Better Than Most

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
 

THE PLAYER: Sergio Garcia knocked down a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole that enabled him to get into a playoff with Paul Goydos at THE PLAYERS Championship. He then won the event on the first extra hole, after Goydos knocked his tee shot into the drink on the par-3 17th, for the biggest win of his now-not-so-young career.
 
Backspin A deep breath and where do we start? For Sergio, who had started to become curiously irrelevant in the last half year - despite a runner-up finish in both the 2007 PLAYERS and the 2007 British Open - he completely blew the doors off his critics in this huge victory. With an almost non-stop barrage of putting questions in his interviews, Garcia was able to drain enough important ones on Sunday to come away with an incredibly hard-fought win. Granted this wasn't an actual major, but remember: Phil didn't win his first major until the age of 32 and his first PLAYERS until last year. Sergio is just 28. Kudos to Sergio for making golf A LOT more interesting.
 

GOY- D'OH!: Paul Goydos came into THE PLAYERS Championship as the 164th player in the world and a virtual unknown amongst most of the general golfing public. Yet he leaves as a fan favorite and a media darling, due mainly to his many forthright comments to the press over the course of the week ' and his impressive play.
 
Backspin Here's a small sampling of Goydos-speak: In a sense, I got to feel what it was like to be Tiger Woods. Thats from a crowd standpoint, not a talent standpoint. - You cant kneecap him (Garcia). You just have to accept the guy beat you and move on. - I may have made some mistakes, but the day I dont make mistakes is the day Im dead - 'I had already hit it in the water on Thursday, so I already had a good yardage feel for the drop area.' - ''The key is to have the lead with no holes to go.'' Good stuff from a new fan favorite.
 

THE SUPERMODEL: It has been billed as golf's 'fifth major,' and for good reason. But even with so much adulation as one of the best overall events in the world, the unquestioned supermodel of this event is Pete Dye's short par-3 17th - the famous/infamous island green.
 
Backspin Wow, what a week for this beauty! Ian Poulter was the first to play this gem on Thursday - and made birdie! The first player to dump one in the water? Goydos. The last to dump one in the water? Again, agonizingly, Goydos. And then to top it all off? She was the first hole in the playoff. And for all of you scoring at home, the final tally: 64 balls in the water. The beautiful ones always break your heart. Ask Mr. Goydos.
 

NO-BRAINER: Jack Nicklaus received the PGA TOURs lifetime achievement award Wednesday, honored for his extended contributions on and off the golf course and for serving as an ambassador of the game.
 
Backspin This was about as tough a decision for the PGA TOUR to make as the one Tiger faces when deciding what color shirt to wear on Sundays. An easy tap-in for Finchem to honor Nicklaus, whose records and accomplishments we quite frankly dont have the space, or manpower, to list in this space. But to just name a few: 73 TOUR wins, a record 18 professional majors, and a mind-boggling 19 runner-ups in majors.
 

TAPPING ON A SHOULDER: Annika Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open in a runaway with a tournament-record 19 under, as former world No. 1 beat four others by a record-tying seven strokes. The victory is the second straight for the former No. 1 ranked player in the world and her third overall in 2008 ' but her first with Ochoa in the field.
 
Backspin Not only did Annika win this tournament going away, but she ran over Lorena Ochoa in the process, beating her by twelve shots. Sorenstam's thrashing of the competition harkened back to the days when she was the world's best, something not lost on the Swede saying afterwards, Thats the way I used to play.' Lorena, the ball is now in your court.
 

CLASS DISMISSED: The PGA TOUR held its annual players meeting at Ponte Vedra Beach and stressed the importance of keeping a professional appearance even when not competing in an event. Slow play was also a hot topic ' once again.
 
Backspin Just a hunch, but Finchem probably had a shirtless, shoeless John Daly in mind when he urged players to represent the TOUR professionally outside of tournaments. As for the action on the course, players complain and moan all the time about slow play and the TOUR does little or nothing about it. Expect them to slow play the slow play issue once again.
 

YES, I CAN ACTUALLY PLAY: Unable to qualify for THE PLAYERS Championship for the second straight year, John Daly continued his European Tour at the Italian Open. Daly, who missed the cut last week at the Spanish Open, had a solid week of play, finishing in a tie for 23rd.
 
Backspin Daly not only made the cut, but he did make Commissioner Finchem proud. He wore a shirt and shoes at all times (on the course), managed to complete at least two full rounds, and there were no reports of unsightly behavior on Dalys part. Maybe the European Tour is the perfect place for Daly to get back on track. One question though? Are there 'Hooters' restaurants in Europe? Let's hope not. And by the way, Hennie Otto won the tournament (in case you were interested).
 

WIE BIT RUSTY: Michelle Wie made her first start since February at this past weeks Michelob Ultra Open, missing the cut by four strokes. The Stanford freshman opened with a 4-over 75 in the first round and never recovered, failing to make it to the weekend.
 
Backspin Chalk up another MC for Wie, who was in a tough situation this week in Virginia. Even Tiger Woods would be rusty after not playing competitive golf for over two months, and Wie is far from Tiger Woods. But with school letting out for the summer, expect to see Wie more in the coming months, and expect to see some much better finishes as well.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Famed golf architect Pete Dye was selected for the Hall of Fame; Caddie Greg Rita, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago, stopped by TPC Sawgrass to visit some familiar faces; Colt Knost shot 5-under 65 Sunday to win the Nationwide Tours Fort Smith Classic.
 
Backspin Dye, who was selected on a Lifetime Achievement category, has designed more than 120 courses, including TPC Sawgrass and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island; Rita was a welcomed site to players and caddies who hadnt seen him since he underwent Chemotherapy and radiation; Knost can now answer questions about his first professional victory instead of why he turned pro instead of competing in this years Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as an amateur.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Full Coverage - Michelob Ultra Open
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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.