Golf Talk Live - Nick Faldo Transcript Segment 1

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 1, 1999, 5:00 pm
GOLF TALK LIVE - FEBRUARY 1, 1999
NICK FALDO

PETER KESSLER
DURING THE DECADE OF HIS 30'S NICK FALDO WAS THE PREMIER CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMER IN THE GAME. NOW HE'S IN HIS EARLY 40'S, DOES HE CRAVE BEING NUMBER 1 AGAIN AND IF SO WHAT ARE HIS PLANS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. FIND OUT ON GOLF TALK LIVE.

PETER KESSLER

FOR THE FIRST 450 YEARS OF THE GAMES HISTORY GOLF WAS PLAYED EXCLUSIVELY IN SCOTLAND. THE FIRST GREAT PLAYER NOT TO HALE FROM SCOTLAND WAS ENGLAND'S JOHN HENRY TAYLOR, KNOWN TO ALMOST ALL AS JH TAYLOR. HE WAS
A LITTLE LIKE FELLOW ENGLISHMEN NICK FALDO IS HIS STYLE OF PLAY. JH WAS AN

EXTRAORDINARILY STRAIGHT AND ACCURATE HITTER OF TEE SHOTS. HE WASN'T PARTICULARLY LONG AS HIS SWING WAS BUILT LESS FOR POWER AND MORE FOR ACCURATE PLACEMENT. HE WAS GRITTY IN HIS DETERMINATION AND

WAS CONTENT TO STRAIN TOGETHER A ROUND WITH LOTS OF 4'S IN IT KNOWING THAT A ROUND FILLED WITH WHAT WE TODAY THINK OF AS SOLID PARS WAS THE STUFF THAT ADDED UP TO CHAMPIONSHIPS. JH WON 5 BRITISH OPENS WAS THE CONTEMPORARY OF HARRY

VARDENS AND PLAYED IN OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS UNTIL HE WAS OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE A HOUSE FILLED WITH GRANDCHILDREN. ENGLISHMEN HARRY VARDEN CAME ALONG AND TOOK THE

GAME TO ANOTHER LEVEL. HE HAD TAYLORS ACCURACY FROM THE TEE BUT ADDED TO IT GREATER POWER AND AN ABILITY TO HIT HIGH SOFT APPROACHES WITH LONG IRONS AND FAIRWAY WOODS. WHEN VARDEN WAS 43 YEARS OLD HE WON HIS LAST OF 6 BRITISH OPENS. TO

ECLIPSE HIS FRIEND MR. TAYLOR. VARDEN ALSO WON THE US OPEN IN 1900. AND HIS 7 MAJOR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS TIES HIM FOR THE MOST EVER WITH BOBBY JONES, AND JACK NICKLAUS. VARDEN'S RUN WAS HALTED BY THE ON SET OF WORLD WAR I

AND AT THE AGE OF 50 IN 1920 NEARLY AND SHOULD HAVE WON THE US OPEN AT INVERNESS. THE SAME CHAMPIONSHIP WHERE 18 YEAR OLD BOBBY JONES WAS PLAYING IN HIS FIRST OPEN. VARDEN AND

JONES WERE PAIRED TOGETHER. VARDEN PRONOUNCED JONES, THE FINEST JUDGE OF DISTANCE HE'D EVER SEEN. THE GREATEST PLAYER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY WAS HARRY VARDEN. THE GREATEST PLAYER OF CHAMPIONSHIPS AT THE END OF THE

CENTURY IS NICK FALDO WHO HAS 6 MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS, 3 BRITISH OPENS, AND 3 MASTERS TOURNAMENTS. THE FIRST OF THESE 6, THE BRITISH OPEN AT MUIRFIELD IN 1987. WITH THE GRITTYNESS OF TAYLOR AND THE MAJESTY OF VARDEN. FALDO ADDED THE MASTERS IN

1989 AND THE BRITISH OPEN AT ST. ANDREWS AND THE MASTERS IN 1990. THE BRITISH AGAIN AT MUIRFIELD IN 1992 AND THE 3RD MASTER IN 1996. THE CHAMPION-

