After big changes, Scott ready to start season at Doral

By Jason SobelMarch 4, 2015, 10:27 pm

DORAL, Fla. – One by one, the world's best golfers have emerged from the dark shadows of hibernation, creating a staggered if not staggering start to the calendar year. The last of those to awaken from that slumber is Adam Scott, making his season debut at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship with more variables than an 11th grade math problem.

In chronological order, he will begin his year with the following changes: A new caddie, a new daughter and a new putter.

“Yeah, everything was getting a little boring,” he offered with a sarcastic smile, “so I thought I’d just change everything completely.”

To be certain, some of these changes deserve a greater congratulatory response than others and some will affect his performance more than others.

Let’s start with the most recent development.

One of the last holdouts from the anchored putting brigade, Scott was spotted practicing with multiple standard-length putters here at Trump National Doral, later intimating that he will “probably” have one in the bag for Thursday’s opening round.

“Thinking a little more objectively about it at the back end of last year, I thought because I do have to make an adjustment by the end of this year, if I'm going to spend some time doing it, I should try and start now and maybe find the best solution,” he said, alluding to the rule which will ban anchoring in less than 10 months. “It's been feeling good. I've enjoyed doing it. It's not that big a deal. I did it for a long time, too, that way.”

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Barring a last-second change of heart, Scott will follow in the footsteps of Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and others, playing his first competitive round in 81 days without the crutch – mental imagery intended – of his much-maligned broomstick.

For some players, such a weighty shift in equipment would be a life-changing event. And it might have been for Scott, too, if not for the decidedly more life-changing event that took place just three weeks ago.

He and wife Marie welcomed daughter Bo Vera to the world on Feb. 15 – and just in case anyone was planning to accuse the world’s fifth-ranked golfer of failing to get his hands dirty, he offered up a theory on early diaper changing.

“I thought if I change a lot early,” he mused, “I'll make up for my six week absence at the moment.”

Scott won’t be competing each of the next six weeks, but he will be playing more regularly, starting his campaign later than any top-level peers in search of his second Masters title in the last two years.

This time, though, ubiquitous caddie Steve Williams won’t be walking alongside him in that journey. Longtime looper Mike Kerr filled in during a few late events last year and now has the full-time gig – a move with which Scott already seems comfortable.

“You've just got to take a chance; you've just got to pick someone,” he said. “I could keep having different guys try all the time, but I don't think I was going to get anything more, so I felt confident with Mike and my decision – and hopefully we're going to start a good run right here.”

To nobody’s surprise, he wasn’t lacking for suitors.

Scott hinted that his list of potential candidates for the position ranged from top-level professional caddies to, well ... some who aren’t.

“There was a letter from a Japanese guy – and apparently he's related to the royal family over there – but even in his letter, he says he's extremely lazy. I can't even remember the whole thing. But I've kept it, because it's just too good. And he included a picture of himself.

“A guy here in Florida, also, sent in a picture of himself – big strong guy, looks like he works out, muscle man kind of thing and lives with his 85-year-old mother. He made a point of telling me that, as well, in the application. But unfortunately, those ones were unsuccessful for them.”

As he relayed those stories Wednesday afternoon, Scott offered another smile. If there is any hesitation, any nervousness, any anxiety over so many new variables in his life, he isn’t showing it.

For one of the game’s most easygoing players, these changes were always going to be inevitable – and he was always going to roll with ‘em in the same relaxed manner that’s gotten him here in the first place.

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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.