Stat attack!: CIMB Classic review

By John AntoniniNovember 2, 2014, 10:53 pm

All it took for Ryan Moore to come up with a new nickname was another timely victory on the PGA Tour. With a successful defense of this 2013 title at the CIMB Classic, Moore won for the third time in his career during the Fall Series, which is enough to make the Tacoma News Tribune in Moore’s home state of Washington to refer to him as Mr. October.

We won’t quibble with the fact that this year’s CIMB Classic ended in November, while we point out that Moore’s CIMB Classic win at Kuala Lumpur G&CC’s West course makes him the first player to successfully defend a PGA Tour title since Tiger Woods at the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Moore beat Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na and Gary Woodland (last year’s runner-up) by three strokes. Moore and Woodland are the first players to finish first and second in the same event in consecutive years since Phil Mickelson beat Jose Maria Olazabal in the BellSouth Classic in 2005 and 2006.

Players with multiple PGA Tour victories during the Fall Series

 Player Total wins Tournaments
 Ryan Moore 3 2014 CIMB Classic, 2013 CIMB Classic, 2012 Shriners Las Vegas 
 Dustin Johnson 2 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions, 2008 Turning Stone Champ.
 Stephen Ames 2 2009 Disney, 2007 Disney

Players with consecutive wins in the same PGA Tour event: 2010-2014

 Player Tournaments
 Ryan Moore 2013 and 2014 CIMB Classic
 Tiger Woods   2012 and 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational
 Steve Stricker 2011 and 2010 John Deere Classic
 Geoff Ogilvy 2009 and 2010 Tournament of Champions 
 Dustin Johnson 2009 and 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
 Steve Stricker 2009 and 2010 John Deere Classic

Similarity scores

Moore’s total of 17-under 271 last week was three strokes better than his 274 total in 2013 but he played remarkably similar on Kuala Lumpur’s West course both years. He was T-8 in the field GIR in 2013 and 2014 and he took 112 putts in each tournament. (Moore was also T-5 in 2010, when the CIMB Classic was an unofficial event held at The Mines.)

Moore was in the top 10 in the field in greens hit, total putts, putts per GIR and birdie-conversion percentage Sunday. He made 25 birdies for the week, including eight in a final-round 67 that saw him outpace 54-hole co-leader Kevin Na, who shot 70.

Ryan Moore in the CIMB Classic: 2013-2014

 Year Scores Fairways hit (Rank) GIR (rank) Putts (rank)
 2014 68-69-67-67—271 41 (T-15) 56 (T-8) 112 (6)
 2013 63-72-67-70—274 39 (T-12) 54 (T-8) 112 (T-9)

CIMB Classic leaders in putts per GIR

 Rank Player Putts per GIR Birdie conv. percentage Finish
 1 Charl Schwartzel 1.609 43.48 (1) T-19
 2  Luke Guthrie 1.640 33.64 (19) T-39
 3 Cameron Smith 1.042 37.74 (3) T-5
 4  Ryan Moore 1.643 37.35 (4) Won
 5 Jason Dufner 1.647 35.29 (11) T-26

Smith leads Asian contingent

Did you notice the name Cameron Smith just above Moore's name in the above list. You better get familiar with the 21-year-old Australian who finished T-5 in his PGA Tour debut. The youngster has been touted as the world’s next great Aussie golfer, and had six straight top-10 finishes world-wide from the end of August until early October. His strong finish in the CIMB gives him the opportunity to play another PGA Tour event, as the top-10 qualifies him for this week’s Sanderson Farms Classic in Mississippi.

Smith is the first player to finish in the top 10 in his PGA Tour debut since Chris Wood was T-5 at the 2008 British Open as an amateur. They are among the four players to accomplish this feat since 2000. Keep in mind, there are several players who were top-10 performers in their first PGA Tour start as a pro – Rory McIlroy, Russell Henley and Max Homa to name three - but they all played previously on Tour as amateurs.

Smith was one of three Asian Tour players with top-10s at the CIMB, with Thailand’s Prom Meesawat (nicknamed the Big Dolphin), and Angelo Que of The Philippines proving, once again, that Asian Tour players can be successful when competing against the world’s best.

Players with a top-10 finish in their first PGA Tour start: 2000-2014

 Player Finish Tournament
 Anthony Kim T-2 2006 Valero Texas Open
 Cameron Smith T-5 2014 CIMB Classic
 Chris Wood T-5 2008 British Open (as an amateur)
 Andres Romero T-8 2006 British Open

Asian Tour players with top-10 finishes at the CIMB Classic: 2010-2014

 Player Year Finish
 Cameron Smith 2014 T-5
 Prom Meesawat 2014 T-8
 Angelo Que 2014 T-8
 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2013 T-3
 Jbe’ Kruger 2012 T-8
 Gangajeet Bhullar 2012 T-10
 Jeev Milkha Singh 2011 T-10
 Mardan Mamat 2010 T-5

Garcia’s year of almosts

Runner-up Sergio Garcia was one stroke off the lead entering Sunday’s final round, but couldn’t keep up with Moore Sunday, shooting a final-round 69 to finish three back. The Spaniard, who has won several times in Asia – he counts victories in Qatar, Thailand, China, Korea and Malaysia among his triumphs in the continent – hasn’t been so successful winning anywhere in the world in recent months. His last worldwide victory came in Qatar in January, and more recently he’s had six top-three finishes without winning since April.

Sergio Garcia’s near misses in 2014

 Tournament Finish Result
 CIMB Classic T-2 Two back of Ryan Moore
 WGC-Bridgestone Inv. 2 2 back of Rory McIlroy
 British Open T-2 2 back of Rory McIlroy
 Travelers Champ. T-2 1 back of Kevin Streelman
 Players 3 2 back of Martin Kaymer
 Shell Houston Open 3 2 back of Matt Jones 
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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 right 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."

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.