What We Learned: Phoenix Open

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 5, 2012, 11:05 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent big events. This week, the team reflects on Kyle Stanley's reversal of fortune in Phoenix and John Daly's showing at the Qatar Masters.


Kyle Stanley heals quickly.

After Stanley collapsed at the end of the Farmers Insurance Open last week, nobody could be sure how Stanley would respond just a week later. We weren't sure if he would be playing the Phoenix Open with an open wound or tender scars. Either way, we learned the guy can play with pain. Or he's got a cornerback's short memory . . .  or enabling amnesia.

The tears Stanley shed last week made you wonder about his toughness. We learned in his tears of happiness in Phoenix that tough guys can cry. He showed terrific toughness bouncing back so quickly. – Randall Mell


I learned that Kyle Stanley's lips quiver in either defeat or victory. Granted, in both instances, the circumstances – a devastating 72nd-hole triple bogey to lose at Torrey and then the semi-miraculous comeback win at Phoenix – were off the charts on an emotional level. – Golf Guy


I learned that other PGA Tour events should use the Waste Management Phoenix Open as a blueprint for garnering more fan support.

For years, I’ve agreed with the majority of players who believe that the fun-first atmosphere is fun for one week out of the year, but shouldn’t be the norm at other tournaments.

Forget that.

Quite simply, having more than a half-million fans envelop a tournament should be the rule, not the exception. Even if many of the spectators were more interested in finding the bottom of their own cup rather than seeing which players could find the bottom of those on the course, having an entire community support its local PGA Tour stop should hardly be construed as a negative. In fact, it should be the model. Not necessarily the party atmosphere, but the sheer volume of people involved in the tournament.

It grows the game, it grows the Tour. Before now, I thought it was a nice diversion each year. I learned this week that it should the blueprint instead of the exception. – Jason Sobel


I learned that there is no way to know the resiliency of a player. Last week Kyle Stanley blew a seven-stroke lead at Torrey Pines and lost a playoff for his first PGA Tour title.

On Sunday in Scottsdale the man many predicted would need months to recover from his San Diego collapse began the day eight strokes behind Spencer Levin, one-putted two of his final five holes and signed for a 65 and a one-stroke victory. Some players need time, others just need another start. – Rex Hoggard


This may be the year Webb Simpson wins a major.

Simpson finished T-8 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to notch his second top 10 in the three events he's played this season.

He had the fewest putts at the U.S. Open last year and only two players had fewer putts than him at the 2011 Open Championship. Consider that alongside his two victories in '11 and finishing second on the PGA Tour money list and we've got a star in the making.

Already off to a hot start in 2012, it’s only a matter of time before he secures a ‘W’ this season and I’d put money on that victory coming at a major championship. – Bailey Mosier


I learned that John Daly will continue to get sponsor exemptions as long as he wants them. Really, truly thought after the debacle Down Under in November – where an exemption was rescinded the following week after he exploded on a hole and walked off the course – that other tournament officials would see that Long John doesn't value the opportunities he's been given and only cares about himself. Sadly, I was wrong. As long as he sells tickets, he'll have a place to play. – Jay Coffin


I learned I've been using the wrong club to hit out from under bushes. After watching Spencer Levin, I realized I have to get me one of those long putters. Not to putt with, just to knock my ball out from under bushes.

I also learned I don't understand swing analysis. I watched and listened to Peter Kostis describe just what went wrong in swings that produced wayward shots. Those swings all looked uniformly perfect to me. I know a bad swing when I see one. I've videotaped my own. – Al Tays


On Super Bowl Sunday, I realized the mantra of 'any given Sunday' is more applicable to golf than our modern national pastime.A week after stunning everyone with a 72nd-hole collapse at Torrey Pines, Kyle Stanley walked through an open door cracked by San Diego first round co-leader Spencer Levin. 

Meanwhile, Paul Lawrie outshined a sandblasted, deep field in Qatar to politely remind the golf world that he can still win. Thirteen years ago, Lawrie won the same event before winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie – curiously, seizing on one of the all-time great collapses in major championship history.

History sure has a funny way of repeating itself. – Ryan Ballengee

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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.