Five Hopes for the Holidays

By Kraig KannNovember 12, 2004, 5:00 pm
Sitting here this week thinking about the absence of Tiger Woods in the stroke play winners circle this year and questioning the whereabouts of Annika Sorenstam this week at the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions has me wishing for things already during the holiday season.
First - If Hank Haney is going to be Tigers swing guru for the foreseeable future, then can they find some magic before the Mercedes Championships so Woods can find his way out of the woods off the tee and get back to his winning ways? Im one of those who is amazed by a second place finish despite hitting only 37% of the fairways for the week at a tournament set up as tough as the Tour Championship, but Ive always liked it better when hes winning.
It doesnt have to be every week like the old days, I just want Vijay, Ernie, Retief and Phil to sweat their way to the finish line.
Second - If Annika Sorenstam is going to take a week or two off, fine. But lets make sure we play each and every event that the LPGA deems a big tournament. Her absence this week at a tournament called the Tournament of Champions hurts the event badly and hurts the tours image as well.
Annikas the best thing to happen to womens golf since Nancy Lopez. Maybe its not all Annikas fault. Is the LPGA massaging its best piece of gold in the best way possible? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever the case, given the uncertainty of her longevity from here on out, lets get together and make sure Annikas schedule works for everyone. Sometimes the facts hurt. If Annikas not playing - I take it that its not a big enough event.
Third - If John Daly truly enjoyed his rebirth on the PGA Tour then lets stick with it shall we?! Face it, you can love John or leave John, but a John Daly who challenges the superstars for victories (remember Vijay and the Buick Open?) is as good for the game and its ratings as Tiger Woods is carrying a 3-shot lead into Sunday. John was fun to watch this year because he was really WORTH watching this year. So John, work out, work on your game and work on making 2005 your best year yet!
Fourth - Please...every American PGA Tour star who dreams to play in next years Presidents Cup or the 06 Ryder Cup...find some guys at your home club with game and play some alternate-shot and best-ball matches! It certainly cant hurt.
These Cup matches are beginning to taste as bad as a cup of four day old coffee. Again, make it a part of your daily thought process. Say it with me...FOURBALLS...FOURSOMES. Maybe then it wont be a FORE-gone conclusion that the USA leaves with their heads down.
Fifth - Message to all those who know Greg Norman, Loren Roberts, Jay Haas and others with big name recognition who have or will soon find their way to 50. Tell them, beg them to play some Champions Tour events next year. Jacobsen and Stadler did wonders during the weeks they played. Jerry Pate was a breath of fresh air as well. Its not that the Champions Tour is bad...its just that these guys will make it better. And if new blood isnt a given on the Champions Tour (as Haas seems to be indicating in this instance), then the tours future will be a bit cloudy.
One final thing...Heres hoping Haas son Bill makes it through PGA Tour Qualifying so he and his Dad can tee it up together next year. Keep in mind that Craig Stadlers win at the B.C. Open in 2003 keeps him exempt on the PGA Tour through 05 so with son Kevin earning his way as a Nationwide Tour grad, next year could be a weekly rendition of The Father-Son Challenge! And wouldnt that be fun for fans and ratings.
Enjoy the holidays yourself...and thanks for your support in reading this column!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Getty Images

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.  

Getty Images

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.” 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.