Super Combo in Scottsdale

By Ian HutchinsonJanuary 29, 2008, 5:00 pm
Unlike many mere mortals who will be glued to the tube this Sunday, Deuce Lutui would prefer to be working that day, but it will be the New York Giants and undefeated New England Patriots instead of his Arizona Cardinals on home turf at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, just outside of Phoenix.
The mammoth O-lineman does have the consolation of enjoying Super Bowl festivities in the host city, an area in which he grew up after arriving from the South Pacific nation of Tonga as an infant and settling in nearby Mesa.
The Valley of the Sun will grab the lions share of the sporting headlines this week, not only because of the big game. The final round of the FBR Open will be played the same day at nearby TPC Scottsdale and thats a tournament too brash to be overshadowed by the big kahuna of North American sporting events.
Lutui knows from experience the impact of both football and golf in the Valley, particularly at the collegiate level with the presence of the Arizona State Sun Devils. He may play for the home team now, but Lutui recalls coming home as a member of the opposing USC Trojans.
It was hot and it was crazy, recalled Lutui. The students section didnt care about the weather. There were a lot of loyal ASU fans. When USC came down to play ASU in their stadium, talk about a hostile situation, but it was a homecoming for me.
Being a home boy means Lutui also understands the passion for golf, even though he doesnt play himself. I might sink through the greens, joked the 6-foot-4, 328-pounder.
Growing up in Arizona with the many, many golf courses we have, its crazy. We have more golf courses than McDonalds here in the Valley, said Lutui, who saw the epitome of crazy when he visited the rowdy par-3, 16th hole at the FBR Open last year.
Tom Lehman once compared playing the 16th to taking a golf shot at the Rose Bowl and Lutui, who played in two Rose Bowls with USC, says that comparison isnt far off.
'It's pretty intense right there at the 16th hole and comparing it to the Rose Bowl, it's almost the same thing,' said Lutui. I didnt know there were that many people in Arizona.
Needless to say, the FBR Open has a unique character, unlike any other on the PGA TOUR, and the zany atmosphere continues at watering holes such as The Greenskeepers Tent at the golf course and the off-course Birds Nest, two places where football fans will definitely feel at home.
With passion running high for both events, the FBR Open and Super Bowl are expected to complement one another instead of being rival events just 30 miles apart.
For one thing, the FBR Open holds the unofficial TOUR attendance record after 536,787 were on hand in 2006 and a new standard could be set this year with so many sports fans from out of town.
The third round is traditionally the most well-attended day, often with more than 150,000 people, and that number could swell to as high as 200,000 the day before the Super Bowl.
Super Sunday could actually see more people than usual at TPC Scottsdale considering that University of Phoenix Stadium will hold 73,000 for the big game and many of those tickets are held by corporations. Many will arrive for the festivities without Super Bowl tickets, which could benefit the golf tournament.
'It will be fantastic,' said TOUR veteran Billy Mayfair, a former Sun Devil still residing in the Valley.
'Because of where the game is played and where this golf course is, so far apart, you're still going to have people who are going to go home and watch the game on Sunday and everyone is going to be out (at the FBR Open) on Saturday.'
The FBR Open is always a highlight of the Phoenix/Scottsdale sporting calendar, and its little wonder with the millions raised each year for area charitable organizations through the Thunderbirds, the civic group that runs the tournament.
Add to that the $200-million in economic impact from the tournament and as much as $500-million from the Super Bowl and its a win-win situation for the community, which will also benefit from spinoff effects such as increased media coverage of an area that counts so heavily on tourism.
Instead of being overshadowed, the FBR Open is expected to make the Super Bowl festivities unique according to a guy better known for baseball, but certainly familiar with the golf tournament and the Valley, where he has a home.
'This place is a rock and roll place. It's a very popular vacation spot and the population out here is exploding, said legendary Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker.
'I don't care what they play on the final day of the FBR Open -- that's got its own identity. Unless you've played in it, been there or watched it, it's shocking to see the amount of people there.'
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    Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
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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.