Ailing Watson to Defend Final Major

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 24, 2004, 4:00 pm
Its the last of the biggies for the elders, the final major of the year for the Champions Tour. They will have played four majors in six weeks when the Jeld-Wen Tradition (Thurs. at 6 & 10:30 p.m. on TGC) unreels this week near Portland, Ore., at The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club.
And the defending champion is still limited somewhat by an ailment that first struck six weeks ago. Tom Watson will play, but a mysterious nerve condition still has him a bit under the weather.
'Basically it's a weakness in my right arm that's caused by a nerve problem that is really unidentifiable, said Watson. I have no more pain in my neck, they've given me a cervical epidural, and I've seen some relief, but it's still a bit weak.

Anyway, it's just a little bit strange playing golf when I don't have the horsepower on my right side. I still feel a little bit weak at times with the longer swings and shots out of the rough, and actually I feel a little bit weak putting, of all things, in my hand.
Watson won last year by making birdie on the final hole at The Vineyards, breaking out of a four-way tie with Tom Kite, Gil Morgan and Jim Ahern. He looped a wedge up to four feet on the par-5 hole and sank the putt for the win. Kite hit his approach to five feet, but couldnt get the putt to go down.
Watsons nerve condition will eventually disappear, he says. Its has continuously improved, though no one can say definitely when it will go away.
I've just got to build it back, he said. The doctors don't know how long it's going to take to get it back to full strength. They said it would be three weeks, two months, four months, something like that. It took a while for it to finally get to that point, but it -- now, it's going to take a while for it to get back into some strength.
The good thing about it is I will regain my strength.
Watson will have to beat a good field if he is to win, led by the No. 1 player of the Champions money list, Hale Irwin. Irwins intensity level is at its peak. But he says its always at its peak, regardless of where he plays.
To me, it's been approach each shot - as trite as it may sound, you play them one at a time, and I hate that because you beat the heck out of it. There's not a shot here that I haven't played hundreds, if not thousands, of times somewhere else, and it's a matter of putting those increments together.

I think the advantage may come with those people that have achieved in these formats. You can call it intensity, you can call it preparation, you can call it anything you want to, but the experience factor is enormous when it comes to these kinds of events.
The surprise that was the British Senior Open was not a stunner to Irwin. Club pro Peter Oakley won there, and it may happen again this week, says Irwin.
Of course, who would have thought Orville Moody would win the U.S. Open back in 1969? he asked. The first-time winners - who would have thought that Hale Irwin would win at Winged Foot?
There's always a first. There's always someone that can emerge. Whether or not you continue or where you come from, it doesn't matter. His (Oakleys) name is on the trophy and he proved himself that week.
Yes, there are contradictions to that general rule of thumb, but I dare say that there's not too many when it comes to - you might say, OK, here's a handful of experience and a barrelful of inexperience, who do you want? I think your hand would probably go to the experience bowl more often.
Irwin won the U.S. Open three times when he played the regular tour. But he refuses to say that those major wins are more important than the majors he has won on the Champions.
You're playing against a different - you're in a different climate, he said. Not necessarily the weather, but the people with whom you're associated, the whole thing, how it's set up, the intensity level is just different, the approach of the players is somewhat different, it's a little mellowed out.
They play their brand of golf, we play our brand of golf, and do they cross over? Yes. Can I compete with them? Yes. We're seeing it in Jay Haas. We've seen it in Craig Stadler. We can compete with those guys. But to compare championships, that's very difficult. To say that winning here would be more or less important than having won at Silicone Valley or Riviera are more important than Winged Foot or Medinah or Inverness, can't do it. Just an entirely different set of circumstances each time you play.
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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. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."