Tiger Train Rolls into Firestone

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAfter the first three majors of the year, the following week on tour is somewhat of a letdown, with most of the world's top players forgoing the event to wind down.
 
The PGA Championship, however, is a different beast due to the fact that right on its heels is the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, one of the four WGC events that offers up prize money in excess of all four if the major championships.

Formed back in 1962 as a four-man 36-hole exhibition, the tournament didn't become an official PGA TOUR event until 1976. Having been played every year at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, (except in 2003) the event was then added as one of the four World Golf Championships in 1999.
 
And ever since that year Tiger Woods has seemingly owned the place.
 
Phil Mickelson
How will Phil Mickelson respond after his disappointing finish at the PGA Championship?
His stats in the event are staggering - four wins, including three straight starting in '99, a runner-up in 2004 and a pair of fourth-place showings in 2002 and 2003. And yes, he comes in this year as the defending champion after holding off a feisty Chris DiMarco last year.
 
After winning his third PGA Championship last week, Tiger will attempt to win the PGA-WGC combo for a remarkable third time. He won both events in 1999 and 2000 and is looking forward to the prospect of keeping his momentum moving forward.
 
'That's a challenge. It's a challenge for all of us as players. Sometimes you play great one week and you don't have it the next. Welcome to golf. But I'm going to a place that I've had some success at, and I'm looking forward to going there to Firestone, and it's a World Golf Championship, another big event,' said Tiger after his win in Medinah.
 
The other big story line this week outside of who can stop the Tiger train is the jostling for position in terms of the European Ryder Cup squad.
 
A bit unlike the U.S. points list, European players have two ways of qualifying for the squad. The top 5 players on the World Points List as of Sept. 3rd will automatically qualify, as will the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the Ryder Cup Points List.
 
Here are five players, besides Tiger, to keep an eye out on at Firestone:
 
Phil Mickelson
Could go in two directions this week: get back in the saddle after a disappointing showing at Medinah and challenge for the title; or finish well down the leaderboard with thoughts on getting back home to the family. Was runner-up to Woods in 1999 but recent performances have been lackluster, not a top-20 in his last three starts. The three years prior to the event becoming a part of the WGC format, Mickelson had a win in 1996 followed by two straight runners-up.
 
David Toms
Started off year strong with a win at the Sony and then a runner-up and a third at the Ford Championship at Doral and the Honda Classic, respectively. Was in the mix at the halfway point at Medinah before ho-hum weekend left him in a tie for 16th. Last two starts at Firestone were a T-6 in 2004 and a T-9 last year.
 
Stewart Cink
Could take his game up a notch after receiving confidence boost on being named one of captain Tom Lehman's Ryder Cup picks. And Lehman had good reason to pick four-time PGA TOUR winner: four top-5 finishes in his last 10 starts. Throw in the fact that Cink won the title here in 2004 - holding off Tiger in the process - and Cink may very well find himself challenging the King of Firestone once again.
 
Brett Wetterich
Could be inspired by talk in the media proclaiming him to be the weak link on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Having quite a rollercoaster year as seen by a four tournament stretch earlier this spring: missed the cut at the Wachovia Championship; won first career PGA TOUR title at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship; missed cut at Bank of America Colonial; runner-up finish at The Memorial Tournament.
 
Luke Donald
Perhaps a bit overwhelmed in his final round pairing with Tiger at Medinah, Donald had shown beautiful form to his game through the first three rounds. Tenth on the PGA TOUR's money list, Donald has six top-10s for the season including his win at the Honda Classic in March. Finished sixth here last year.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC - Bridgestone Invitational
  • Getty Images

    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.  

    <
    Getty Images

    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.” 

    Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.