Stars Shine on 2003 PGA Tour

By George WhiteNovember 14, 2003, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)In the beginning it was an old hand at winning, and in the end it was a new hand. Veteran Ernie Els won the Mercedes Championships to kick off the 2003 PGA Tour season. Chad Campbell won the season finale, the Tour Championship, for the first victory of his career.
In between, every kind of hand imaginable had a part in the year. There were 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, a host of 40s, and even a 50-year-old ' Craig Stadler was the first current Champions Tour player in history to win on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods won five times, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III won four, and Singh won the money title.
But at the outset, it was Els who won the first two of what would eventually be seven worldwide wins this year. While Woods was home in Orlando rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, Els got off to a red-hot start by winning the Mercedes Championships and then hung around Hawaii for another week to win the Sony Open. A 31-under-par score at the Mercedes set a PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record.
Obviously, to shoot 31 under par - I obviously haven't done that - nobody's done it, Els said to a roomful of laughter. That's kind of an understatement. I have to thank my golf swing, because under pressure it really stood up to the test. That's a good sign.
Els went off to Australia and the Pacific Rim, and the next four tournaments were won by the cream of the PGA Tour ' Singh, Mike Weir, Love and Woods. Woods win came in his first time back since knee surgery Dec. 12.
When you're cooped up on the couch forever, said Woods, laying at home and just practicing - I miss competing. Not necessarily getting out there and all the other stuff that goes with it, but I've missed getting out there and competing with the guys.
That, to me, is my rush - going out there and having to hit a golf shot that really matters. That gives me a big rush and I missed that.
Weir won again for the second time this year when he rolled to victory in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, followed by Woods victory in the first World Golf Championship event of the year ' the Accenture Match Play. And Woods was the first to win three when he overcame food poisoning to capture Bay Hill. It was Woods fourth time to win Bay Hill in as many years, becoming the first since Gene Sarazen did it at Miami 73 years ago. Oh ' and he won it by 11 strokes!
Love won the first of the big championships when he obliterated the field with a 64 the final day to win The Players Championship. I was chasing my own potential today, and I think that's the difference, he said immediately afterwards.
I was trying to win and win a big golf tournament and I wasn't concerned with anybody else, but yeah, it is a step up for me in the level of play that I felt was coming, and I've been almost quietly saying it was coming. I feel like I've elevated my game this year, not just this week, but this year, back to where I am comfortable and where I feel like I can compete with anybody.
The Masters was all Weir, who grittily put away Len Mattiace in a playoff on Sunday when Weir went the entire day without a bogey.
It was a long road, said Weir. I mean, it took me six years to even get on the tour out of college. And those times missing Q-School and playing overseas and the commitment that that takes not only for myself, my family, my wife It's a lot of time away, even though she did travel with me before we had kids, caddied at odd times.
And it's an unbelievable progression that I've finally gotten here, but I think even back then I believed I that would I get here somehow. I would figure it out. My golf swing wasn't very good back then and I knew I would kind of figure out a way to do that and overhaul that.
A remarkable milestone in PGA Tour history occurred at the Bank of America Colonial, where Annika Sorenstam became the first female since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play on the tour.
First of all, I just feel very fortunate to do what I do, said Sorenstam. And for me to come here, get the opportunity to really push myself and live my dream - and I hope other women and girls feel the same way that they just got to follow their heart.
Jim Furyk won the U.S. Open, and he spoke about what a long road it had been for him, too.
Your first win is always a special moment. My first professional win was on the Nike Tour (now the Nationwide Tour), and that was a very special moment, Furyk began.
Winning my first tournament on the PGA Tour in Las Vegas, it was really special. And then I thought the most excited I'd gotten ever in my professional career was probably the Ryder Cup. And at the Country Club, what a great comeback, and coming back from nowhere to win that tournament. And this certainly ranks - it's hard to try to rate where everything sits or falls, but this is the most special day. And this means the most to me right now.
Kenny Perry won his third of the year at Milwaukee, following up big wins at Colonial and Memorial. Ben Curtis stunned the world with a remarkable win at the British Open when Thomas Bjorn let it slip away over the closing holes at Royal St. George's. And in back-to-back weeks, Craig Stadler won the B.C. Open and Peter Jacobsen won Hartford. Stadler is 50 and also a winner on the Champions Tour, while Jacobsen is 49.
Craig Stadler called me last night, revealed Jacobsen, and he left a message on my phone. He said, Look, if you win, we will be paired together in January at the Mercedes Championship, because they pair you in order of your victories.
I actually thought about that all day. I love Craig Stadler, he's one of my great pals all the way back from college days. I actually thought about that ' I said, All right, playing with Stads at Kapalua!
Next, it was Shaun Micheels turn to shock the world by winning the PGA Championship with a brilliant 7-iron to only a couple of inches on the 72nd hole. But then, toward the end of the year, it was up to Singh to pour it on, finishing the last eight tournaments no worse than sixth place.
Maybe because I've hit a million balls and because I've been out there the longest forever and maybe because Im just dedicated and wanted it more, said Singh after he won the Funai Classic. I've worked hard throughout my career. I'm working hard physically and with my golf game and I haven't slowed down.
I think, in the last few years, my physical side probably may have been lacking and boosting that part of my game up, starting to get stronger, I think my golf game just went up a notch more. I think thats the catch right there.
The PGA Tour has never been stronger, believes Woods.
Top 50 players - probably the deepest it's ever been, said Tiger. Players are getting so good, so consistent now, I mean you look at the top 50 players, you can't really say, Why is that guy in the top 50? Before you might have questioned that.
Now everywhere you go, everyone is solid. Everyone has enough game to be there and they deserve to be there.
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.