The Highs and Lows from the Week in Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
 
Front 9 Hole 1
HOW SWEDE IT IS: While most everyone was focused on the Tiger Woods' PGA TOUR winning streak, Henrik Stenson put an end to another impressive run. Stenson defeated defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, 2 and 1, to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Swede handed the Aussie his first defeat in this tournament (Ogilvy is now 11-1) and won his first TOUR event in the process. Stenson not only moved up to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking to stake his claim as Europe's Best, but he also became just the second different European-born player (Darren Clarke, twice) to win a WGC event.
 
Nick O
Tiger Woods might want to think about using his putter as a weapon the next time he faces Nick O'Hern. (WireImage)
Hole 2
THE STREAK STOPS HERE: Nick OHern is the man who officially ended Woods TOUR winning streak at seven, defeating him in 20 holes in the third round of the Accenture. OHern is the first player since Woods turned professional 11 years ago to beat him twice heads-up in match play, also doing so in the second round in 2005. The end of the streak was not only good news for O'Hern, but also for the rest of the TOUR players who no longer have to answer questions about its impressiveness or validity.
 
Hole 3
A SILVER LINING: While Woods might be on a losing streak now; there is a ray of sunshine, because an early exit at the Accenture might mean a major title or two later on this season. Woods has twice won the Accenture, doing so in 2003 and 2004, but didnt capture a major championship in either of those two seasons. He has won at least one major every other year since the Match Plays inception in 99.
 
Hole 4
DON'T CHANGE THAT CHANNEL: Not to toot the company horn, but it was nice to see the entire Woods-OHern match Friday evening. GOLF CHANNEL stayed with the match until its conclusion in 20 holes, which was much better than watching a re-run of Walker, Texas Ranger.
 
Hole 5
AMES REVENGE: One year after getting demolished by Woods in the opening round of the Accenture, 9 and 8, Stephen Ames got his revenge by thumping Swede Robert Karlsson, 8 and 7. Ames, who had a career record of 0-2 at the Accenture, advanced to the fourth round this year.
 
Hole 6
MORE OF THE SAME: The Europeans own the Ryder Cup; apparently, they own the Americans in general. The Euros continued their dominance of U.S. players in match play, winning seven of the nine matches in which they faced one another at the Accenture.
 
Hole 7
OLD SCHOOL: Some have questioned why Fred Funk would want to play more on the PGA TOUR than on the Champions Tour this season. He gave his answer at the Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya. The 50-year-old, who is exempt on TOUR through 2010 due to his '05 Players Championship victory, won a playoff over Jose Coceres to become the fifth oldest TOUR winner. The $630,000 he collected in Mexico was nearly 400K more than he earned in his 11-stroke win last month at the Champions Tour's Turtle Bay Championship.
 
Hole 8
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: Mark OMeara didn't win this past week on the Champions Tour, but he did show fine form getting within one shot of the lead after each of the first two rounds, ultimately finishing tied for fifth. Having notable newcomers like O'Meara near the top of the leaderboard is just what the senior set needs.
 
Hole 9
READY FOR A RETURN: After being demoted to the Nationwide Tour thanks to a 180th-place finish on last year's PGA TOUR money list, Nicolas Thompson made a huge step in returning to the big leagues. Thompson, who only had conditional status on the secondary circuit to start the season, won the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship in a playoff to move to the top of the 2007 money list. He then hopped on a plane to head back to the States to try and Monday qualify for The Honda Classic. 'It's my hometown event,' he said. 'I have to be in that field!'
 
Back 9 Hole 10
WE FEEL YOUR PAIN:
Tiger's loss wasn't only deflating to him, as network executives had to be sad to see him exit so early. It didn't help matters that other top players packed their bags prematurely, which leads us to ...
 
Hole 11
SUPERSTARS?: By the end of the second round of the Accenture, eight of the top-10 players in the world had been shown the door. Adam Scott and Ernie Els even went so far as to head home after just one round, confirming the old adage, Anything can happen in match play. Stenson was the lone top-10 player to make it to the weekend.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els would love to see this event head to another site - outside the U.S. (WireImage)
Hole 12
PILING ON: Yes, we've already mentioned Els, but he deserves a hole all to his own. Els has won the European Tour's HSBC World Match Play, which is played on his home course at Wentworth, six times -- twice doing it three times in succession. But his record in the Accenture is now a dismal 6-8. A change in venue didn't help him, as he lost in the first round for the fourth time in seven appearances. He would prefer another change -- to somewhere outside the U.S. The only time Els has made it beyond the second round was in 2001, when the tournament was contested in Australia.
 
Hole 13
U-S-A! U-s-a. u-s: The Americans had a record-low 23 players in the 64-man field at the Accenture, where they had placed at least three players into the quarterfinals each year since the tournament began. Only one - Chad Campbell - made it that far this year. And for the first time in the nine-year history of the event, an American did not make it to the finals. Ouch!
 
Hole 14
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY: The LPGA Tour was playing the Fields Open in Hawaii at the Ko Olina Golf Club when monsoon like rains nearly washed out play during the second round. The Leeward Coast of Oahu averages just five inches of rain a year, but had almost half of that on Friday afternoon.
 
Hole 15
PARADISE LOST: Natalie Gulbis might be one who is glad to see the LPGA Tour leave Hawaii. In each of the two events in the Aloha State, Gulbis entered the final round within five strokes of the lead. But instead of making a closing push to earn her first tour title, she back-peddled, shooting 75 on each occasion.
 
Hole 16
FUZZY WUZZY WIKI: Fuzzy Zoeller filed a lawsuit seeking to find out who posted a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia. The posting claimed Zoeller had committed acts of alcohol, drug, and domestic abuse. The site has since removed the posting.
 
Hole 17
PAPERS, PLEASE: According to reports, Anthony Kim made a rookie mistake by losing his passport, forcing him to miss out on the PGA TOUR's Mayakoba Classic. The brash Kim, a chic pick for Rookie of the Year honors, tied for ninth at the Nissan Open and was guaranteed a spot in the field.
 
Hole 18
LOSS OF A FATHER: Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA TOUR, lost his father this past week. The Associated Press reported that Harold Finchem, 88, died peacefully in his sleep in Virginia Beach, Va.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya
  • Full Coverage - Fields Open in Hawaii
  • Full Coverage - ACE Group Classic
  • Full Coverage - HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

    Getty Images

    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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    Getty Images

    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.”