Tiger's Sunday 66 is too little, too late

By Jason SobelAugust 5, 2012, 10:25 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Perhaps it's only fitting that here in the part of the Great Lakes region in Northeast Ohio nicknamed Rubber City, that Tiger Woods bounced back on the weekend, posting scores of 68-66 to claim a back-door top-10 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

And maybe it's apropos that his performance should spawn good feelings when the rubber meets the road, as Woods left Firestone Country Club following his final round on Sunday afternoon and was likely wheels up in no time, jetting off to Kiawah Island for this week's PGA Championship.

Really, though, this is nothing new. Any of it.

Woods has won this tournament on seven previous occasions, seven times leaving Rubber City bursting with optimism and buoyed by momentum.

While he may not own the same vibes this time around, Woods is undoubtedly brimming with confidence following a final round during which he hit 15 greens in regulation - and two of those misses were still close enough to putt.

'My tee to green game today was, I thought, pretty dialed in,' he said after a four-birdie final round. 'I was hitting it long, I was hitting it straight and my irons I was shaping both ways in all different trajectories with the wind blowing.'

Each of those will be key components at the Ocean Course, which will play 7,676 yards and can feature some ferocious crosswinds.

Of course, bringing his 'A' game - or some semblance thereof - from a regular PGA Tour event to a major championship is easier said than done.

Woods won two weeks before the Masters, but never seriously contended for his fifth green jacket. He won two weeks before the U.S. Open, but ran out of steam on the weekend at The Olympic Club. And while his win three weeks before the Open Championship was followed by a missed cut two weeks prior, he couldn't claim his 15th major title at Royal Lytham, either.

It's not quite 2009, when Tiger won the so-called Bland Slam, prevailing in his final start before every major, but it's close.

Then again, maybe there's some warped sense of logic that states it's better to head to a major without any recent hardware, sort of a powerhouse college basketball team getting a loss out of the way in a conference tournament before getting to the Big Dance.

Whatever the case, his ball-striking is obviously where it needs to be and his putting isn't nearly as flawed as the stats may contend. After making four birdies on the front nine, Woods missed mid-range putt after mid-range putt on the back.

As he explained earlier in the week, though, there's a severe difference between bad putts and good putts that don't happen to drop.

'I putted well the last two days, which was good,' Woods said. 'More importantly, I hit the ball on my start lines and that's something I did not do the first couple of days. I misread a couple, but that's just the way it goes. But at least every putt was starting on the right line and that's something I'm very excited about going into next week.'

He's learned the hard way that great ball-striking and average putting usually doesn't equate to a victory.

'He knows it's going to take good ball-striking,' said caddie Joe LaCava. 'But he also knows you've got to make some putts. Eventually if you want to win a tournament, everyone makes some putts.'

Driving? Check. Ball-striking? Check. Putting? Check.

Woods may not be entering another major coming off a victory like he has so many times, but that may not be the worst thing, either. Asked about his confidence level going into the PGA, he said, 'I'm excited about it.'

And then he smiled.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.