Mickelson Firing on All Cylinders

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 4, 2002, 5:00 pm
Phil Mickelson wanted one last start to fine-tune his game before he attempts to break his major jinx at Augusta National. And he seems to have everything in working order.
Mickelson shot 7-under-par 65 to finish one shot behind Steve Elkington after 18 holes of the BellSouth Classic near Atlanta.
'It's a tournament we're all trying to gear up for,' Mickelson said about the Masters. 'I'm just working hard on my game here. I think that's the best way to prepare for next week.'
Thomas Bjorn, Frank Nobilo, Dudley Hart, Ian Leggatt, Jesper Parnevik and John Rollins are all two back after shooting 66s.
Elkington, winless on the tour since the 1999 Genuity Championship, didnt post a par until his eighth hole at the TPC at Sugarloaf Thursday. He birdied the first two holes, but gave both shots back with a double-bogey-6 at the third. He then reeled off four straight birdies, and added another at the ninth.
The 1995 PGA champion tallied 10 birdies on the day to more than offset his lone hiccup.
Mickelson has won twice as many times on tour (20 to 10) as Elkington. However, the Aussie has one thing Lefty doesnt ' a major championship.
He's come under fire recently for his aggressive nature. But his play produced seven birdies and nary a bogey Thursday.
Bjorn is trying to do what hasnt been done on the PGA Tour since 1998. Over the past four seasons, Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Parnevik have entered the Stateside winners circle, though they were PGA Tour members at the times of their victories. Others, such as Retief Goosen and Paul Lawrie, won major championships.
But not since Lee Westwood in 1998 has a full-time European Tour player won a regular PGA Tour event. The Englishman captured the Compaq Classic that season. Coincidentally, he did so the week prior to the Masters Tournament.
Thursday, Bjorn made six birdies and no bogeys in tying his career best round in the U.S. The Danes best tour finish came in a tie for second in Tiger Woods runaway victory in the 2000 British Open. He is best known, however, as the conqueror of the world's No. 1 player in last years Dubai Desert Classic.
While Bjorn is seeking his first PGA Tour victory, Nobilo and Hart are trying to regain entry into the winners circle.
Nobilo was on the fast track to stardom before his train derailed following his 1997 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic triumph.
The Kiwi slipped to 108th on the money list in 1998, and fell outside the top 150 in both 99 and 2000. Last year, he managed to avoid Q-School by once again ending the season No. 108 in earnings.
Harts descent hasnt been as drastic, though the same cant be said about his personal life.
The 33-year-old and his wife, Suzanne, had triplets in December. Since the additions, Hart has yet to record a top-25 finish. His last victory on tour came in the 2000 Honda Classic. He has, however, finished inside the top 60 on the money list each of the past six seasons.
This is the final tune-up before the seasons first major. Several top-ranked players are in the field. Defending champion Scott McCarron opened in 5-under 67. Goosen shot 68. Last weeks winner, Vijay Singh, bogeyed his final two hole to shoot 69. Colin Montgomerie, playing in his third consecutive tour event, also carded a 69.
Davis Love III has the roller-coaster round of the day. He went out in 42 and came home in 30 for an even-par 72.
Full-field scores from the BellSouth Classic
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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.