Nothing to Lose Plenty to Gain

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 31, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Tour ChampionshipForty-three down, one to go. The PGA Tour season concludes this week with a pair of season-enders.
While the majority of tour members are in Madison, Miss., for the hurricane-delayed Southern Farm Bureau Classic ' with many of them trying to retain their membership, 29 others are in Atlanta, Ga., with nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
The $6.5 million Tour Championship is on offer to the top 30 players on the money list. The field has been reduced by one, however, as Phil Mickelson, No. 3 in earnings, has once again opted not to compete.
But for those who did decide to show up to East Lake Golf Club, this is a week where they can reflect on all of their accomplishments ' and even some missed opportunities.
Here is a look at each individual in the field of 29, in order of ranking on the current tour money list:
1. Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has had nearly 10 million reasons to smile this year.
With six victories and over $9.9 million in earnings, Woods cant be matched or surpassed in either of those two categories. He also has a pair of major championships to his credit, which means hes a lock for Player of the Year. Woods still has motivation, however, as he is coming off his second missed cut of the season at Disney. A win this week would net him another $1.17 million, which would break Vijay Singhs single-season money record of $10,905,106, set just a year ago. He captured this title in 1999 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. He was runner-up to Mickelson in 2000 at East Lake, and again last year to Retief Goosen.
2. Vijay Singh
By most accounts, Singh has had a great season. He has four wins, nine top-3s and has made over $7.7 million. But compared to last year, its been a bit of a downer. He lost his position atop the Official World Golf Ranking and has had five fewer victories. Singh has been struggling lately. He has missed the cut each of the last two weeks ' both in tournaments he had previously won ' marking the first time hes done that since 1995. He won this event in 2002 at East Lake.
4. Jim Furyk
Furyk has rebounded nicely since missing a significant portion of the 2004 season due to wrist surgery. He won for the first time since the 03 season at the Cialis Western Open, and was a great tag-team partner for Woods in the Presidents Cup. He may have a bad taste in his mouth though, as he lost his last start to Wes Short, Jr. in a playoff in Las Vegas. His best finish in this event is a runner-up in 1997 at Champions. He also tied for third in 98 at East Lake.
5. David Toms
Like most everyone else in this field, Toms has had his ups and downs this season. He won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in dominant fashion, and has four other top-5 finishes. But he also disqualified himself from the British Open due to a rules violation and had to withdraw from the 84 Lumber Classic after collapsing on the course. Medicated and with his heart back on track, hes looking to better his previous best finish in this event, a playoff loss to Mike Weir in 2001 at Champions.
6. Kenny Perry
Perry proved his 2003 campaign was no fluke, winning the Bay Hill Invitational and the Bank of America Colonial. Perrys career has flourished since he turned 40 in 2000. After a four-year drought, he has qualified for the Tour Championship each of the last five seasons. Over his previous four appearances, he has two top-10s (both coming at Champions) and two outside the top 15 (both at East Lake).
7. Chris DiMarco
Its been another emotional and impressive season out of DiMarco ' with no trophies to show for his efforts. DiMarco took Woods to the wire in a playoff loss at the Masters and was the unofficial MVP for the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup. Still, hes winless on tour since 2002. His best Tour Championship finish is a tie for seventh at East Lake in 02.
8. Retief Goosen
Goosen is the defending champion. He shot 64 in the final round a year ago to win by four strokes at East Lake. With his triumph earlier this year at The International, he extended his winning streak on tour to five consecutive seasons with at least one victory. He trails only Woods (10) on that list.
9. Sergio Garcia
Garcias season has been typical Sergio. He won the Booz Allen Classic the week before the U.S. Open, but once again failed to really factor in any of the majors. He earned a tie for third at the U.S. Open and a tie for fifth at the British Open, but didnt finish within four strokes of the winner in either event. He, like Toms and Ernie Els, lost to Weir in a playoff in 2001 at this tournament.
10. Fred Funk
Fred Funk
Fred Funk is looking for a change of pace this week at East Lake.
Funk is making his fourth straight appearance at the Tour Championship. The 2005 Players Championship winner hasnt had a top-10 since the FedEx St. Jude Classic in May. Funk is known for his consistency off the tee, but hows this for repetitive: he has finished T24 in all three of his Tour Championship starts at East Lake.
11. Justin Leonard
Despite being one of the shorter hitters off the tee, Leonard continues to be a force on the strength of his all-around game and guile. He rebounded from a winless 2004 season by notching a pair of victories this season at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the FedEx St. Jude. He has struggled in the latter part of the year with a couple of missed cuts, and 46th- and 69th-place finishes in his last two starts. His best finish in this event is a tie for fifth in 1998.
12. Padraig Harrington
Harrington has had a roller-coaster year. The 34-year-old had to endure the death of his father due to cancer, yet was able to finally bust out in a big way on the PGA Tour. He earned his first-ever tour victory in a sudden-death win against Singh at the Honda Classic, and then followed it up with a dramatic win over Furyk at the Barclays Classic in late June. He had a disastrous year in the majors, however, missing the cut at the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. He withdrew from the British following his fathers death. He finished 14th in his only appearance in this event a year ago.
13. Adam Scott
After getting at least one victory in each of his previous two seasons on the PGA Tour, Scott has been shut out thus far in 2005. Officially that is. The 26-year-old was the 36-hole leader at the Nissan Open when the event was called due to rain. Scott was awarded the money but the victory was deemed 'unofficial.' He did win a European Tour event at the Johnnie Walker Classic and had a runner-up showing at the Booz Allen Classic. He finished tied for 21st in his first appearance in this event last year.
