Try Not to Think About It

By Mercer BaggsMarch 16, 2009, 4:00 pm

ON TOP OF THE WORLD ' ALMOST: Phil Mickelson claimed his 36th career PGA Tour title, defeating Nick Watney by one stroke to win the WGC-CA Championship. It was Mickelsons first WGC title and put him within .52 points of Tiger Woods for No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Backspin Mickelson beat back dehydration and a game Watney for the win. Forget about Tiger vs. Sergio or Tiger vs. Vijay or Tiger vs. Ernie or Tiger vs. Kim or Tiger vs. Mothra. The only rivalry we want to see is Tiger vs. Phil. And we want to see it in three weeks at Augusta.

THOUGHTS?: Tiger Woods tied for ninth in his first stroke-play event since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods struck the ball well, but, by his account, missed 18 putts on the lip or edge of the hole.
Backspin Tiger still has one tournament (Bay Hill) and a couple of weeks of practice to work out the kinks before the Masters. And if he straightens it all out, the only thing that will keep him from a fifth green jacket is a masterful Mickelson.

TMI: Henrik Stenson stripped down to his underwear on the third hole Thursday at the WGC-CA Championship to hit a shot out of the muddy water.
Backspin The man doesn't own a rain suit? I'll one day forget that he bogeyed that hole, but I'll never get that image out of my head. It's like I'm in 'A Clockwork Orange' and my eyes are being forced open, and I can't close them no matter how much I fight it. Please make it stop. I'll be good.

YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE: Sergio Garcia had an opportunity to overtake Woods for No. 1 in the world. He needed to win at Doral and have Woods finish 27th or worse. Tiger tied for ninth. Sergio tied for 31st.
Backspin I had the privilege to sit in on an Arnold Palmer interview this past week. Palmer said that when he first met Tiger Woods as a kid, he knew he had it in him ' the focus and drive ' to be a major champion and the best player in the world. Looking at Sergio Garcia ' a 29-year-old Sergio Garcia ' he said he doesn't see any of that.

THINGS LOOKING UP?: Retief Goosen opened in 65 to earn a share of the first-round lead at Doral. He then proceeded to shoot 76-73-76 to tie for 66th.
Backspin People wondered if Mickelson would ever recover from his meltdown at Winged Foot. But, even though he hasnt won a major since then, he does have seven Tour victories, including a Players Championship. Goosen, on the other hand, has only one Tour win since his 2005 U.S. Open Chernobyl, when he led by three entering the final round and shot 81.

MOVING ON: It was announced this past week that Michelle Wie was parting ways with the William Morris Agency. No word on with whom she'll officially sign next, but the odds greatly favor International Management Group (IMG).
Backspin It's Spring time for Wie, time to part ways with all the old and make way for a new Michelle. The big question is: With whom does she replace her dad?

HOPE FOR THE BEST: senior writer Rex Hoggard reported that John Daly is getting his game and body in shape for a possible return to the European Tour in late April.
Backspin Daly's agent said the big guy, who is serving a six month PGA Tour suspension, has lost 'about 40 pounds' and should be '100 percent' recovered (rib injury) by his return. It all sounds positive. Unfortunately, positive sticks to Daly like one of those sticky wall crawlers you get out of a cereal box.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Michael Bradley won the PGA Tour's opposite field Puerto Rico Open. ...Dan Forsman defeated Don Pooley on the first extra hole at the AT&T Champions Classic. ... Tiger Woods' Chevron World Challenge moved up two weeks to the date right after Thanksgiving. ...Travel + Leisure Golf has printed its final issue.
BackspinBradley made an 11-foot birdie putt on the last and then watched as his 21-year-old playing opponent, Jason Day, missed a 7-footer to force a playoff. It was the 42-year-old's third Tour title, and first since, coincidentally, the Doral-Ryder Open in 1998. ... It was Forsmans first senior victory and kept him perfect in playoffs (2-0 in his PGA Tour career). ... Whatever Tiger wants, Tiger gets. ... Another economic casualty.
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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.