Another Tiger Triple

By Mercer BaggsMarch 17, 2002, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- For the second straight year Phil Mickelson challenged Tiger Woods for the Bay Hill Invitational title. And for the second straight year, No. 1 beat No. 2.
 
Woods shot a final-round 3-under 69 to earn his 30th career PGA Tour victory and become the first player to win the tournament three years in a row. He finished at 13-under-par 275, four strokes lower than Michael Campbell (71).

'When I was a little boy, I never thought of winning this many times,' said Woods, who is now tied with Leo Diegel for 15th on the all-time PGA Tour victory list. 'I just thought about winning on the PGA Tour and that would suffice.'

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Campbell double-bogeyed the 17th, but holed out from off the green at 18 to earn his best career PGA Tour finish.
 
Mickelson (71) bogeyed his final three holes to finish tied for third with Rocco Mediate (70), John Huston (72) and Len Mattiace (73).
 
Tiger, who earned $720,000, apparently has an affinity for doing things in threes. He became the first player in tour history to win three different tournaments three consecutive seasons. He added Bay Hill to his three-peats at the WGC-NEC Invitational and the Memorial Tournament. He also won the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship three times in three years.
 
Speaking of threes, 14 players were within three shots of Woods 54-hole lead. In that group stood four multiple major winners and three of the top-5 ranked players in the world.
 
The ultimate score belied a competitive final round. Five players made their ways to double digits under par. But in the end, it came down to two men ' No. 1 and No. 2.
 
The situation was near identical to that of a year ago: Woods trying to win his first event of the season, with Mickelson trying to play the role of spoiler. The lefthander started last years final round four shots back of Woods and managed to wrest away the lead, before Tiger birdied the 72nd hole to win by one.
 
This year, playing three groups ahead of the front-runner, Mickelson began his quest for denial three back.
 
For the second straight day, Woods got off to a sluggish start, bogeying the first hole. Mickelson, on the other hand, birdied Nos. 3 and 4 to tie for the top spot at 9-under. Tiger, though, also birdie the fourth to reclaim his advantage.
 
Once again, Woods grip on the lead slipped with a bogey at the par-5 sixth. He hit his second shot fat from the fairway bunker and into the lake. He contemplated playing the ball from the water, but, instead, chose to take a drop. He played his fourth shot from 200 yards out, and eventually carded a 6.
 
While Woods was backing up, Mickelson charged forward and into the lead. He birdied the eighth to climb to 10-under, one clear of Woods.
 
He then moved two-up with another birdie on the par-4 10th. Woods closed the gap with a birdie at the ninth, and added another at the 10th.
 
But it was a par save at the eighth that got him going.
 
'At the time, I'm only one back, and I just wanted to keep myself up on the board,' he said. 'I just felt like I was still in the ball game.'
 
The seesaw battle continued when Mickelson birdied the par-5 12th. He chunked his chip-shot third, but made the 12-footer to move to minus-12. His reign at the top was again short-lived as the firm, baked-out Bay Hill greens betrayed a precise iron shot to the par-4 14th.
 
I hit as good a shot as I could at 14, a 6-iron that landed a couple of feet from the hole. A hop or two later and its 30 yards over the green. I dont really know what else I could have done there,' he said.
 
Mickelson bogeyed the hole, and when Tiger birdied the par-5 12th, the lead was his for good.
 
Needing a birdie at the par-5 16th - with 17 and 18 virtually outlawing them - Mickelson pulled his tee shot into the right trees. His ball nestled against a twig. Two-hundred yards out, he took a 4-iron and went for the water-guarded green. The ball never found its desired target, plummeting into the pond.
 
The only shot I felt I had was to go at the green, that was the only opening, right of the trees ' try to put it in the back part of the green, the back bunker, Mickelson said. I had to catch it a little thin to keep it under the branches, and I caught it a little too thin and it went in the water.
 
Woods added a final birdie at 16 to increase his margin of victory. He played the treacherous back nine in 3-under 33.
 
'I just tried to hang in there and just give myself a lot of looks at birdies, and tried not to make a bogey on the back nine, especially (on) the last couple of holes.' Woods said.
 
Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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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.”