Press Pass Gulbis Win a 10 Ladies at Augusta

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 1, 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
On a scale of 1-10, how important was Natalie Gulbis' win to the LPGA Tour?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
Two or three years ago I would have told you a Gulbis win was a 10 in importance to the LPGA. Now I think the victory in France was bigger for Gulbis than it was for her tour. And thats just a reflection of the influx of young talent and the myriad of story lines in womens golf right now. Womens golf has never been healthier.
 
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
It's pretty close to a 10. Amazing that she's not a 10, huh? Seriously, it's big for the LPGA Tour. If it was a major it would be much bigger, but for the tour's 'Cover Girl' to finally validate all of her hard work with a victory is not only a feather in her cap but in the LPGA's as well.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
I'd give it an 8. This gives the LPGA even more reason to promote their tour through one of the most visible, attractive and likable players they have. I think a 10 would be having Michelle Wie win and commit herself to playing the tour full time. Love her or loathe her, no one at the moment drives more traffic the LPGA's way than does Wie.
 
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
I would say 9 (almost a 10) . The excitement level for Natalie winning was bigger than Tom Watson at the Senior British Open and maybe even Furyk winning in Canada.
 
Hot Topic
With the ladies playing St. Andrews this week for the Womens British Open, do you think Augusta National will ever host a womens event?
 
Hewitt:
I believe theres a 50-50 chance that the women might play at Augusta National one day. Well just have to see how progressive Masters chairman Billy Payne really is. I think it would be a terrific thing. And if they ever revive the old PGA TOUR pro partnering with an LPGA pro event, Augusta National would be a cool sight and site. It wouldnt have to be for official money or a full field to get the full attention of the sports world.
 
Sands:
No, I do not think Augusta National will host a women's event in anyone's lifetime who can read this. Augusta, perhaps more than any other club, understands how special it is to have it's doors open to the world once a year. And I believe the membership there will keep it that way.
 
Baggs:
The chances of it happening, on a scale of 1-10: 0; though, if it did, it would register as a 10 on the LPGA's scale. One tournament a year is plenty for Augusta's Old Guard.
 
Rolfing:
No.
 
Due to the PGA TOUR schedule, Tiger Woods is playing the week before a major for the first time in five years. Will playing this week affect his chances of winning the PGA Championship?
 
Hewitt:
I think it will help his game but not his personal life. That is to say, Woods will miss his newborn daughter, Sam Alexis, at some point during the two weeks away from home. Woods knows better than anybody else how to deal with everything that goes along with being Tiger Woods. Meanwhile on the golf side, I think Tiger will be especially hungry to prevent 2007 from being a majorless year. This is his last chance.
 
Sands:
No it will not. Based on his performance at the AT&T National and the Open Championship maybe Tiger needs the confidence of feeling good about his game in competition before going to Southern Hills. And what better place than Firestone to get the chip back on his shoulder? He loves Firestone. It always looks and feels like a major championship venue so it might be just what he needs.
 
Baggs:
I think it can only help. Given his record at Firestone (five wins in eight tries), it's likely he'll play well this week, which should add to his confidence level heading to Southern Hills. And given the fact that he's only played two tournaments since the U.S. Open, he probably needs a good tune-up.
 
Rolfing:
I dont think so. I expect Tiger will slip home to see Elin and Sam for a day. Southern Hills doesnt really fit his eye but he is still the favorite.
 
What is the ONE thing you are most looking forward to this week?
 
Hewitt:
Easy question. The women playing their British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Theyve never competed for a major there before. It will be an historic occasion no matter who wins.
 
Sands:
I'm looking forward to seeing the world's best golfers playing against each other for the second time in three weeks, at a great course. Firestone is awesome. The field is awesome. And the people in Akron and Northeast Ohio always support the event. Should be fun!
 
Baggs:
I want to see if Annika can win at St. Andrews. Tiger and Jack have won the Open there. It would only be fitting to see the best female player of all time do the same. And this may be her one and only chance to do so.
 
Rolfing:
1) How will the women deal with the Old Course at St. Andrews ? 1a) How will Hawaiis Tadd Fujikawa deal with his professional debut ?
 
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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.