Summer of Love
Think about it. Love Tiger or not, hes given us plenty of great moments, and the feeling that ' dare I say it ' his best might yet be on the way. Woods has climbed back to the top of the money list on the PGA Tour with four wins in 14 starts on the season.
Bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes at the U.S. Open aside, Woods might have given us the single season slam we could only dream about ' no matter who the player.
No question, Woods is the story to love above all others this season. Victories aside, the one thing I am loving more than anything about Woods these days is his regard for the spotlight.
Look, its easy to just make good for the cameras when the interviews are rolling, but Tiger seems to be opening up more than ever. Did you see his interview (post Open Championship) with Kelly Tilghman of The Golf Channel? The smile, the body language ' it all adds up to a Woods whos learned plenty from the likes of Nicklaus and Palmer about dealing with the big world hes created for himself. Some (readers of this column and others) like to tear Tiger down for his on-course behavior - and it has been justified (Ive been vocal about it as well). I think Woods has earned the right to be praised of late.
And remember, over the last few years, hes always been at the podium in the press room answering the questions - whether hes been winning majors or not.
Tiger is feeling good about his golf and good about his life it appears. Thats good news for the PGA Tour, for its players and for its future business.
Some other things to love as of July:
Woods, Singh, Els, and Mickelson have all had their moments of victory. Els needs a few here in the States to cement a solid year. The Dual at Doral might have been the years best PGA Tour event for final round, edge of the seat drama.
While not yet an official tour winner, she has proven herself to be a winner in my book. Ask yourself how many other women (LPGA professionals) let alone girls could have posted the numbers she did at the John Deere Classic. She didnt win the U.S. Amateur Public Links, but her reaction to our Mike Ritz about qualifying for a return trip was priceless. Surprised that by reaching the final eight shed earned a return in 2006, she couldnt have been happier. Proof right there that shes just a girl who can enjoy the moment.
He has been such a bright spot for the PGA Tour. His rookie season that now includes a John Deere victory, a runner-up at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and a top 15 finish at the Open Championship is one of the best in recent memory on any tour given the family circumstances he has overcome.
Padraig Harringtons eagle putt at 18 at Westchester was the best finish in a regular PGA Tour event this year. Birdie Kims birdie from the bunker is the best finish in any major this year. perhaps the best finish to any tournament depending on your perspective.
By the way, whats the best birdie of the year thus far? Is it Tigers masterful and miraculous chip at 16 at Augusta? Is it Kims hole-out from the bunker to win the Womens U.S. Open? Or might it be Jack Nicklaus at the 18th at St. Andrews last week? A birdie to finish a major career isnt all bad is it? Great debate? Or is it simple?
Sorenstam is right on schedule to continue her run of Rolex Player of the Year awards. Six wins thus far including two majors. Not bad, just expected.
Hey Beer Man!
Fifty-year-old Mark Johnson, who won the Qualifying Tournament, makes his first victory among the most memorable on the Champions Tour this year. He made eagle at 15 in the final round and then holed an 89-yard wedge for eagle at the final hole to win by four shots. The former beer truck driver could be the fan favorite if he can muster any more of that magic.
Obviously Im forgetting some things. Thats where you can help. Go ahead, refresh my memory.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
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."
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.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.