What We Learned: Daly, Grace and Love

By Jason SobelOctober 7, 2012, 10:26 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, we examine the ups and downs of John Daly, a lesser-known golfer putting up big numbers, and Davis Love being a stand-up captain.


John Daly is still some of the most compelling theater in golf - and he's easily one of the most compelling stories of the Fall Series. Entering the week at No. 132 on the money list, Daly appeared to be on the verge of getting inside that magical 125 number prior to theweekend. A second-round 63 put him into contention in Las Vegas, but an 86 the next day sent him careening down to the bottom of the leaderboard. Those two rounds should serve symbolically for a career that's seen more ups and downs than an elevator factory. Whether Dalycan enjoy more rounds closer to 63 than 86 these next few weeks remains to be seen. What we can be sure of is that they will indeed be seen, one of the game's most compelling stories enduring throughout his chase to earn full-time playing privileges once again. Jason Sobel


Aside from the infield fly rule applying 50 feet into the outfield, I learned Branden Grace should be considered the favorite for European Tour Player of the Year. Rory McIlroy is going to win the honor, because people will focus on his worldwide accomplishments (see Vijay Singh, 2004). But Grace has four wins in 2012, he's a true European Tour player and he's got four wins in 2012. That's kind of important since only two other players have multiple victories this season. There are still eight more events on this season's calendar, including a WGC event and the Tour Championship, but at the moment, Grace gets my vote.  Mercer Baggs


Much like head coaches in other team sports, Ryder Cup captains receive too muchblame for a loss and too much credit for a victory. Davis Love III is merely the latest example. Earlier this week the U.S. skipper penned a first-person column in Sports Illustrated in which he wrote, “If you need to blame somebody for this loss, blame me.” That’s honorable, but misguided. Love wasn’t the reason the U.S. team lost, despite all of the interrogation during the past week in Vegas. The onus should always fall on the players, even if it usually doesn’t in team sports. In the messy aftermath, though, Love shifted the focus off his players and onto himself. He never hit a shot at Medinah, yet he still shouldered the blame. Now that’s a good captain. – Ryan Lavner


That next year’s move to a split-calendar schedule may be long overdue. Maybe it’s the Ryder Cup hangover, or perhaps it was a dramatic lack of buzz, but this week’s Las Vegas stop had all the flair of a Sunday bingo marathon. Ryan Moore won, his second Tour tilt, but there was little by way of true drama. Not sure next year’s “fall start” to the new season will be any better, but we can’t imagine it would be any more mundane. – Rex Hoggard


The No. 1 player on the planet may be from Northern Ireland, and the United States might have the strongest tour in the world, but who has been on a better roll than the country of South Africa? After three straight years with a major champion (2010 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel and 2012 Open champ Ernie Els) South Africa could be ready to crown a fourth straight in 2013. His name is Branden Grace. The 24-year-old South African claimed his fourth European Tour title Sunday at the Alfred Dunhill Links, displaying the kind of rhythmic swing that so many of his better known countrymen have. He is almost a lock to represent the International team at the 2013 Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village. He might even have a major by then.  Damon Hack


Ernie Els could be influencing the outcomes of major championships for decades to come. Branden Grace, winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday, has the tools to step up in class and contend in major championships next year. Take the word of Els. He believes Grace is well suited to winning a British Open. He said as much this weekend watching Grace run away from him and other contenders in the European Tour event in Scotland. Grace, by the way, is yet another product of the Ernie Els Foundation, a program Els founded in his native South Africa in 1999 to identify and develop promising young talent. Louis Oosthuizen (British Open) and Charl Schwartzel (Masters) came up through the foundation and went on to win majors. With his terrific performance in winning the Dunhill on classic links courses at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, Grace, 24, showed how well his game may fit British Open style golf. It was Grace's European Tour leading fourth title this year.  Randall Mell

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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.