Big Names Crowd Bay Hill Leaderboard

By Mercer BaggsMarch 14, 2002, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. ' If youre an NBC employee, now might be the time to ask officials for a raise. The Peacock brass has to be euphoric after the first round of the Bay Hill Invitational.
The games two biggest personalities are two of the top names on the leaderboard, and some equally immense ' and telegenic ' talent is following them closely.
Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods and John Daly each opened in 5-under-par 67 to tie D.A. