It All Began in Las Vegas

By George WhiteOctober 7, 2002, 4:00 pm
It all had to begin somewhere. The American colonies had their Lexington and Concord, when they ended up winning their independence. The Wright Brothers had their Kitty Hawk, when they made the first airplane. And Tiger Woods had his Las Vegas, the first in a long, long run that has led him to 34 PGA Tour victories.
The year was 1996, and Woods was six weeks removed from winning at the pinnacle of his amateur career ' the third win, as a matter of fact, at the U.S. Amateur. That happened at the end of August. Then he turned professional and finished in a tie for 60th at Milwaukee. The next week he was at the Bell Canadian, where he leaped up to tie for 11th. Then it was on to the Quad City, where he held 36-hole and 54-hole leads before finally succumbing to Ed Fiori and a tie for fifth place. Next up was the B.C. Open, his fourth tournament in as many weeks, and Woods was almost there, tying for third.
Las Vegas, then, was the place. He took a week off to rest, even though he received a world of criticism for skipping the Buick Challenge ' and therefore missed the Fred Haskins Award ceremonies for being the top college player. But rejuvenated by that one week of rest, Woods came to Las Vegas refreshed and ready, playing for the first time against the tours A-Team as a pro. Six of the tours top-10 money-winners were on hand, including names like Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Tiger made an adjustment before the tournament began, noting that he was 134th in putting on the tour. He practiced with a Scotty Cameron putter the Tuesday before the tournament, and it worked wonders for his confidence. He put it in his bag before the tournament began, and it continued to get the ball in the hole for the entire week.
He started play at the Las Vegas Hilton course, considered the easiest of the tournament courses, and could do better than a 70. That placed him well back in the field, eight shots behind Keith Fergus. After that, though, there was no catching him.
Tiger leaped into contention with a 63 Thursday, normally when a tournament starts but the second day of the five-round Las Vegas Invitational. His 63 included 12 straight threes. But Rick Fehr had tied an all-time PGA Tour record by shooting 64 in the opening round and 62 in the second, and he was the leader going into the third round Friday.
Woods crept up the ladder a little more with a third-round 68, then followed with another solid round, a 67, on Saturday. So beginning Sunday he was at 268, but still four shots out of the lead and with six players standing between him and leader Ronnie Black.
Tiger opened fast in the fifth and final round. A wedge to 15 feet and a bullseye putt meant a birdie at hole No. 1. But something was obviously wrong ' Woods was fighting a groin injury and it didnt look like a title was in his immediate future on this day.
Tiger was en route to shooting a 64, though, and nothing like a little groin injury was going to stop him this day. He already had the lead midway through the back nine, and it was just a case of continuing steady play as first one player and then another fired and fell back. Black. Kelly Gibson. Dave Stockton, Jr. Mark Calcavecchia. All tried their best to close the gap, and none could do it ' save one. Love.
Love scrambled back with a birdie on 16 and after 90 holes, they were all tied. It was to be a playoff between the 20-year-old youngster who had played exactly five tour events, and a 32-year-old 11-year veteran who had already won 10 times.
Woods went with a 3-wood in the playoff at the par-4 18th and hit it just short of Loves driver. Tiger then lofted a 9-iron to 18 feet of the flag, but Love pulled his 8-iron approach into the back bunker.
Love blasted from the bunker to six feet. Tiger putted it close and made his par, then settled down with the whole world to watch Love. Davis par try slid by the hole, and just like that, Tiger had the first win of his victory-filled career.
He is obviously the next great player, Love said after it was over. We are going to try to beat him just like were trying to beat Phil Mickelson. I think everybody better watch out. Hes going to be a force.
Before he started his unlikely run ' he also won in his next tournament, Disney ' Justin Leonard made a comment that was definitely untrue. Itll be very difficult for Tiger to make $150,000 (before the end of the 96 season), said Leonard. Thats a lot of pressure riding on a 20-year-olds shoulders.
Untrue. Tiger did manage $150 thousand. In fact, he managed $790,594.
Oh gawd, said Peter Jacobsen. If this is how he is every week, then its over. Hes the greatest player in the history of the game.
And that was true, spoken when Tiger was still a 20-year-old.
Yes its true, as Tiger is now 26 and the owner of those 34 titles plus seven others from around the world. But it had to start somewhere, and it all began in Las Vegas.
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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, part of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward the back-right hole location, about 25 feet away, closer than both Fleetwood and Johnson.

“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 after the opening round. He tied for second here a year ago.

Johnson 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.

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 four 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."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."