Open to a Canadian Winner

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The Tiger Woods winning streak is alive; though, he won't be extending it at this week's Canadian Open.
 
Woods, who has won each of his last five events, won this tournament in 2000, a stirring one-shot triumph over Grant Waite at Glen Abbey Golf Club. It completed an Open slam for Woods that season, one in which he won the U.S., British, and Canadian Opens.
 
Mike Weir
Mike Weir will try and become the first Canadian to win this event since 1954.
Woods returned the following year to try and defend his title, tied for 23rd, and hasnt since been back.
 
He's not participating this year, and he's not the only past champion absent. Hal Sutton, the 1999 winner; Scott Verplank, the 2001 winner; and John Rollins, the 2002 winner, have all joined Woods this week on the sideline.
 
But this event is not lacking for talent.
 
Jim Furyk is the highest ranked player in this week's field at third in the world. He is joined by fellow U.S. Ryder Cup teammates Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson and Vaughn Taylor.
 
Vijay Singh, the 2004 champion, is also in attendance, as is defending champion Mark Calcavecchia. Singh is coming off a runner-up finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He may well be the favorite this week to capture his second Canadian Open title and his second win on TOUR this season.
 
The Canadian Open is the second oldest stop on the PGA TOUR and the third oldest championship in all of professional golf. First played in 1904, this will be the 97th edition of the tournament.
 
Its been 52 years, since Pat Fletcher in 1954, that a native won this National Open. That drought, however, could end this year.
 
Here are the top 5 contenders -- outside of Singh -- for the 06 title, led by Canadas favorite golfing son.
 
Mike Weir
Weir almost took home top honors in 2004, only to fall in a playoff to Singh. Weir missed the cut the first nine times he played this event, but has missed only one cut over the last six years. That came last season at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club. This years event is back at Hamilton G&CC, where he finished 10th in 2003. Weir is seeking his first win on the PGA TOUR since 2004. He played well two starts ago at the PGA Championship, where he was one back after 54 holes, but closed in 1-over 73 to finish sixth.
 
Stewart Cink
It will be interesting to see if Cink has stopped kicking himself over losing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks ago. Cink had Woods dead to rights in their playoff, but missed a pair of very makeable putts that would have won it for him. Now, Cink heads north of the border still in search of his first TOUR win since he prevailed at Firestone in 2004. This will be his first start here since that same season, when he tied for fourth. He made the cut in both of his other appearances.
 
Tom Pernice, Jr.
Pernice has never had much success in this tournament, having missed the cut seven times in 11 career starts. Thats the bad news. The good news is that the tournament has returned to the site of his lone top-10. Pernice tied for third in 2003 at Hamilton G&CC. More good news: each of the last three winners of this event has been in their 40s. Pernice turned 47 this Tuesday.
 
Brad Faxon
Faxon lost in a playoff to Bob Tway the last time Hamilton G&CC hosted this event in 2003. This will be his first start in this event since then. He also has a couple of other top-10s in this tournament. This site will be much welcomed in Faxon's eyes. He is still seeking his first top-10 of the season.
 
Bob Estes
Estes had a great chance two weeks ago at the Reno-Tahoe Open to earn his first TOUR title since 2002, but finished one shot back of Will MacKenzie. He gets a chance to redeem himself this week. Estes has played this tournament 10 times and has three top-10s. He was runner-up in 2001, and finished tied for 14th the last time the event was contested at Hamilton.
 
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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.