Press Pass Feeling the Pressure Having Fun

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
Who was under more pressure in the final round last week: Lorena Ochoa, who was vying for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, or Laura Davies, who was looking for her first tour win in six years and was trying to inch closer to the Hall of Fame?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
This is a good question. I think Davies, mainly because she is in her 40s now and she may be running out of opportunities to qualify on points for the Hall of Fame. Ochoa, on the other hand, will become No. 1 soon enough, especially now that Annika is sidelined with injuries.
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
Laura Davies. Because Lorena is so young, she'll have time to reach the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, especially with Annika Sorenstam being injured. Laura plays a lot in Europe, therefore, her chances of winning on the LPGA Tour don't come often.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
Without a doubt it was Lorena Ochoa who was under pressure. Not to take anything away from Laura Davies, who needs to cap what has been a great career, but this could have been a passing of the torch from Sorenstam to Ochoa. Clearly, the pressure had an impact (along with the difficult conditions) on Lorena as she played her final six holes in 6 over par.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
Davies, by far. She hadn't won -- still hasn't -- on tour since 2001 and has spent the last six years trying to accumulate those final two points to gain entry into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame. Lorena knows that she will get that No. 1 ranking and will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Laura, closing in on age 44, knows that chances to win are rare; and she has plenty of doubt as to if she will ever get those final two points.
Hot Topic
Davies remains two points shy of automatic entry into the LPGA Tour and World Golf halls of fame. Do you like a points system to determine Hall of Fame eligibility?
I do like a points system because it takes subjectivity out of the equation. Hubert Green, not popular in many circles, almost certainly would be in the Hall of Fame on the men's side if there was a points system in place. Popularity should have nothing to do with it. (Note: Green was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame Wednesday through the Veteran's category.)
No. If a player is dominant over a period of time, clearly one of the best of her generation, but doesn't reach the necessary point total, she should still be able to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Jim Brown and Barry Sanders both retired well before their talents diminished and potential yard totals were reached, but are still in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No. There is a great deal more to what makes a Hall of Fame athlete than simply points that are accumulated during a career.
Not at all. I think that those around the game -- historians, writers, dignitaries -- should be able to implement judgement and reason in determining who gets into the Hall of Fame. Davies is a good example. She has won 20 LPGA events, 47 more times around the world, four major championships, and single-handedly kept the Ladies European Tour alive by playing there when she could have won more events and made more money in the U.S. If she never hits another shot, she should be in the Hall of Fame.
Hot Topic
This past week's event on the Nationwide Tour was played on a course listed at 7,781 yards. Is length the best way for a course to combat technology?
Not necessarily. Look at Westchester on the PGA TOUR. I think if the landing areas are created smartly and the green complexes are difficult, a golf course doesn't have to be 7,000 yards to give even the TOUR pros fits. Look at Merion. Anything under 7,000, though, should be a par 70, not 72. Some day don't be surprised if you see a par 69 on TOUR.
No. Tighten fairways, place bunkers strategically on the course and have difficult pin placements. Length is only one facet of the game.
No. If length is the best way to combat technology then many of the worlds greatest courses will forever be obsolete. Course set up can have an even greater impact, particularly if a course plays firm and fast, with narrow fairways, and penalizing rough. I think Merion (not long) will be a terrific U.S. Open venue in the future.
One word: rough. Let distance be an advantage for players, but penalize them if they are erratic. If longer players can hit it in the fairway and only need a wedge to reach the pin, so be it -- just make them use a wedge as well to hack out if they hit their tee shot too far left or right. Accuracy should count just as much as distance.
Hot Topic
The PGA TOUR is in New Orleans this week. What's the best U.S. golf destination for both great courses and great fun?
New Orleans is very high on my list. As is Fort Worth. So is San Francisco (when they play at Harding Park). Chicago is tough to beat as well. The common denominator for me is terrific golf and terrific food.
Las Vegas, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, and the Palm Springs area. Great golf. Great nightlife. And not necessarily in that order!
Let me see ... I think I will say HAWAII!!!
A buddy of mine has a house in Pinehurst. There's not a whole bunch of nightlife there, but there is plenty of great golf. And if you go with the right crowd, you can find plenty of ways to entertain yourselves.
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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.