Lefty Headlines Strong Field in NC

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 1, 2006, 4:00 pm
At 5:00 p.m. EDT last Friday, Wachovia Championship tournament officials received official word that Tiger Woods would not be playing their event ' by not hearing anything at all.
 
Players have until that time each week to declare entry into the following weeks PGA TOUR event. Silence said everything in relation to Woods.
 
Actually, Woods had said in weeks prior that he would be taking off a significant amount of time, perhaps up until the U.S. Open, to be alongside his ailing father. He said this while in New Zealand, where he was for caddie Steve Williams wedding, and where he also spent time bungee jumping and racing cars.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is hoping a title defense this week will earn him his first win of 2006.
Wachovia officials held out hope that Woods would get a competitive itch and scratch it in the tournament that he has played each of the last two years. It was not to be ' but that doesnt mean the tournament will be without significant star power.
 
While the worlds No. 1 isnt in the field, the next 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking are in Charlotte, N.C.
 
That includes Masters champion Phil Mickelson, defending champion Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Not to mention, Sergio Garcia, 2003 winner David Toms, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Chris DiMarco.
 
Wachovia, though in just its fourth year of existence, is one of the TOURs premiere regular stops. Players are treated like royalty; for example, all are given Mercedes courtesy cars for the week. But while the perks are plenty, players also love the Quail Hollow course.
 
It's just a wonderful event, Garcia said a year ago. It's very well run, and they take very good care of us. The course is great, and it's just a tournament you look forward to coming back and playing.
 
It doesnt hurt that a $6 million purse is on offer, with the winner taking home $1.08 million of that.
 
Singh was that man a year ago, defeating Garcia and Furyk in a playoff. That was the third of four victories on the 2005 season for the big Fijian.
 
He has yet to win once, however, this year. Singh has seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts, but he hasnt come close to winning since dropping a playoff to Stuart Appleby in the season-opening Mercedes Championships. In his last start, he tied for 36th in his title defense at the Shell Houston Open. That was his worst finish in a tournament in which he made the cut since the 2004 Byron Nelson.
 
Will Singh get back into the winners circle this week? Here are five players that would love to say no ' and not one of them is Mickelson.
 
Sergio Garcia
Garcia didnt do much in his Wachovia debut, tying for 61st in 2004. But last year, he exploded to a six-stroke lead after three rounds. The Spaniard could only manage an even-par 72 in the final round, and ended up losing in a three-way playoff to Singh. In fact, he was the first player eliminated, bowing out on the first extra hole, while Singh topped Furyk on the fourth hole of sudden death. Garcia should welcome the challenge of redemption. If he does manage to win for the first time this season, he will have to find a way to finish strong on Sunday. He has yet to break par in the final round of the six tournaments in which he has made the cut this season.
 
Jim Furyk
Furyk, like Garcia, was unspectacular in his first Quail Hollow appearance, missing the cut in 2003. But he also tied for second a year ago, closing in 66 to make the extra session. Furyk has three top-3 finishes this season. He tied for second in his most recent start at the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links ' another course he loves. The average winning score, in three previous editions of this event, is only 11 under. The difficult conditions should also suit Furyks game.
 
Adam Scott
Scott has been a big disappointment in the major championships, but he has fared well on difficult non-major courses. Hes won The Players Championship at Sawgrass and the Nissan Open at Riviera; though, he didnt get credit for the 36-hole win. Scott, who is still in search of his first win on TOUR this season, tied for second at Riviera this year over 72 holes. He tied for 16th in his Wachovia debut a year ago.
 
Lucas Glover
Glover has fared well this season, already earning over $1 million. He has four top-10 finishes on the season and has played consistently in his three starts since missing the cut at the Masters Tournament. He missed the cut in this event a year ago, but tied for 10th in 2004.
 
Bill Haas
Haas, the son of Jay, was one of the more celebrated rookies on TOUR this year. But he has yet to secure anything better than a tie for 19th ' and that was in January at the Bob Hope. He has five missed cuts in 11 starts, which means he needs to get the ball rolling soon or he may be on his way back to the Nationwide Tour. This should be a good place to gain some momentum. Haas was the collegiate Player of the Year at Wake Forest. He tied for 22nd here a year ago as a sponsors exemption.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.