Tiger Zeroes In on Players Championship

By George WhiteMarch 18, 2002, 5:00 pm
Theyre all here, everyone from Tiger Woods to Adam Scott. The Players Championship is the first big tournament of the year before the four majors. Many people believe it as the best field of all.
We all say that once we get to Florida is when we start focusing on getting ready for the Players Championship and the Masters, Woods said. He warmed up for this week when he won Bay Hill in Orlando last week for his first victory of the year. Last year, he used Bay Hill as a springboard to four wins in a row, which included the Players Championship here for his second victory.
Woods won the Masters in his next tournament after the Players, then wound it up with a victory in his fourth straight outing, the Memorial.
The stress of competing under those conditions in that environment definitely wears on your immune system, said Woods. Yeah, youre pretty tired and worn out and exhausted by the time your final putt goes in on Sunday.
In addition to the field from the U.S., a number of international players saturate the field. Robert Allenby, Greg Chalmers, Steve Elkington, Paul Gow, Geoff Ogilvie, Craig Parry, Greg Norman, Grant Waite and Adam Scott lead the field from Australia with Frank Nobilo and Michael Campbell from New Zealand; Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini, David Frost and Fulton Allem from South Africa; Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul Laurie, Nick Faldo and Padraig Harrington are from Britain and Ireland;
Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez are from Spain; Mike Weir and Glen Hnatiuk from Canada; Shigeki Maruyama, Kaname Yokoo and Shingo Katayama are from Japan; Jesper Parnevik, Per-Ulrik Johannson and Niclas Fasth are from Sweden; while Bernhard Langer, Carlos Franco, Vijay Singh, Stephen Ames, K.J. Choi, Nick Price and Esteban Toledo round out the international field.
All will be chasing Woods, who is back in his adopted state of Florida and having a second-place finish at the Genuity Championships at Doral, as well as the win at Bay Hill.
The wins just sort of crept up on Woods last year. When I was competing, (I) dont really look at it as four in a row, he said. Even though I won, I didnt really look at it that Id won four in a row.
As Ive gone on throughout the year, I have gained a greater appreciation for four in a row. It is a pretty neat accomplishment, and to be able to say that Ive done it, Im very proud of that.
Check out this week's field
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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.  

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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.” 

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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.”

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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.