Players to Bank On at Colonial

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods doesnt play the Bank of America Colonial. Hasnt since he tied for fourth in 1997.
 
Hes not too fond of Colonial Country Club. Has indicated that its outdated and doesnt suit the modern player.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hasn't played at Colonial since he shot 72 in the final round in 1997 to finish T4.
Tigers biggest qualm with Colonial is that it takes driver out of his hand. The layout totals 7,054 yards, but is filled with doglegs and double doglegs, and requires precision off the tee, usually in the form of fairway wood or long iron.
 
Of course, Woods hits less than 57 percent of his fairways and ranks outside of the top 150 on tour in driving accuracy, so the conservative approach isnt the worst option.
 
Phil Mickelson is the only member of the 'Big 4' in this week's field. In addition to Tiger's absence, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els are not making the short trip from Irving, Texas, site of last week's EDS Byron Nelson Championship, to Ft. Worth.
 
Singh last played in 2002 ' which may have something to do with that Annika thing. And Ernie Els hasnt played here since 1996.
 
But the Colonial is not without some recognizable names. Eighteen of the top 30 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are on hand. And many come for the Colonial challenge.
 
Sure, you cant hit driver every hole, but who says you have to? questioned Texan Justin Leonard. I certainly dont think this golf course is outdated. Its a nice break from a lot of the golf courses that we play.
 
Now, do I think we should play these kinds of courses every week? No. But I think we should play more golf courses like this where its more of a strategy and you do have to work the ball around and do those kinds of things.
 
Colonials list of past champions includes, among others: Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Billy Casper, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Price, Tom Watson, and, of course, Ben Hogan.
 
Hogan won five times at Colonial, and the venue is nicknamed Hogans Alley. He is renown as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ball-striker of all-time, so it should come as little surprise that he won so many times on a shot-makers course.
 
Its a great old course. Its not lost to the test of time, said 2003 champion Kenny Perry. It doesnt hold a back seat to anything.
 
And theres so much tradition and history here.
 
Perry is just one of several players who have a history of passing the annual exam that is Colonial Country Club.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Kenny Perry
Perry has made 14 cuts in 15 career starts in this tournament. In addition to his 2003 triumph, he tied for second in 2002 and tied for 12th in his title defense a year ago. He prevailed two years ago ' flying under the radar that was focused on Annika Sorenstam ' with a tournament record 19-under-par 261. He shot a course-record-tying 9-under 61 in the second round en route to victory. But, as Perry points out: There was no wind, and they were having to water the greens to keep them alive from the heat and humidity. And the conditions were just perfect for scoring. Normal Texas conditions returned last year and Steve Flesch won with an 11-under 269 total ' ending some of the speculation that Colonial had indeed become outdated for the modern player.
 
Justin Leonard
Justin Leonard
Justin Leonard has never missed a cut in 11 starts at the Colonial.
Since winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January, Leonard has three missed cuts and has yet to record another top-10 finish. Hes never won at Colonial, but he also has never missed a cut. He is 11-for-11 in cuts made in Ft. Worth. He was runner-up to Perry in 2003, when he also shot 61 in the final round. The Dallas native has only three finishes in his career outside of the top 20 in this event.
 
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has competed in 11 of the last 12 Colonials. He won here in 2000 and was runner-up the following year. He tied for 35th last year, which was his worst finish when making the cut (he's made nine of 11 cuts). Mickelson tied for 14th last week. It was his first finish outside the top 10 since The Players Championship. In 11 events this season, Lefty has three wins and seven top-10s.
 
Jim Furyk
You should be hearing Furyks name a lot over the next few months. He loves this time of year, and has the record to prove it ' including at Colonial. He had to skip this tournament a year ago while recovering from wrist surgery, but he tied for fifth in his last appearance in 2003. He was also runner-up in 98. Furyk, who has a pair of runner-up finishes in his last three starts on tour, has four top-10s in nine career Colonial starts.
 
Stewart Cink
Like Leonard, Cink has always finished what he started at Colonial. Cink has made eight cuts in eight starts here. He tied for second in 2000, and has ended in the top 15 each of the last two years. Cink started the season promisingly with back-to-back top-5s, and then made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he has only one top-10 in his last seven starts. Still, he has yet to miss a cut this season.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more players to keep an eye on
 
*Steve Flesch, who is the defending champion. Flesch was the only player to shoot all four rounds in the 60s last year. He earned his second career tour title by defeating Chad Campbell by a stroke, doing so on his 37th birthday. Flesch is 7-for-7 in cuts made here and has two other top-10s to go along with his win; however, Hogan is the only player to successfully defend his title in this event, doing so in 1947 and again in 1953.
 
*Fred Funk, who has also never missed a cut in 14 career starts; though, he has twice withdrawn. If accuracy is the key at Colonial then you might expect Funk to have a good record here ' and he does. He tied for second in 1999 and tied for ninth in 2003. Another top-10 this week and it would be his first since capturing The Players Championship.
 
*Sergio Garcia, who won this event in 2001. Garcia finished first in his Colonial debut, but has since missed two cuts and tied for 35th. After blowing a six-stroke lead in the final round of the Wachovia Championship, he tied for 35th last week in his Byron Nelson title defense.
 
*Tom Byrum, who used to receive instruction from Hogan at Shady Oaks. Byrum doesnt have a top-10 this year and has only one sub-70 round since Pebble Beach; however, he has made the cut in nine of his last 10 starts at Colonial and tied for 14th last year.
 
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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.