After Further Review: Will Tiger take Player's advice?

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Gary Player's offer to "fix" Tiger Woods in just one hour, the Inbee Park-Stacy lewis rivalry that was once again on display in Taiwan and Dustin Johnson's absence from the PGA Tour.


What is it about Tiger Woods that makes some of the game's biggest names not only believe he needs fixing, but that a few minutes is all they'd need to fix him themselves?

Gary Player added his name this week to a growing list that includes Lee Trevino, Paul Azinger and others. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, the Black Knight suggested an hour-long sitdown would be the impetus to add to Woods' stalled major championship total.

All of which leaves Woods with two choices: He can take up these legends on their offers and prove them right or wrong, or he can continue tacking articles to an ever-growing bulletin board filled with quotes from those who doubt his current path.

Unless you haven't been paying attention these last two decades, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'll undoubtedly pick the latter option. – Jason Sobel


Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis seem determined to put an exclamation point on a terrific season for the LPGA. How often do we actually get to see players ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world duel in Sunday finishes? The duo treated fans of the women’s game to just that with Park winning Sunday at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship to set up a potentially electric finish to the year with both players in heated battles for some of game’s biggest prizes. Their duel now extends to season-long awards with just three tour events left in 2014.

Park overtook Lewis for the Rolex No. 1 ranking just days before winning in Taiwan, but they aren’t just 1-2 in world ranking points. They’re 1-2 in the competition for every meaningful award left to be claimed this season, with Lewis still having the upper hand in those other battles. Lewis is first in Rolex Player of the Year points, in Race to the CME Globe points, in the Vare Trophy competition for low scoring average and in official money winnings. Park is second but narrowing the gap in every one of those races. In a year filled with compelling storylines, Park and Lewis seem poised to take the drama to the last putt of the season. – Randall Mell


There was a school of thought that suggested golf was at its best when Phil Mickelson was at his best. For more than a decade Tiger Woods dominated the game with ruthless flawlessness, but on a precious few occasions Woods was challenged by Lefty, like at the 2005 Ford Championship when the two went toe-to-toe on Sunday at Doral. The same can now be said for Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park. On Sunday at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, the world’s Nos. 1 and 2 - Park and Lewis respectively - enjoyed such a head-to-head; and women’s golf was at its best. – Rex Hoggard


The interview schedule at the WGC-HSBC Champions might be a little light this week, what with no defending champion. It’s been 12 months since Dustin Johnson left China with the trophy, and it’s been three months since he last played on the PGA Tour. When Johnson announced his leave of absence, which was followed by a report of a drug suspension that both he and the Tour subsequently denied, this week’s lack of a title defense was forecast as an understandably high point of awkwardness.

Johnson’s return to action remains unknown, though there appears to be a chance that fiancée Paulina Gretzky will give birth to their first child before he tees it up again in competition. At least there’s one silver lining for him during his sabbatical: thanks to the quirks of the OWGR, Johnson has moved up from 17th to 15th while his clubs have been collecting dust. – Will Gray

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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.