14. Davis Love III
After having a giant year in 2003 with four tour victories, Love has not since visited the winners circle. The aging veteran still has plenty of pop off the tee though, ranking eighth in driving distance which led him to eight top-10 finishes in 2005. He added a pair of runner-ups this year to bring his career second-place finishes on tour to 28, second only to Greg Normans 31 among active players. A mainstay at the Tour Championship, Love withdrew last year due to neck problems. His best finish in this event is a runner-up in 1999.
15. Luke Donald
Donald has gone winless on tour since his maiden victory at the 2002 Southern Farm Bureau. He has a pair of runner-up finishes this year at the Buick Invitational and The Players Championship. He also tied for third at the Masters. This will be his first appearance in the Tour Championship. His highest finish on the money list prior to this season was 35th in 2004.
16. Sean OHair
Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the year, OHair has done a remarkable job of turning the media focus towards his blossoming play and away from his strained relationship with his father. After finishing fourth at the 2004 Q-school, he turned his opportunity to play with the big boys into his first win on tour at the John Deere Classic. He also had a runner-up finish at the Byron Nelson and has risen into the top 50 in the world rankings.
17. Chad Campbell
Campbell didn't win this year, but he qualified for his third straight Tour Championship, thanks in large part to a pair of runner-up finishes. He lost to Scott in the Nissan playoff, where the money was official. He also finished second last week at the Chrysler Championship to move from 43rd to 17th in earnings. Campbell won this tournament at Champions in 2003. He was forced to withdraw last year midway through the tournament due to a family illness.
18. Ben Crane
Known as one of the slowest players on tour, Crane is at the same time quickly becoming known as one of the better players on tour. As evidenced by his win at the U.S. Bank Championship and a pair of runner-up finishes, Crane has moved well up the money list and will play in his first Tour Championship. He shook off the slow play flap with Rory Sabbattini at the Booz Allen by notching four top-10s in the latter half of the year. He ranks first on tour in putts per green hit in regulation.
19. Tim Clark
Clark has put together quite an impressive season on both sides of the Atlantic, despite being winless on the PGA Tour. He started the season with a win on the European Tour, and then followed up with a second and a fourth at the Bob Hope and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, respectively. The highlight of the year for the diminutive South African may have come with his third-place showing at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where he finished in a tie for third with Garcia and just behind world No. 1 Woods. This will be his first appearance at this event.
20. Billy Mayfair
Mayfair missed only four cuts in 30 events he played this season and has enjoyed six top-10 finishes. He ranks third - behind only Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh - in the tour's all-around statistical ranking. Has had success at the Tour Championship with a win in 1995 and a runner-up finish all the way back in 1990.
21. Scott Verplank
A pair of runner-up showings in '05 pushed the native Texan over the $2 million mark in earnings for the fourth time in his career. In six appearances at the Tour Championship, he placed inside the top-10 on five occasions.
22. Bart Bryant
Bryant had only four top-10s in a long, oft-injured career before his breakout victory at last year's Valero Texas Open. Obviously, he enjoyed the taste of winning as he re-visited the winner's circle with his dramatic win over Fred Couples at this year's Memorial Tournament. Never before qualified for the Tour Championship.
23. Ted Purdy
One of 12 first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, Purdy won over half of all his earnings in '05 with his victory at the Byron Nelson Championship. Coming off a T-3 at the Michelin Championship in Vegas two weeks ago. This will be his first start at the Tour Championship.
24. Olin Browne
One of the most accurate drivers on tour, Browne captured his third PGA Tour title - and first since 1999 - at the Deutsche Bank Championship in early September. Currently leads the PGA Tour's Fall Finish standings and will be making his debut at the Tour Championship.
25. Brandt Jobe
Playing on a major medical extension, Jobe easily regained his card for the 2006 season. Runner-up at both the BellSouth Classic and The International, the UCLA graduate also had four other top-10s including a third at Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. This will be his maiden trip to this event.
26. Mark Calcavecchia
Calc bounced back quite nicely from horrible '04 season by winning the Bell Canadian Open, his first win since 2001. The 1989 British Open champion has five top-10s at the Tour Championship, his best finish a tie for third back in 1988.
27. Stuart Appleby
For the second consecutive year, Appleby won the lid-lifting Mercedes Championships and then nothing else. He had only three top-10s on the year, but his win in Maui accounted for roughly half of his $2-plus million earnings. His best result in this event is a seventh-place finish in 2000 at East Lake.
28. Charles Howell III
Howell had five top-5s this year, but is still winless on tour since the 2002 Michelob Championship. Howell teetered on the top 30 line for two weeks before securing his spot with a tie for 16th last week. He has twice played this tournament, in 2002 and 2003, and twice finished runner-up.
29. Tim Herron
Like Howell, Herron made his way into the East Lake field at the 11th hour. He tied for third last week in Tampa to move from 40th to 29th. Herron's best finish in this event is a tie for ninth in his debut in 1999. His only other appearance was in 2003, when he finished dead last.
30. Lucas Glover
Glover qualified for his first Tour Championship based largely on his dramatic victory at Disney, where he holed a decisive bunker shot for birdie on the final hole. That moved him from 57th to 28th on the money list, and he was able to maintain a spot inside the top 30 by finishing tied for 35th last week. Glover got off to a hot start this year with five top-10s in a seven-start stretch. He fell into a lull during the summer months, however. His win was his first top-10 finish since May.
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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.