SHIP RUN HAS COOLED BUT FALDO LOOKS LIKE ANYTHING BUT CONTENT TO REST. HE WORKS ON REDISCOVERING HIS EFFICIENCY AND CONSISTENCY. HE SEARCHES FOR HIS CHAMPIONSHIP PUTTING STROKE. HE HAS A CHANCE TO

CATCH FELLOW COUNTRYMEN VARDEN 7 MAJORS, AND TO BE REGARDED AS NOT ONLY THE BEST PLAYER OF HIS GENERATION BUT THE BEST OF HIS TIME. IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY THAT FALDO RELISHES PARTICULARLY IN HIS EARLY 40'S WHEN THERE'S STILL A NICK OF TIME

PETER KESSLER

WELCOME TO GOLF TALK LIVE I'M PETER KESSLER GREAT PLEASURE TO WELCOME BACK TO OUR SHOW NICK FALDO, GREAT TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

NICK FALDO

THANK YOU

PETER KESSLER

NOW LAST TIME YOU WERE HERE I WAS PARTICULARLY RUDE BECAUSE YOU WERE TELLING US A GREAT STORY AND I CUT YOU OFF SO, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK AT WHERE YOU WERE IN THE STORY, COME BACK LIVE AND FINISH IT FOR US.

NICK FALDO

ALL RIGHT, OKAY.

PETER KESSLER

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

NICK FALDO

HAVE AN AUDIENCE WITH SOME, YOU KNOW A VERY MYSTIC FIGURE IN GOLF WAS JUST SOMETHING SPECIAL AND I GUESS, I DID GET A SENSE WHAT YOU KNOW PEOPLE SAY, WHEN THEY MEET ME OR OTHER FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU KNOW

WHAT IT'S LIKE I MEAN I WAS UP AT 4 IN THE MORNING, I GOT 3 PAGES OF NOTE PADS, I GOT, I WRITTEN ALL THESE QUESTIONS AND I THOUGHT YOU KNOW, AND SAT DOWN IN FRONT OF HIM AND

YOU KNOW STARTED READING OFF A FEW OF THEM AND HE WAS VERY, HE WAS A LOT WARMER AND A LOT SOFTER THAN HE WAS 20 YEARS AGO THEY SAYING, OBVIOUSLY HE NEVER ?GRANTED? AN AUDIENCE 20 YEARS AGO. AND SO IT WAS

FASCINATING AND I MANAGED TO GET ON WITH HIM, AND I SAT NEXT TO HIM AT LUNCH WENT TO SHADY OAKS AND SAT IN HIS FAMOUS ROUND TABLE, SAT NEXT TO HIM, WE HAD LUNCH AND I WENT OUT AND HIT SOME BALLS YOU KNOW AT ALL HIS

FAMOUS SPOTS, WHERE HE USE TO DO HIS PITCHING FROM AND ALL THAT SORT OF THING. IT WAS ALL PUT TOGETHER BY A CHAP CALLED.
PETER KESSLER

I'M GOING TO HAVE TO STOP YOU BECAUSE THEY'LL TELLING US OUR TIME IS UP.

NICK FALDO

YOUR JOKING!

PETER KESSLER

WHICH MEANS YOU'LL HAVE TO COME BACK AND SEE US, THANKS FOR BEING HERE TONIGHT.

NICK FALDO

YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT BEN HOGAN, WELL IT KEEPS IT A SECRET THEN IT DOES ANYWAY DOESN'T IT.

PETER KESSLER

HE KEPT THE SECRET AND NOW YOUR GOING TO HAVE TO KEEP THE SECRET.

NICK FALDO

YEAH, I CAN'T TELL YOU THE SECRET. I WAS GOING TO TELL YOU LIVE ON THE GOLF CHANNEL.

PETER KESSLER

WE'LL SEE YOU MONDAY NIGHT ON GOLF TALK LIVE. OKAY SO 2 YEARS IS PASSED SO PICK UP THE STORY.

NICK FALDO

WELL I'M SORRY I HAVE TO LEAVE , IT WAS VERY NICE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

PETER KESSLER

GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE WE'LL SEE YOU VERY SOON ON GOLF TALK LIVE.

NICK FALDO

CABS WAITING OUTSIDE I'VE GOT TO GO.

PETER KESSLER

YES, GIVE IT TO ME.

NICK FALDO

SO WHAT, IT'S NOT THAT EASY. GOD AND IF I COULD OR SHOULD OR.

