Theyre Back But Are They Ready

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
Cialis Western OpenTiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, trying to put behind them a pair of bitter endings to the U.S. Open, return to action this weeks at the Cialis Western Open.
 
For Woods, his week at Winged Foot concluded on Friday, when he missed the cut by three strokes. For Mickelson, it didnt end until the final hole, where he made double bogey to lose by a single shot.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hopes to have a more enjoyable -- and longer -- week than he did at the U.S. Open.
Of the two, Woods may be in a better frame of mind, as his defeat was more frustrating than agonizing. Mickelsons game, though, may be in better shape, as he played quite well leading up to U.S. Open Sunday.
 
Woods is competing in just his second event since the death of his father on May 3. After taking off nine weeks, he came back to play the U.S. Open, shooting back-to-back 6-over 76s to miss his first cut in a major championship as a professional.
 
The worlds No. 1-ranked player struggled mightily in all aspects of his game on Winged Foots West Course, hitting 25 percent of his fairways, 50 percent of his greens in regulation, and taking an average of 31.5 putts per round.
 
Mickelson, on the other hand, hit 58 percent of his greens in regulation and averaged 28.5 putts for the week. He found the fairway 55 percent of the time through three rounds ' then came Sunday, in which he hit just two of 14 fairways. Had hit just hit one more, he probably would have claimed his third consecutive major championship.
 
Leading by one on the final hole, an errant tee shot culminated in a double bogey and a runner-up finish to Geoff Ogilvy.
 
This will likely be the only start for both men before they compete in the Open Championship in two weeks at Royal Liverpool. Mickelson has already made one trip to Hoylake, England, continuing his major preparatory routine. Woods will head that way some time after leaving Lemont, Ill.
 
Tiger would obviously love to fine tune his game, getting it in proper shape for his title defense at Royal Liverpool. But given his history at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, its quite possible that Woods will walk away with more than just a little confidence.
 
Woods is a three-time winner of this event, claiming top honors in 1997, 99 and 2003. In 10 career starts, he has six top-10 finishes, including three in a row. The only time hes ever missed the cut at the Western was as an amateur in 1994.
 
Mickelson, meanwhile, is playing this tournament for the first time since 2003. In nine career starts, he has never cracked the top-25.
 
Both men will be in focus this week. But if their Winged Foot headaches linger, they each could end up watching one of these five favorites hoisting the Western Open trophy come Sunday evening.
 
Jim Fuyrk
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk's Western Open victory last year was his first on TOUR since 2003.
Furyk is the defending champion, having held off a hard-charging Woods in the final round a year ago. While Furyk may not have as many Western title as does Woods, his record otherwise is quite comparable. Furyk, like Woods, has six top-10s here in 10 starts. And not only has he recorded four straight top-10s here, he has finished inside the top 5 in three of his last four Western starts. He has five top-3 finishes on TOUR this season, including a playoff victory in the Wachovia Championship.
 
Stuart Appleby
This year has been one of firsts for Appleby ' and thirds. The Aussie captured his third straight Mercedes Championships title in the first event of the season. He then won the Shell Houston Open in April to garner the first multiple-win season of his career. Appleby has a great record in this event, with four top-10s in 10 starts. He tied for fifth in both 2002 and 2004.
 
Robert Allenby
While many of his fellow Aussies have experienced great success this year ' Appleby winning twice; Ogilvy winning twice, including the U.S. Open; Aaron Baddeley winning for the first time; Rod Pampling winning at Bay Hill ' Allenby hasnt had much success. He has only two top-10s in 12 starts. But watch out should he make the cut this week. Allenby is one of those all-or-nothing players. His record in this event is a prime example of that. He has played the Western seven times and has a couple of missed cuts. Aside from those two blemishes, however, he has never finished worse than tied for 16th. He has three top-10s here and won this tournament in a playoff in 2000.
 
Mike Weir
Weir isnt having as bad a season as you might think. Hes just not having as great of a season as weve come to expect. Weir has five top-10s in 15 starts and has made nearly $1.5 million (already more money than he earned all of last year). But he doesnt have a win on TOUR since the 2004 Nissan Open. Weir has an Allenby personality in this event, in that he has three missed cuts and has three top-3s in eight career Western starts. He has missed the cut each of the last two years, but before that he tied for third in 2003 and 2001, and finished runner-up in 1999.
 
Fredrik Jacobson
The Swede could be a dark horse this week. He has only played this tournament twice, but finished inside the top 10 on both occasions. He tied for 10th last year and tied for eighth in 03. He has a pair of top-5s this season at the Ford Championship and a few weeks ago at the Barclays Classic.
 
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”