After Further Review: Tiger leaves us all wondering ... what's next?

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Tiger Woods' career-worst round of 85 and where he goes from here, the problem with U.S. Open qualifying, Suzann Pettersen's return to the winner's cirlce and David Lingmerth taking down Justin Rose at the Memorial.

This was what Tiger Woods said on Feb. 11, when he announced that he was taking what would amount to a nearly two-month break from the game: “My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.”

This quote seems even more relevant now, after Woods shot his worst score as a pro (85) and the highest 72-hole total of his legendary career at the Memorial.

Is his play and score acceptable? Is he competing at the highest level?

Taking another break from the game is essentially waving the white flag, but you can’t help but wonder how much longer this will continue. Playing bad golf is embarrassing. His confidence has to be at an all-time low, no matter how well he’s talking his way around his issues.

He may have temporarily fixed his short-game woes, but now his long game has sprung a leak, too. It must be exhausting, plugging all of the holes, waiting for the next problem to surface. At this point, would another break even help? - Ryan Lavner

A week after Tiger Woods posted an 82 at Scottsdale, he hobbled off Torrey Pines with stiffness in his back and announced he wouldn’t return to competitive play until his game was tournament-ready.

What, then, are we to make of an 85?

With the way Tiger is spraying it off the tee, unless he’s putting and chipping at his very best – golf’s all-time best – mammoth numbers seem in play every time he tees it up.

Chambers Bay looms as Mike Davis’ newest monster. Whistling Straits has 83,264 bunkers fans are allowed to walk through. (I hear you, DJ.)

If Woods is capable of shooting in the 80s at Scottsdale and Muirfield, the latter a venue on which he’s won five times, what could happen on two quirky major championship tracks? - Nick Menta

The USGA clings to the notion that they host the game’s most democratic major championship, as Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifying demonstrates. But the way this year’s field is shaping up, it might be time for a change.

The last two PGA Tour winners, Steven Bowditch who won last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson and David Lingmerth who survived a three-hole playoff on Sunday at the Memorial, do not currently have a tee time at Chambers Bay in two weeks.

Both are signed up to play Monday’s 36-hole qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, and could punch their tickets, but that doesn’t change the fact that the USGA’s Open is feeling more like a closed shop to the game’s top players. - Rex Hoggard 

Move Suzann Pettersen up to favorite’s status at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week. Butch Harmon liked what he saw in Pettersen Sunday winning the Manulife LPGA Classic. It was her first victory since they teamed up in December. He loves seeing where Pettersen’s headed next, too. He loves seeing that she’s going to a major at Westchester Country Club. “My old stomping grounds,” Butch said. “It will be a good course for her, the way she’s driving it.”

Butch’s father, Claude, was the head pro at Winged Foot, about 20 minutes away from Westchester. Claude won a bunch of events at Westchester, including nine Westchester Opens and Westchester PGAs. It was almost Butch’s backyard playground, too. As a team, Pettersen/Harmon should be formidable again this week. - Randall Mell 

It’s been a tough year for playoff underdogs on the PGA Tour. First Daniel Berger came up short at PGA National, then Johnson Wagner got edged out in Houston and Kevin Kisner lost a pair of playoffs within a month. That trend turned around Sunday at the Memorial, where David Lingmerth took down one of the Tour’s top players to earn his maiden win.

Lingmerth gives up almost a foot in height to Justin Rose and certainly lacks the credentials of the former U.S. Open champ, but on this day, on this course, it didn’t matter. The Swede was able to steady his nerves when he had to, especially over a do-or-die par putt on the first extra hole, and ultimately was the last man standing.

David scored a win for, well, the Davids of the world, and showed that in a sudden-death setting, even Goliath can be toppled every once in a while. -Will Gray

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

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."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

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.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

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. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“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.