PETER KESSLER

I GAVE YOU THE FIRST BIT TO PROMPT THAT MEMORY OF YOURS.

NICK FALDO

WELL NO, HE REALLY TALKED VERY MUCH ABOUT THE DRIVER BEING THE KEY CLUB, WHICH WAS ONE OF HIS SECRETS, IT'S IMPORTANT. AND WE TALKED ABOUT THE GOLF SWING AND BUT HE WASN'T GOING TO LET ON HIS SECRETS THE WAY I

WANTED HIM TO. AND I TALKED ABOUT HOW HE TRIED TO FADE THE BALL AND DRAW THE BALL AND THAT SORT OF

THING BUT HE KEPT, HE KEPT TALKING ABOUT THE DRIVER, THE DRIVER BEING THE KEY CLUB. THAT REALLY WAS HIS MOST IMPORTANT THING, IF YOU COULDN'T HIT A DRIVER OF A FADE YOU DIDN'T EXIST IN THE WORLD OF GOLF.

SO, BUT HIS SECRET WILL REMAIN SAFE WITH ME, I PROMISE.

PETER KESSLER

YEAH, WELL HOW ABOUT LETTING IT REMAIN UNSAFE.

NICK FALDO

NO I CAN'T DO THAT.

PETER KESSLER

I WAITED 2 YEARS FOR YOU TO SAY.

NICK FALDO

NO I CAN'T DO THAT.

PETER KESSLER

THE DRIVER'S AN IMPORTANT GOLF CLUB.

NICK FALDO

YEAH THAT WAS IT.
PETER KESSLER

DID HE WATCH YOU HIT GOLF BALLS?

NICK FALDO

NO HE DIDN'T UNFORTUNATELY, HE GAVE ME A VERY NICE COMPLIMENT. I DID ASK HIM I SAID, WOULD YOU COME OUT AND WATCH ME HIT BALLS. HE LOOKED AT ME AND SAYS, I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR DOING, WHICH WAS I THOUGHT

THAT WAS GREAT. NO THE SECRET HAS TO REMAIN SAFE, IT REALLY DOES.

PETER KESSLER

DID YOU WATCH HIM HIT BALLS?

NICK FALDO

NO UNFORTUNATELY NO, HOW OLD WAS HE THEN LATE 70'S I THINK HE PROBABLY STOPPED A COUPLE YEARS BEFORE THAT, YEAH.

PETER KESSLER

YOU KNOW IT'S TOMORROW'S THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS CAR ACCIDENT FEBRUARY 2ND 1949 AND OF COURSE HE WON 6 OF HIS 9 MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS AFTER THAT ACCIDENT OVER THE NEXT 4 YEARS. AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO

PLAYED WITH HIM AT THE TIME SAID, HE WAS A BETTER GOLFER AFTER THE ACCIDENT.

NICK FALDO

OH YEAH, YEAH.

PETER KESSLER

BECAUSE HIS LEG ACTION WAS QUIETER. AS WE TAKE A LOOK, AND NOW YOU WILL LOOK AT HIS SWING AND YOU CAN TALK OVER IT FOR US AND I'M GOING TO KEEP PRODDING YOU TILL WE GET THERE. WHEN WE TAKE A LOOK AT HIS SWING

TAKEN AT THE PRACTICE RANGE AT THE MASTERS TOURNAMENT IN 67, TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE.

NICK FALDO

OKAY SURE.
PETER KESSLER

TELL ME WHAT WE SHOULD NOTICE AS WE LOOK AT HIS GOLF SWING, LETS TAKE A LOOK.

NICK FALDO

WELL FIRST THING, HE HAD WAS AN AMAZING GRIP HE HAD A VICE GRIP VERY, VERY STRONG HANDS. AND YOU WATCH HOW HE ROTATES HIS ARMS ON THE BACKSWING, SO HE GETS FULL, WHAT HE DOES HE'S A FULL 90 DEGREE TURN OF

HIS SHOULDERS, AND HE GETS A FULL WRIST SET, AS WE WOULD CALL IT NOW BUT THE ARMS DON'T GO RIGHT AROUND AND HIS ARMS STAY PRETTY LOW, AND THAT'S WHY IT WOULD STILL LOOK AS IF IT WAS LAID OFF. BUT THEN HE HAD THIS
FABULOUS LEG ACTION YOU SEE HOW HE COILS AGAINST, GETS HIS POWER UP AND

