Padraigs Party at Tigers Only Temporary
Unofficially, it was monumental to the Irishman. What has to get your attention is the strength of the field ' 16 of the top players in the world. The fact that Harrington was a long way from his home, whipping up on players who were near their home bases. And the fact that he beat Tiger Woods in Tigers own tournament. It certainly was more telling than the BMW Asian Open, the first tournament on the 2003 European Tour which Harrington won last month.
He isnt yet Tiger ' is anyone? But he certainly is No. 2 in the world right now, in December of 2002. Say what you want about Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els, but this is the hottest player on the planet at the moment. Yes, I suppose that includes even Tiger. What he did was most impressive ' hes been traveling half a world away from Dublin and hes still doing it, playing on unfamiliar grasses, and going up against guys ' good guys - who play in this environment every day.
Tiger was there, Mickelson was there, so was Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie and Davis Love. Chris DiMarco teed it up, so did Retief Goosen, David Toms, Nick Price and Bernhard Langer. This guy played them all, one by one, and none of this two-man team stuff. And, after four days and 72 holes, he simply beat them.
Silly season? Yes. But for one week at least, this was the best of the 'sillies.'
It is only silly when you are at the end of the field, said Harrington. He admitted that there isnt a lot of pressure down at the bottom, where you are guaranteed a lot of money regardless of where you finish.
Up around the top, though, there is a lot of pressure. For one, you know that, sooner or later, youre going to have to face a Tiger run. And for another, the money at that end is enough to make you choke if you are at all inclined toward that end.
It is not silly for me or, I think, anybody who is in contention, Harrington said. A million dollars, you certainly are very aware of what you are playing for. It does make it a little bit interesting. Winning a million dollars is winning the lottery in Ireland. It is a lot of money at home.
The most money he played for in Europe last summer was for about $550,000, excepting the British Open, which was in the ballpark of a million dollars. Sundays win at Tigers tournament in California was for $1 million, which is $500,000 more than was Woods got for second place.
The United States, for sure, holds a special allure. And it isnt solely for the money, though there isnt any doubt he could fatten up more quickly over here.
I do like playing in the States particularly, Padraig said. I like the speed of the greens. They are a bit quicker than they are in Europe. I do enjoy coming over here.
American pros can rest a little easier, though. Hes still going to play the majority of his golf in Europe. In the climate of world golf nowadays, you dont have to concentrate just on America. You can play eight or nine times in America, what with the three majors in the States, three World Golf Championships, the Tournament Players Championship and a couple of special invitations. Why limit yourself to playing fulltime in this country?
If I came over here and played substantially more tournaments, I wouldnt have time to play everywhere else, and there is so much good golf to be played around the world, he said by way of explanation. So, ultimately, I would love to play more here, but it is very hard to fit in.
Langer says the times are changing in the golf world, so much so that it is possible for a talented player such as Harrington to play the world over and still be able to make his home in Dublin.
When I was his age, I had to come here and play (to challenge the best in the world), said the German, who now makes his home in South Florida. He does not necessarily have to do that. He will play against the best players seven or 10 times per year. If that is his goal, then that is fine.
Harrington can play Woods 11 of 12 times a year, counting the four majors, three WGC events, a couple of other times in the U.S. on sponsor invites, and a couple of times in Europe. That certainly should give an accurate barometer of the 31-year-old Irishmans skills.
He is already gone from home about half the year, and he thinks that is plenty, thank you.
I love home and that is a big problem, said Padraig. I could come here and play comfortably.
You have heard before from Europeans, Oh, the culture is so different over in the States. I actually enjoy coming to the States. I really like it and have been welcomed by the players. I have had very good experiences here.
I could play here and enjoy it, but the problem is, I like playing around the world. I like experiencing different cultures and different things. It is good to go play in Asia, the golf courses are fantastic in Australia. (But) if I committed to here, it would limit everything else.
So Harrington will continue to do it his way. No sense in limiting yourself when you can dip into purses from all over the globe. A little here, a little there or a lot here, a lot there. A million dollars or a million pounds, this man is going to make an awfully lot of jack before he is finished.
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.