Jake Irwin - and Championships
He has been the most successful Champions Tour player, Jake said flatly. For me to hang with and eventually beat Hale Irwin is a proud moment for me.
Hale and I have been playing against each other for a long time. He's 60 years old, I'm 51. When I came out on the tour, he was already an established star. I've got tremendous respect for Hale not only as a player, but as a person, too.
Hes always been this kind of guy, Peter Jacobsen. His golf career has always been that of a good journeyman player, interspersed with moments of brilliance. Much of the up-and-down nature of his play has had to do with injuries, of course. But one thing has always been constant ' his respect for people. Ask Irwin.
He's always been kind to me, said Jacobsen just moments after he had defeated Irwin. I've said many times that, because of the alphabetical order of our names and locker assignments, he and I either lockered together or were next door neighbors. We've gotten to know each other very, very well over the years.
While I've got great respect for him as a player, there's nobody you'd rather beat than a great player. For me to come on top over Hale is a proud thing for me.
Jacobsen won by a stroke when Irwins 12-foot slider barely curved around the edge of the cup on the 72nd hole. Jake fully expected to be marching down to the18th tee to begin a playoff with Irwin ' much as the two had done in 1981 at the Buick Open up the road in Flint.
That one was a four-player affair ' Jacobsen, Irwin, Gil Morgan and Bobby Clampett. All four parred the first playoff hole. On the second, Irwin sunk a coast-to-coast 40-foot birdie. Yes, he made it, even though Jake, Morgan and Clampett all hit their approaches inside him. Hale has been a great player a long time, said Peter, remembering all the many hundreds of occasions when Irwin has done something similar to yet another player.
Jacobsen, himself, has been a pretty spectacular player on the Champions Tour. He won the U.S. Senior Open Championship last year in his first Champions major, before adding the Ford Senior this year. And in so doing, he continues to play the regular tour also. Thats because he won on the regular tour in 2003 in Hartford, and therefore received a two-year exemption.
I fought for 29 years to keep my card, he said by way of explanation. It's hard to turn around and walk away when you turn 50. You're going to see a lot of players in my same category.
I think that strengthens the Champions Tour to see players playing both tours. It's kind of a blurring of the edges, so to speak. These guys out here on the Champions Tour, they're as competitive as anybody on the regular tour. Coming down the stretch, a Hale Irwin or Dana Quigley or Tom Watson is pretty tough.
There it is again ' that guy named Irwin. Jake remembers his first tournament as a Champions Tour member last year, when he and Irwin were paired together the final round. And although Irwin is winding down his career and Jacobsen just gearing up, Peter knows there will never be another quite like Hale Irwin.
Hale has dominated this Champions Tour like no other player and probably will, he said.
I think the Champions Tour is only going to get stronger as the younger players start turning 50. I'm probably in the generation that when the Champions Tour came to fruition, we realized that, hey, there's life after 50, there's life after the PGA Tour. So you're going to see more and more players coming out on the Champions Tour that can win.
I'm not sure Hale's record will ever be in jeopardy. What he's done out here is phenomenal.
Email your thoughts to George White
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
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."
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.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.