THEN HE FIRES THE RIGHT SIDE THROUGH, AND THESE ARE GREAT YOU CAN SEE THE ROTATION HERE, LOOK HOW HE ROTATES THAT LEFT ARM SO MUCH THAT THE CLUBS POINTING LEFT AND THEN HE JUST PULLS IT DOWN HARD WITH HIS LEFT SIDE

AND THEN FIRES THE RIGHT SIDE THROUGH. SO HE WAS THE MASTER OF LINKING YOU KNOW, LEFT SIDE AND RIGHT SIDE AND THEN GETTING THE TOP HALF OF THE BODY TO WORK AGAINST THE BOTTOM HALF, YOU KNOW TO CREATE THE TORQUE AND THAT SORT OF THING. HE

HAD VICE HANDS, AND I WAS AMAZED WHEN I FIRST SPOKE TO HIM THAT HE NEVER SUFFERED ANYTHING FROM, YOU KNOW LEGENDARY HITTING AS MANY GOLF BALLS AS HE DID, NEVER HAD ANY

ACHES AND PAINS IN HIS ARMS OR ANYTHING. SO THAT WAS, YOU KNOW NEVER WORE A GLOVE I MEAN TO HANG ON TO. I HAD SOME FABULOUS STORIES. HENRY COTTON GAVE HIM EXERCISE WHEN HE CAME TO CARNOUSTIE. HE LAID DOWN 20 BALLS AND THERE WAS A GREEN

OUT THERE GAVE HIM HIS BRASSY AND HE HIT AS LEGEND WOULD HAVE IT, 19 OR 20 BALLS ON TO THE GREEN WITHOUT CHANGING HIS GRIP. HE GRIPED IT ONCE, THE FIRST ONE AND HIT THEM AND WENT LIKE THAT, THROUGH 20 BALLS, I MEAN

THERE'S NOBODY ELSE COULD EVER DO THAT. EVERYBODY ?YOU THINK? OF IN THE WORLD, I CAN'T THINK OF ANYBODY WHO COULD GRIP IT, HIT ONE SHOT AND IT COME BACK AND THERE GRIP IS GOOD

ENOUGH TO PUT IT BACK DOWN AGAIN. SO HE WAS A PURE, PURE STRIKER WASN'T HE.

PETER KESSLER

THIS YEAR THE OPEN WILL RETURN TO CARNOUSTIE WHERE HE WON HIS ONLY BRITISH OPEN IN 1953. AND SOMETHING ELSE THAT HE DID, THAT SOUNDS LIKE HE MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE FEW TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS AS WELL, IS THAT HE

MODIFIED HIS ACTIONS SO THAT HE WOULD PICK THE BALL FAIRLY CLEAN, OFF THE FIRM FAIRWAYS OF CARNOUSTIE. DO YOU MODIFY YOUR ACTION, EVER LIKE TRY TO HIT MORE RIGHT TO LEFT AT AUGUSTA OR DO YOU GO TO THE TOURNAMENT SITE WITH WHAT GOT YOU THERE.

NICK FALDO

WELL I THINK, I THINK YOU PREPARE YOURSELF PRIOR TO THAT. I THINK YOU GOT A LONG BUILD UP TO AUGUSTA YOU KNOW AFTER THE PGA WE'VE GOT WINTER AND SPRING TO GET YOURSELF IN IT AND I KNOW YOU DO START THINKING OF

SHAPING CERTAIN SHOTS OR TRYING IN A WAY TO MAYBE TRY AND GET A LITTLE BIT MORE BACK SPIN ON YOUR IRON SHOTS, YOU KNOW MAYBE GETTING THEM A LITTLE BIT STEEPER OR SOMETHING AND THEN OBVIOUSLY YOU NEED TO TIP A FEW

DRIVERS OVER, SHAPE A FEW DRIVERS AROUND THE CORNER THAT'S BENEFICIAL. MAYBE TRY AND HIT A FEW LONG IRONS A LITTLE HIGHER. I THINK YOU DO, AND

