Warburg Preview

By George WhiteSeptember 13, 2002, 4:00 pm
[EMBARGOED UNTIL 11/14 NYT INSERT RELEASED]
 
Take 24 of the finest golfers in the world, divide them into two equal teams, add a few gray hairs, mix in a Ryder Cup format, and what youve got is the UBS Warburg Cup.
 
The United States is one team, the Rest Of The World is the other. The 24 men will meet in St. Simons Island, Ga., on Nov. 15 to begin three days of festivities and competition. One team will be victorious, but the only real winner will be friendship and the sport of golf itself.
 
The teams are each made up of six players age 40-49 and six players age 50 and over, making up the two squads of 12 players who will compete against each other. They will play six foursome (alternate shot) matches the first day, six four-ball (better ball) matches the second day, and 12 singles matches the third day Sunday.
 
Arnold Palmer, recently turned 73 years old but is still an active player, captains the U.S. team. Gary Player, who is 66, leads the Rest Of The World into play.
 
Palmer heads up a team saturated with former Ryder Cuppers. Included in the number are Hale Irwin, the Senior PGA Tours all-time leading money winner, as well as the all-time victory champion. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange also is a competitor, as well as Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd of the Senior Tour and Tom Lehman, Scott Hoch, Mark OMeara and Paul Azinger of the PGA Tour.
 
The remainder of the U.S. team will be the Senior Tours leading money winner on Oct. 27, one player from the PGA Tour who is under 50, and one special invitation for a player 50 or over.
 
Players team is led by Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam, three mainstays of the European Ryder Cup for years. Sam Torrance, the European Ryder Cup captain this year, is on the Warburg team. Rodger Davis and Stewart Ginn of Australia, Isao Aoki of Japan and Eduardo Romero of Argentina will also play.
 
Completing the visiting squad will the top two on the European Senior Tour money list and one special invitation of a player 40-49.
 
The 2001 UBS Warburg Cup was won by the U.S. in a razor-thin 12-11 matchup. The American win was highlighted by Palmer defeating Player in the singles match in a duel of the two captains. Captains Player and Palmer are again scheduled to play a singles match in the 2002 edition.
 
The 2001 matches were played at the Kiawah Island (S.C.) Ocean Course, where 10 years earlier the U.S. grabbed a narrow Ryder Cup win when Langers putt on hole No. 18 slid by the hole. Last year Langer played Irwin, also his opponent that September day in 1991, and the two tied their match this time. It was the same result as at Kiawah when the tie meant America would take the Cup.
 
Memories were alive and well all over as Mark Calcavecchia, who was tied by Colin Montgomerie after leading by four with just four holes to go in the 91 Ryder Cup, won this time. He outdueled Woosman, 2-and-1, stiffing an iron to eight feet on the 17th. Calcavvechia had sent a ball into the water in his loss in 91.
 
Mark answered any questions on 17 when he hit a great shot like that, said Woosnam. I dont mind losing to that.
 
The international team led, 7-5, after the first two days, but couldnt quite hold off the Americans in the singles.
 
IMG stages the event, which is televised by The Golf Channel. The Golf Channel devotes 52 hours of worldwide coverage to the UBS Warburg Cup. Seventeen hours of competition will be televised live on TGC, which is viewed in 50 million homes.
 
The matches will be televised lived from 9 AM ET to 2:30 PM ET Friday and Saturday. Singles matches on Sunday will be televised live from 9 AM to 3 PM ET. Same-day re-airs will be shown in their entirety during prime time. There will be replays the following week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
 
The golf world will be watching when two dozen people go back to a special kind of friendship for the week.
 
This is getting back to the original of the Ryder Cup 75 years ago, said Faldo. Twenty-four guys, who all respect each other as golfers, all play like hell on the golf course and then we all go sit back and chat and tell some good bar stories.
 
Such is the UBS Warburg Cup. Competition? Sure. But more that, it is about lifelong friendships and pure sportsmanship.
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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.