Look Who Peeked Around the Corner Why Its Davis

By George WhiteDecember 18, 2001, 5:00 pm
By now youve heard all about the youngsters, the Ty Tryons and Charles Howells and Sergio Garcias. Youve heard about ol Tiger and David Toms. Youve heard about the elders, rejuvenated Bernhard Langer and Scott Hoch.
About the only fella you havent heard much about is lets see now, Ive got his name somewhere here oh yes ' Davis Love III.
Yeah, Davis Love, who finished No. 2 in scoring this year right behind Woods. Davis Love, who is second in career money behind only Tiger. This man Davis, who was good enough to finish in the top 10 no less than 12 times in 20 tournaments; who finished in the top five in four of his last five tournaments.
Yes, as Frank Sinatra would say, it was a very good year. You didnt hear as much about Love because his record in the big tournaments wasnt too impressive ' he only missed three cuts this year and one of them was a major, the Masters, while another was at The Players Championship. He finished tied for 37th in the PGA, tied for 21st in the British Open and tied for 15th out of 29 players at the Tour Championship.
But look at the remaining 15 events. He won at Pebble Beach and finished second in a playoff at the Buick Invitational when his tee shot on a par-3 plugged into a bunker. He finished in the top 10 in 12 of those 15 events, in the top eight 10 times. It was a big improvement over last year, when Love played in 25 events and finished in the top 10 just nine times.
This year was set up by a win in December of 2000 at the Williams World Challenge, Love believes.
I finished the very end of last year with a few things I wanted to work on, he said. Going in, the (Williams) was really my last event of the year before the start of a brand new season. I was excited to try it out. I went in there and played real well and got my confidence back.
And what happened when he teed it up for 2001?
I went right out at the beginning of the year thinking I could play well, rather than wondering what state my game was in. And it carried over, said Love.
I came from real far behind at Pebble and had a lot of good tournaments this year. If it were not for a little putt missed here or a mistake there, I would have won a lot of golf tournaments in this past year. It definitely gave me confidence and got me back on the right foot to start 2001.
Tigers Tournament, as the Williams is known, was just a so-so event last week for Love. He finished tied for 15th, but it was his first activity in a month. He rarely touched a club while he was idle. But now, if he just keeps his balky back from acting up
I think you are going to see more and more guys whose careers do not last as long, Love firmly believes. The reason is the all-consuming fervor to hit it far. Love is one of the longest, ranking third in the rankings this year was an average pop of more than 297.
The days of playing from 20 to 50 and then going to the Senior Tour are going to go away. The guys are just not going to last as long, because they are pushing themselves to do things their bodies were not meant to do, he said.
We have always said golfing is not good for your back. Well, if you think hitting it 280 is not good for your back, try hitting it 320. That is really bad for your back.
Love should know, of course. His back has been problematic for 10 years or so. But its the sudden influx of brilliant youngsters that has forced him to swing a little bigger, search for five or 10 more yards and jeopardize his 37-year-old bones just a little more.
You just cannot get to Augusta and say, I am just going to try and hit it the same as I did five years ago, he said. It will not work. We have created a vicious cycle. The ball goes further so build the courses longer. But the ball is not going to make up for everything they build into a golf course
So, I have to figure out how to get the most out of my swing and my body. If this cycle keeps up, it will put a premium on distance and not on the total game. I think we need to look at shortening (courses). Make the courses shorter where the guy who hits it straight and has a better short game has just as much a chance.
If you want more guys to have a chance to win, you might think about getting Davis Love out of the lineup, too. He is hitting it as well as he ever has, bad back and all. You just never hear of him as much anymore.
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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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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.