Woods Out Phil Back at Memorial

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
Memorial Tournament officials held their breath as long as they could last Friday. And then they exhaled with a sigh of not relief, but understanding.
Tiger Woods decided to extend his hiatus from competition, meaning there will be nine full weeks between his last tournament, the Masters, and his next possible event, the U.S. Open ' possible being the key word.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is trying to become the latest major champion to win the Memorial Tournament.
This marks the first time since hes been eligible that Woods has skipped the Memorial, which is hosted by Jack Nicklaus. He won the tournament three straight times, from 1999-2001, and has only once finished outside the top 5 in the last seven years at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
But while Woods will be taking off more time to grieve the loss of his father, who died from lung cancer on May 3, the Memorial goes on ' and does so with another impressive field.
Seven of the top 10 players in the world are scheduled to compete, including world No. 2 Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson is making his first start since the Wachovia Championship four weeks ago. He withdrew from the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and then opted not to compete in the Bank of America Colonial, both of which had before won.
This event, however, is one that is missing from Leftys winning resume. One reason is that he hasnt played here since 2002. That year, he earned his best-ever finish at the Memorial, tying for ninth. Its his only top-10 finish in seven career starts.
Mickelson may not be able to improve upon that performance this time around, as his mind might not be solely in Dublin, Ohio. Instead, he might be thinking about an event about 600 miles away.
Mickelson has been prepping his game for more than a month in anticipation of winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY, which would be his third consecutive major victory.
If there is good news this week for the reigning Masters and PGA champion, its that the Memorial has been very kind over the years to major champions.
The last time Mickelson competed at the Memorial, he wasnt a major winner. Now he is, three times over.
A look back on the Memorial winners list shows that 22 of the 30 past champions currently have a major title to their resume.
Will Mickelson make it 23-for-31? Perhaps. But here are five others, whose chances we like even more.
Fred Couples
Jimin Kang of Aeoul Korea in action during the first round of the McDonald
Fred Couples is trying to avoid another runner-up finish and win his second Memorial title.
If not for Ernie Els brilliance and Bart Bryants amazing recovery skills, Couples would be in search of his third consecutive Memorial title. Instead, hes just trying to win any TOUR event for the first time in over three years. Couples has finished runner-up each of the last two years in this tournament. He looked poised to win a year ago, but a remarkable par save by Bryant on the 72nd hole kept him out of the winners circle. Couples isnt without a victory at Muirfield Village, however, as he won here in 1998. In 17 career starts, he has a total of five top-5 finishes.
Vijay Singh
After two weeks off, Singh returns to action. And judging by his most recent results, he needed the break. Singh, who hasnt won this year, and hasnt had a top-10 since the Masters Tournament. For that matter, in three starts since Augusta, he hasnt cracked the top 35 ' and two of those tournaments were title defenses. Its no guarantee that Singh will return to championship form this week, but he does have a fantastic track record at the Memorial. In a seven-year stretch, from 1997-2003, he finished inside the top-5 on five occasions, beginning that run with a win.
Stewart Cink
After winning the 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational, it looked like Cinks career was ready to take off, and he was ready to live up to his promise. That, however, has thus far been the pinnacle of his success, and Cink hasnt since won. He needs to get something going ' and soon. Cink is currently outside the top 20 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. The normally reliable putter has struggled with his broomstick this year, ranking near the 100 mark on TOUR. This is a good opportunity for him to turn things around before the heart of the major season starts. He finished in the top-10 here from 2001-03.
K.J. Choi
As previously stated, major champions have dominated the Memorial winners' list over the years. Two of the last three winners, though, are not major champs, and Choi would like to make it three of four. The South Korean strongman has finished T13-6-T8 over the last three years at Muirfield Village.
Rod Pampling
Pampling has played the Memorial four times and has never finished better than a tie for 49th. So why is he on the list of favorites? Because he has had an incredible amount of success at events this season that have a direct connection to one of golfs legends. He won the Bay Hill Invitational, which is hosted by Arnold Palmer. He tied for eighth at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. And he finished third at the Bank of America Colonial, where the course is nicknamed Hogans Alley. Should we expect anything less than a strong performance at Jacks event?
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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.