A Dozen Azaleas

By Kelly TilghmanApril 10, 2002, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I, like you Im sure, grew up watching The Masters on television. Each spring, a few of my closest friends would tell me they scored practice round badges and were headed south to Augusta. I would turn green with envy, but not as green as Augusta Nationals emerald fairways. How do I know how green they are? Well, finally, after 20 years of waiting, I saw them in person for the first time. Right now I am at the Masters walking this storied venue, talking with the best players in the world under the old oak tree and completely soaking up the atmosphere.
My cameraman probably wanted to kill me on Monday because I dragged him all the way down to the 14th tee to shoot video. Okay, I really went down there to take in all the sights, smell the Azaleas and witness the shotmakers hard at work, but I didnt tell him that.
You cant imagine, unless youve been there, how magnificent Augusta National is. Its simply amazing. Theres an energy that fills the air. It pads every step you take. Your feet never get tired of carrying you from tee to green. If its that special for a member of the media, just consider what its like for a first-time player.
In total, there are 12 first-timers competing in the 2002 Masters and all 12 are mesmerized. Paul McGinley of Ireland told me that the highlight of his trip so far is the practice round he played with Tom Watson and Ian Woosnam on Monday. Paul said he started on the front nine and absolutely couldnt wait to make the turn. At least three or four times, he was extended an invitation to play Augusta National in his free time, but he chose to wait until he qualified for The Masters to finally make a tee time.
Twenty-one-year-old Australian Adam Scott is also playing for the first time. Like McGinley, he played a memorable practice round. His was with his hero, Greg Norman. The Shark is a two time major champion but has been left at the altar three times at The Masters. For young Scott to share fairway space with Norman in this place must be an emotional experience. Believe it or not, Adam is not the youngest player in this years field. That honor is shared between a pair of 20-year-olds, U.S. Amateur Champion Bubba Dickerson and U.S. Public Links Champion Chez Reavie. These gentlemen are two of five amateurs continuing the tradition that Bobby Jones instilled in 1934, at the inaugural event. Amateurs are always invited.
If you want a great first impression story from 2002, look no further than Sony Open winner Jerry Kelly. Youve never met a man with more personality than Jerry. When I asked him to describe his most memorable moment thus far, he began with his educational putting experience on the lightning fast first green, then he started in on his drama at the 12th , otherwise known as the meanest little par-3 in golf. Remember this hole? You know the one. Tom Weiskopf made a 13 on it in 1980 with no more than a 7-iron in his hand. Well, Jerry Kelly stood on the 150-ish-yard hole and darted a short iron right at the flag. It hit once, bounced straight toward the hole and smacked the pin! It ended up two feet away, a tap-in birdie in his back nine debut. What a way to start the week!
The stories are endless. The talent is immense. If youve qualified to compete at Augusta National, then you deserve to be here. Once youve had a taste, its impossible to forget the flavor. Perhaps the first time is the best for many, but you have to believe that the second, the tenth, and the 48th consecutive start, in the case of Arnold Palmer, are just as nice as the first.
The Masters- its a tradition unlike any other. Can you believe its only Wednesday?
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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.