YOU HAVE TO WORK, YOU DEFINITELY HAVE TO WORK A LITTLE BIT MORE ON YOUR SHORT GAME WHEN YOU GET TO AUGUSTA BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE, AS YOU'VE SEEN THE WAY THEY MOW THE
GRASS OFF THE GREENS, WERE THEN

CHIPPING BACK INTO THE GREEN SO YOU'VE GOT THIS WICKED CHIP THAT GOES OVER ALWAYS GOING UP HILL THEN ON TO A DOWN SLOPE, AND YOU KNOW GOT A LAKE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT AND YOUR PLAY OFF INTO THE GREEN SO IF

YOU MISS HIT IT A HAIR , THAT'S THE ONE THAT COMES UP SHORT AND GRABS AND COMES BACK TO YOU OR SO OBVIOUSLY YOU KNOW I GOT TO GET IT THERE HAIR TOO HARD AND THAT'S WHY AUGUSTA IS SO, SUCH A FEEL GOLF COURSE,

ESPECIALLY UNDER PRESSURE YOU START MISSING THE GREENS ON SUNDAY AND THEN YOUR FACING WITH THESE CHIPS YOU KNOW, YOU GOT TO PLAY THEM WITH SOME EXTRA TOUCH.

PETER KESSLER

THE YEAR AFTER YOU WON MOST RECENTLY AT AUGUSTA. TIGER WOODS WON AND HE SHOT 18 UNDER WHICH TIED YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD OF 18 UNDER, AT ST. ANDREWS IN 1990. HOW COME THEY SAID AFTER TIGER SHOT 18

UNDER WE NEED TO PROTECT THE GOLF COURSE. AND THEY DIDN'T SAY AFTER YOU SHOT 18 UNDER WE NEED TO FALDOIZE THIS TO PROTECT IT AGAINST NICK DOING THIS AGAIN.

NICK FALDO

GOOD QUESTION I DON'T KNOW, I DON'T KNOW I THINK THEY KNEW WE GOT ST. ANDREWS ON A VERY CALM, BEAUTIFUL, SUNNY WEEK WHICH DOESN'T, WHAT HAPPENS PROBABLY ONCE EVERY DECADE AT ST. ANDREWS SO I THINK THAT'S WHY

THEY WORRIED ABOUT AUGUSTA THE FACT THAT YOU CAN DRIVE THE BALL, YOU KNOW THE FAIRWAYS ARE PRETTY GENEROUS AND THAT'S WHAT THEY'VE BEEN WORKING ON. I THINK AS FAR AS THIS TIME WHEN WE GO BACK I THINK

THERE'S GOING TO BE A FEW LITTLE SURPRISES, THAT THE FAIRWAYS ARE SUDDENLY GETTING A LITTLE BIT MORE NARROW AND IT WON'T BE QUITE SO EASY

TO JUST BLAST IT ANYWHERE DOWN ANY SIDE OF THE FAIRWAY. THAT'S BEEN THE PROBLEM NOW WITH MODERN GOLF YOU KNOW, THE GUYS ARE HITTING IT SO FAR THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER IF THERE ON THE WRONG SIDE PIN, BECAUSE IF IT'S

?DONE? WITH A 9 IRON YOU ONLY NEED THIS MUCH TO STOP A 9 IRON. WHERE IF YOUR BACK ON TOP OF THE HILL AND YOU GOT A 3 OR 4 IRON IN YOUR HAND WELL THEN YOU GOT TO COME FROM THE RIGHT SIDE TO LAND IT ON THE FRONT EDGE AND

WORK THE BALL IN SO, YOU KNOW THAT'S BEEN THE PROBLEM THE FACT THAT THE GUYS HITTING IT SO FAR THAT THEY ARE COMING IN WITH SHORTER CLUBS.
PETER KESSLER

IS IT SAFE FOR ME TO GO TO A BREAK OR ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP GOING?

NICK FALDO

WHERE AM I GOING.

PETER KESSLER

WELL LAST, YOU KNOW LAST TIME I TOOK US OFF THE AIR, SO I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE .

NICK FALDO

ALL RIGHT, I'LL PAUSE.

PETER KESSLER

WE WILL BE RIGHT BACK WITH NICK FALDO RIGHT AFTER THIS, DON'T GO AWAY.

(BREAK)

NEXT SEGMENT
Getty Images

LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

Getty Images

Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.