Triumph and Tragedy

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 28, 2008, 5:00 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.
 
TRIUMPH...: Tiger Woods picked up where he left off last season, winning his first event of 2008 in runaway fashion. Woods grabbed sole possession of the lead in the second round and never looked back, ultimately finishing eight strokes in front of runner-up Ryuji Imada for his fourth straight win at the Buick Invitational.
 
Backspin Tiger's seeming ease with which he won this event - for the fourth straight time no less - gets the ball rolling for his 2008 season, a season in which the normally subdued Woods stated the Grand Slam is a real possibility. And, oh by the way, he tied Arnold Palmer for fourth (62) on the all-time PGA TOUR wins list. Next up? The Hawk, Ben Hogan, coming in with a career total of 64.
 

AND TRAGEDY: On the eve of the Buick Invitational, a pall was cast over the tournament when it was reported that Steve Duplantis, a long-time PGA TOUR caddie, had been killed in an accident when he was struck by a taxi while crossing a street in Del Mar, Calif. Duplantis was 35.
 
Backspin One of the more popular caddies on TOUR, Duplantis was regarded as having a confident way in dealing with whomever's bag he was carrying. A 'free spirit' off the course, Duplantis and his nightlife were detailed in a book titled, 'Bud, Sweat and Tees,' a novel that focused on Rich Beem and his time with Duplantis.
 

HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?: Perhaps lost in the shadow of Tiger's romp at Torrey Pines, world No. 2 Phil Mickelson also made his '08 season debut as well. Lefty tied for sixth at 6 under, 13 shots back of his rival.
 
Backspin Mickelson was almost scratched from the event due to respiratory problems early in the week, but still managed to gut it out through four rounds. It was vintage Phil, thrilling the crowds at one point with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch on Saturday before finishing his last 27 holes with as many bogeys as birdies.
 

GREAT SCOTT!: Adam Scott, ranked eighth in the world before heading to the Qatar Masters, posted a career-best 11-under 61 to blow past the field and win his sixth European Tour title. For the weekend, Scott's scorecard looked flawless - 18 birdies, 18 pars and no bogeys.
 
Backspin In a week that had Australia on center stage due to the playing of the Australian Open, Scott reminded everyone back in his native land that there was more going on than just tennis. The Aussie made quite a statement with his win, serving notice to his critics that he might be a force to reckon with this upcoming major season.
 
ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE: The Champions Tour bid farewell to Hawaii as Jerry Pate was able to overcome harsh, windy conditions to win the Turtle Bay Championship on Oahu. Pate was one of only three players to finish the final day under par for a two-shot win over Fulton Allem and Jim Thorpe.
 
Backspin The story coming into this event was Fred Funk. Not only was he the defending champ, but he was also coming off a win the prior week at the MasterCard Championship on the Big Island. Despite the confidence from his 10th place showing at the Sony Open - on the PGA TOUR, mind you - and his win the week before, Funk was no match for the Hawaiian trade winds. A final round 9 over par left him in a disappointing tie for 32nd.
 

TIGER SPEAKS: Tiger finally spoke with reporters on the Kelly Tilghman issue and once again he tried to put a cap on the controversy, saying, Kelly and I did speak. There was no ill intent. She regrets saying it. In my eyes, it's all said and done.
 
Backspin As much as Tiger ' and so many others ' want this issue to go away, it will linger for quite some time. And unfortunately for Kelly, it will always be a part of her past. But hopefully, while this will not be completely forgotten, we can at least move on and push it out of our peripheral. After all, as Tiger showed this past week there are plenty more exciting things to talk about when discussing the games greatest player.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Tournament organizers were offering a 26-foot luxury yacht to any player who managed to make a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th during last week's Qatar Masters; A statue was unveiled at the Tiger Woods Learning Center, depicting Tiger and father Earl arm and arm; John Daly was denied a sponsors exemption into this weeks FBR Open.
 
Backspin Alas, no player was able to come up with an ace on the par-3 prize hole and therefore everyone was forced to drive away from the event instead of sailing away; What a week for the world's No. 1, honoring his late father and then going out and doing what his father taught him best - dismantling the field; The final sponsors exemption in Scottsdale was handed to young Aussie superstar Jason Day. Odds are tournament organizers wont have to worry about him withdrawing.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Buick Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Turtle Bay Championship
  • Full Coverage - Qatar Masters
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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.

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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.