen his form heading back to Augusta, and should take a significant step in that direction this week.

3. Dustin Johnson: Doral tends to favor those that are both long and aggressive off the tee, and that remains the case after the Hanse alterations. Johnson fits both of those categories and has been playing stellar golf of late, with back-to-back runner-up finishes last month at Pebble Beach and Riviera. He was also a runner-up here in 2011, and tied for 12th just a year ago.

4. Tiger Woods: Sluggish start. Bad back. Woods faces a multitude of questions entering this week, but should he opt to tee it up he remains a player to watch on a course where he has experienced great success in years past. Woods won here in relatively easy fashion last year and his final-round withdrawal in 2012 marks the only time he's finished outside the top 10 since the event moved to Doral.

5. Keegan Bradley: Bradley's T-12 at Honda continued his recent stretch of stellar, albeit unspectacular results. While he's not contending for trophies, he is cashing sizeable checks this year, which makes him a viable fantasy option. Bradley has only made two prior starts at Doral, but he's finished inside the top 10 in both instances - a tie for eighth in 2012, followed by a solo seventh last year. Currently fifth on Tour in total driving.

6. Jason Day: The Aussie enters off a confidence-building win at Dove Mountain, having survived the match-play bracket and risen to No. 4 in the latest rankings as a result. Day has long been a contender in top-tier events against some of the world's best, and tied for second in his 2014 debut at Torrey Pines in January. Dating back to his win at the World Cup in November, Day's results are beginning to catch up to his form - a scary prospect for the other 68 players in this week's field.

7. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard opened with 72 last week at PGA National, but broke par across each of the final three rounds to nab a tie for eighth. It marked his fourth straight top-11 finish to begin the 2013-14 season, a stat that does not take into account his win in Qatar in January. Garcia has never been higher in the world rankings, and now returns to Miami where he tied for third a year ago. Expect another similar result this time around.

8. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is the only player in this week's rankings who has never played in this event before, but that is a stat that has rarely held the 20-year-old back in the past. Spieth has only finished outside the top 20 once in seven starts this season (a missed cut at the Sony Open), a trend he's likely to continue this week at Doral. Aggressive play and frequent birdies have long been a recipe for success at Doral, and Spieth has been known for both during his tear through the world rankings over the past year.

9. Bubba Watson: Watson nearly caught Justin Rose here in 2012, a precursor to his Masters triumph. Now he returns to Doral just three weeks removed from his win at the Northern Trust Open, his first since donning the green jacket. Watson also nearly won last month in Phoenix, and his run through the match-play bracket was only halted by Victor Dubuisson, the eventual runner-up at Dove Mountain. He's now broken par in six of his last eight competitive rounds on the Blue Monster.

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar snapped a streak of three straight top-10 finishes in this event with his T-35 last year, but still clearly has an affinity for south Florida golf. A missed cut at Riviera remains the lone hiccup on his 2013-14 ledger to date, as each of Kuchar's other four starts this season have netted a top-10 finish. He remains one of the most solid players tee-to-green, and should he gain a feel for the greens at Trump Doral could certainly contend this weekend.

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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. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."