Backspin Natalie Finally Wins

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T!: Natalie Gulbis was having her most trying year as a professional coming into the Evian Masters. An ongoing injury had limited the amount of events she had entered, as well as forcing her to withdraw from two of her last three tournaments. But time heals all wounds -- and so does winning. Gulbis earned her first-ever LPGA Tour title by defeating Jeong Jang on the first hole of sudden death.
BackspinThis win happily means the end of comparisons to Anna Kournikova - someone who is all style and no substance. This win will also help get some detractors off her back, and will give the LPGA Tour even more reason to use her as a promotional tool. And it certainly won't hurt her swimsuit calendar sales.
OH, CANADA: Jim Furyk became the first player since Jim Ferrier in 1951 to successfully defend his title in the Canadian Open. Furyk used a birdie-par-birdie-ACE start Sunday to propel himself to his first win of the season and the 13th of his PGA TOUR career.
BackspinFuryk received plenty of applause just for showing up to defend his title. And he received a nice big check ($900,000) and another trophy for doing so. This was a big victory for Furyk, who had four top-3s on the year - and no wins - entering this week's event. He puts himself in position to win so often that it can be very discouraging when he repeatedly doesn't get the job done. This time, however, he took care of business.
OH, MIKE: Mike Weir, Canadas favorite golfing son, tied for 34th in his National Open. Weir, who has never won the Canadian Open -- and never really had much success in it -- admitted to being disappointed in his performance, saying he 'expected more' this past week.
BackspinWeir missed a big opportunity to impress this week. Not just his home fans, but International Presidents Cup captain Gary Player. The Presidents Cup will be contested in Montreal in approximately two months, and Weir still resides outside the top 15, with the top 10 automatically qualifying. Some feel Weir deserves a free pass into this years competition, seeing that it is being held in his home country. Player, however, says hes not ready to punch that ticket.
NERVOUS VICTORY: Tom Watson Sunday added a third Sr. British Open title to his five Open titles on the regular tour. Watson won at Muirfield, site of his 1980 Open Championship victory, defeating Mark OMeara and Stewart Ginn by a single stroke.
BackspinIt shouldnt have been that close. Watson led by three playing the final hole, but made double-bogey after hitting driver into a pot bunker. Watson had two double-bogeys on the inward half, and had three in his back-nine meltdown at the U.S. Senior Open a month ago. At the British Open, Sergio Garcia whined about having to play against more than just the field. Wait until he has to battle the field, plus 57-year-old frayed nerves.
NICK'S BIG DEBUT: Nick Faldo made his Champions Tour debut at the Senior Open Championship. After a solid start on Thursday, Faldo faded, finishing in a tie for 14th. In a post-round interview with ABC Sports, he made it clear that this was not the beginning of a new competitive career.
BackspinMuirfield, the site of two of Faldo's three Open Championship wins, looked to be the perfect fit for his senior debut. His opening round 3-under 68 no doubt revived his competitive juices as he found himself tied for the lead. However, difficult, windy conditions stymied his game and showed the obvious rust that comes along with talking about golf and not playing it.
WIE A BIT WOBBLY - AGAIN: Michelle Wie opened in 73-71 and was just seven shots off the lead as the ladies went into weekend play at the Evian Masters. The good play was short-lived, though, as Wie went 16 over par on the final two days to finish third-to-last among those making the cut.
BackspinWie came to France hoping to possibly turn the corner on what has been an awful year thus far. Her second-round 71 marked the first time she had broken par since the final round of this event a year ago. She then followed that with yet another round in the 80s, replete with five bogeys and FOUR double bogeys. Undaunted, she will be back at it this week at the Ricoh Women's British Open.
BIG WIN, SMALLER STAGE: Andres Romero cruised to a three-shot victory at the Deutsche Bank Players' Championship of Europe. His win was set-up by a flawless third-round 63 that included five birdies and two eagles.
BackspinYou might remember Romero, the little-known Argentine who almost crashed the party at Carnoustie two weeks ago. Instead of letting his meltdown on the 17th hole that ultimately cost him the Open Championship get him down, the 25-year-old Romero bounced back in splendid fashion with his maiden European Tour title. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. And richer. He collected $810,000 for his triumph and a five-year tour exemption.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Hunter Mahan recorded three eagles in his first round at the Canadian Open, two of which were hole-outs from the fairway; Jeff Sluman was tabbed once again as vice-captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team; Chris Thompson fired an opening-round 60 in the Nationwide Tour; Cory Whitsett won five consecutive holes en route to an 8-and-7 victory over Anthony Paolucci to win the U.S. Junior Amateur; On the girls' side, Kristen Park beat Ayaka Kaneko, 4 and 3, to become the fourth-youngest winner in the history of the U.S. Jr. Girls Amateur.
BackspinMahan became the first player to record three eagles in a round on the PGA TOUR in 2007 and the 21st player to accomplish the feat since 1980; This will be the third straight time Sluman will assist the Golden Bear at the biennial Presidents Cup; Unfortunately for Thompson, after flirting with a 59 Thursday, he shot a not-nearly-as-impressive, even-par 71 Friday and lost a lead he would never regain; Park was competing for the first time ever in a match-play format.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Canadian Open
  • Full Coverage - Evian Masters
  • Full Coverage - Senior Open Championship
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    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.” 

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    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.”

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    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.