TT postscript: Positive signs despite MC

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 27, 2017, 11:51 pm

SAN DIEGO – A few thoughts before hopping on a plane to Dubai ...

Let’s start with Tiger’s exit. He may have missed the cut Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open, but, dammit, he left with his glutes activating! There’s a victory in that. There’s hope in that when you remember how he left here two years ago, slumped in a cart, withdrawing with back spasms, leading to more physical woes that year.

Seriously, Tiger left Torrey Pines healthy on Friday, joking with playing partners as he left the North Course and then with media as he left his post-round scrum. That’s where you start evaluating his short week at the Farmers Insurance Open. He left upright, walking in gorgeous long strides, and that keeps alive his larger ambitions.

“I’m trying to get ready for the first full week in April,” Tiger said of the Masters. “That’s where I want to have everything come together.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

There was another upside Friday. That’s the fact that Tiger spent a lot less time in the rough scaring the bejeezus out of his faithful hacking shots from all the cabbage patches here. He hit a lot more fairways on Friday, 10 of them, compared with a paltry four on Thursday. He also hit more greens, 11 of them compared to nine on Thursday. He gave himself more birdie chances but converted just two of them.

And before we get down to brass tacks, Tiger’s short game looked good again. He got up and down five of seven times. He nearly chipped in for eagle at the fifth.

• Not gonna lie, I had a lot of great tweets today. But this was the best:

Yeah, there were issues in his first PGA Tour start in 17 months. The North Course was fairly gettable, even in the wind, and he didn’t get it. He missed a cut at Torrey Pines, his glorious playground, for the first time. Tiger quasi-chunked three short irons, missing greens short with terrific opportunities with his scoring clubs.

Bottom line – Tiger isn’t competitive, not yet. He left the Hero World Challenge 15th out of 17 competitors. He didn’t come close to making the cut at Torrey (missing by four shots). He was tied for 107th when he left the course.

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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.