Woods Mickelson or Stricker

By Kraig KannFebruary 25, 2005, 5:00 pm
This just inPGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has announced a new corporate deal with a hydroplane manufacturer to replace PGA Tour courtesy carsWest Coast only!
 
Lets face it ' Mother Nature has done its best to dampen the spirit of the West Coast Swing. The weather weve seen the last two weeks has been dreadful ' at best. And Ill be the first to say that my enthusiasm for the PGA Tour has been hurt of late. In fact, I cant think of the skids being put on momentum to a greater degree.
 
The Nissan Open was a huge disappointment. Thirty-six holes seemed like a waste of time. And one hole to settle things seemed strange. Actually, it seemed like a slap in the face given a year thats already given us Appleby, Singh, Woods, Leonard, and Mickelson as official trophy holders.
 
Just think of the excitement had Adam Scott won the Nissan in 72 holes over the likes of Tiger Woods and Darren Clarke and Chad Campbell. Wed really have something to talk about.
 
I hardly believe I was alone in thinking bad thoughts. After all, I really get revved up for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But when the L.A. rains didnt let go and word leaked (pun intended) that the next tour stop La Costa had turned into La Lake-aId had enough. And youd be hard pressed to convince me that Finchem himself might have considered drowning his West Coast sorrows as well.
 
I needed a few days awaybut now, weather permitting, Im back. All four of the top seeds at La Costa have survived the first days play and the leaderboard at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson is equally as intriguing.
 
So heremy glass is now half full and we have some great possibilities this weekend:
 
  • To the few who enjoy passing opinion that Tiger Woods is overkill, Im sorry. The PGA Tour could really use a Woods vs. Mickelson semi-final. The winner wouldnt be all that important to the story. The story would be the match-up we never seem to get.
     
  • Fred Couples and John Daly provide great potential stories too. If youre looking for ratings and a chance to forget about last weekend ' either would fit the bill.
     
  • Lets hope Vijay Singh returns to form. Last year was too good to forget. His continued great play only strengthens the run of hype for the Masters.
     
  • Beware any of the following: Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Stuart Appleby or David Toms. Each is more than capable of a run to the finals.
     
  • Davis Love III is in need of a big week. Really in need. Hes far too good to be forgotten. And his passion for a Green Jacket runs very deep. If hes going to give himself a chance this year ' hed better get going soon.
     
    Enough on the Match Play. My real rooting interest this weekend takes me to Tucson for the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. For those who think two tournaments in one week on the PGA Tour is too much, perhaps the name Steve Stricker will change your thinking.
     
    Steve Stricker
    Steve Stricker's last PGA Tour win came at the 2001 Match Play.
    Strickers disappointing 2004 caused him to fall outside of not only the Top 125, but also the Top 150. Meaning his starts on the PGA Tour this year would come only with status as a Past Champion or via the sponsors exemption.
     
    Steve Stricker opened with a terrific round. If youve spent any time with or around Stricker youd know him as a tournament directors dream. Hes as clean as they come. Hes as good with the amateur as they come and when hes on his game, his opportunity to win would provide as good a defending champion as could be found.
     
    Admittedly, Strickers odds at contending, let alone winning, are an Ill believe it when I see it situation. Hes struggled mightily the last few years. But the fact that hes found himself with more status on the Nationwide Tour than he has this year on the PGA Tour might just be the motivating factor he needs.
     
    And if he needs a few more, he can look at the name thats also near the top of the leaderboard in Tucson after Round 1. Mario Tiziani is a PGA Tour rookie and Strickers brother-in-law!
     
    The fact that Strickers contention in Tucson comes during the same week as the WGC Accenture Match Play is also interesting.
     
    Strickers last PGA Tour win came at the Match Play in Australia back in 2001. Regaining his status for the PGA Tour during the week of the event he last won would be sweet. It would also give proof to the importance of a PGA Tour stop in Tucson opposite a WGC event.
     
    Good stories are all around us in golf. The PGA Tour is full of them. Yes, plenty of you feel like network coverage and media coverage is geared toward the likes of Woods and Mickelson.
     
    And if Woods or Mickelson were to win this week at La Costa, Id say its a mighty big story. But if Stricker were to win in Tucson, Id argue that his victory story would actually be a better one.
     
    Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

    Getty Images

    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.