Johnson ends extended week with Hyundai victory

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 8, 2013, 10:34 pm

Year of the Collapse?

Dustin Johnson made sure that trend was so 2012.

Struggling with his driver down the stretch, Johnson pulled himself together by chipping in for eagle on the 14th hole, carrying him to a four-shot victory over Steve Stricker at the weather-plagued, season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“It gives me a lot of confidence going into this year,” Johnson said afterward. “I’m very pleased to come out and get a win this week. I played really good golf the past two days.” 

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With the victory – the seventh of his career, the most by any player under 30 – the 28-year-old Johnson became the first player since Tiger Woods to win in each of his first six seasons out of college. He also moved to 3-0 in 54-hole events.

In the most benign conditions of the week – which is to say bountiful sunshine and wind gusts to 30 mph – Johnson closed with a 5-under 68 Tuesday on the Plantation Course to finish the shortened event at 16-under 203, four clear of Stricker (69). Brandt Snedeker (69) was third, another two shots behind.

''It was nowhere near ho-hum,'' Johnson said. ''I had to really fight hard.''

Despite a huge advantage off the tee – on the 11th, for instance, his drive sailed 120 yards farther than Stricker’s – Johnson uncorked two wild tee shots that nearly cost him the title. His lost tee ball on the ninth led to a bogey on the reachable par 5, and an overcooked drive on the short 13th resulted in a double bogey that trimmed his lead to one. 

''We found a shoe, some sunglasses, about five or six other balls,'' said Stricker. ''There might have been a guy living up in the tree.''

On the very next hole, however, Johnson responded by nearly driving the green on the 305-yard par 4, then pitched in for eagle to return his lead to three shots. He tacked on birdies at 15 and 18, as well.

“He gave me a couple openings there, but he came back strong,' Stricker said.

''It looks like very little fear in him. Because he'll hit one a little crooked, but he'll pull out that driver again and try it again. And he pulled it off, especially at 14. That was the deciding shot and chip for the tournament. Expect a lot of good things as he continues his career.''

Trailing Johnson by five shots with 11 holes to play, Stricker made a run at back-to-back titles at Kapalua, pulling within a shot at one point, but his back-nine 36 wasn’t enough to catch Johnson. Still, it was an encouraging performance for a semi-retired golfer who is dealing with a pinched nerve in his left leg.

Johnson certainly wouldn’t mind a pain-free season. One of the Tour’s longest hitters underwent knee surgery in late 2011, and then missed three months the following season after injuring his back. Upon returning to the Tour last June, Johnson showed glimpses of his immense talent, winning the St. Jude Classic, finishing inside the top 10 in each of the four FedEx Cup playoff events and earning a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. 

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.