Woods makes Players cut after roller-coaster round

By Will GrayMay 8, 2015, 7:04 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After stalking one last birdie putt, Tiger Woods watched the ball catch the edge of the hole and drop. He offered a trademark fist pump, and listened as the greenside crowd offered a thunderous applause.

Just like old times, right?

Except this was the second round of The Players Championship, not the final round. And the putt was on the ninth green instead of the 18th, and the final shot of the day was not to win another title, but instead simply to survive the 36-hole cut.

Woods’ 1-under 71 was a roller coaster worthy of theme-park admission, but it was good enough to earn him a weekend tee time at TPC Sawgrass. A step in the right direction, sure, but also a stark reminder of how far the former world No. 1 has fallen.

“I haven’t gotten anything out of my rounds,” Woods said for the second consecutive day. “I should be a few under par each day, and I’m just not capitalizing on my opportunities, and I need to start doing that.”



Woods’ second-round adventure included five bogeys and six birdies. After starting the day at 1 over, he never got into red figures and instead spent the entire round bouncing inside and outside of the projected cut line.

After a bogey on No. 7, his 16th hole of the day, dropped Woods back to 1 over, he came to the par-5 ninth knowing a birdie was needed to make the cut. After hitting a 101-yard approach to 9 feet, he converted the putt – just his third make of the day over 4 feet.

Woods had plenty of wayward shots, hitting 10 of 18 greens for the second straight day, and he believes the key to success is improving the proximity on his approach shots.

“I’m just not stuffing them in there. I’m hitting them 15 feet when they should be under 10,” Woods said. “I need to do a better job of that, getting the ball close, because these greens are slow right now and you can capitalize on the speed of the greens. You can be really aggressive with the putts.”

The stat line, though, seems to indicate that the issue is not creating more birdies – it’s limiting mistakes. Woods has made 11 birdies through two rounds, bettered only by Kevin Na (12), who leads the tournament.

Much like the first round, Woods offered up some head-scratching swings, notably on No. 1 where his pull-hook 3-wood didn’t make it to the start of the fairway after clipping a tree. He alternated birdie with bogey on consecutive holes on three different occasions.

“It was one of those things where as I said I couldn’t capitalize on some of the opportunities and get on a run,” he said. “I felt like I drove it pretty good today overall, but I just wasn’t hitting the ball close enough.”

While Woods appears to have made the cut by the narrowest of margins, he still sits only eight shots behind Na on a bunched leaderboard.

“Anyone who makes the cut certainly has a chance on this golf course,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing well enough to get myself up there. I just need one good round and narrow up that gap between myself and the lead, and I feel like I can do that.”

There was cause for celebration Friday, as an optimistic Woods grinded to guarantee two more “reps” on the Stadium Course. After the rough start to the season, it’s certainly a sign of progress – but it’s also a reminder that the rubric by which we grade his performances has changed dramatically.

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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.