Things Looking Up for Singh

By Golf Channel NewsroomOctober 24, 2003, 4:00 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Vijay Singh is on a roll that might take him all the way to his first PGA Tour money title.
 
Singh made three straight birdies to start the back nine and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole Saturday for a 3-under 69 that left him in a four-way tie for the lead in the Funai Classic at Disney.
 
Scott Verplank (66), Stewart Cink (66) and John Rollins (67) also were at 18-under 196.
 
Singh not only is shooting for his fourth victory of the year, but with Tiger Woods stumbling on the back nine for a 71, the big Fijian has an excellent chance to surpass Woods on the money list and maybe even clinch by the time they get to the Tour Championship.
 
'I can't ask for any better position,' Singh said. 'I'm leading going into the last day, but it's going to be a battle tomorrow. I've got to keep my head down and keep playing.'
 
Indeed, there is plenty of work left on a Magnolia course across from the Magic Kingdom that featured gusts up to 20 mph and tougher hole locations.
 
And just about everyone at the top of the leaderboard has something riding on the final round Sunday.
 
Verplank, winless since the 2001 Canadian Open, is 27th on the money list and was hopeful of earning enough money at Disney to clinch a spot in the Tour Championship and skip next week's tournament in Tampa.
 
The former NCAA champion from Oklahoma State desperately wants to be in Norman, Okla., next Saturday to watch his Cowboys play the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
 
Now, he's most interested in winning.
 
'My No. 1 focus is to win the tournament,' Verplank said. 'The other stuff will take care of itself.'
 
Cink's tee shot on the edge of the water on No. 17 led to a bogey, but his 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole gave him a share of the lead. Cink is 41st on the money list and is trying to get into the Tour Championship.
 
Rollins is 43rd on the list. He was the only player among the leaders to avoid a bogey.
 
David Peoples had a 69 and was at 16-under 200.
 
Davis Love III, also in the running to win the money title, was poised to join the leaders until he drove into the left rough on the 18th hole. Worse yet, he chunked a chip short of the green - it traveled a mere 16 feet - and took double bogey for a 69 to finish at 201.
 
Love had not made worse than par all week until that hole.
 
Woods had three bogeys on the final five holes for a 71, ending a streak of 14 consecutive rounds in the 60s at Disney and dropping him out of contention.
 
'I'm not going to watch today's tape because it's just terrible,' Woods said.
 
He was poised to be among the leaders going into the final round after back-to-back birdies early in his round, including an approach to 18 inches at No. 5, put him at 13 under and only one stroke behind.
 
It all fell apart on the back nine.
 
Unable to reach the green on par-5 14th with the wind in his face, Woods hit a wedge into 35 feet and three-putted for bogey. Two holes later, he was 60 feet from the cup and took another three-putt bogey.
 
Then, a flyer out of the rough on the 17th sailed over the green for his fourth bogey of the day. He wound up at 204, six shots out of the lead.
 
'My iron game has been carrying me all year. Now, I'm driving it good and then my iron game leaves me,' Woods said. 'Welcome to golf, you know?'
 
Woods' largest comeback on the PGA Tour is five shots at Pebble Beach in 2000, and with so many talented guys playing well ahead of him on the leaderboard, his best hope Sunday is to make enough money to keep Singh in his sights on the money list.
 
Singh, who trails Woods by $171,239 on the money list, is playing the $4.8 million Chrysler Championship next week in Tampa, while Woods won't play until the season-ending $6 million Tour Championship.
 
Woods is going for a record fifth straight money title, and no one has come close to beating him since the streak began in 1999.
 
Now, Singh appears to have a clear advantage.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort
  • Full Coverage - Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.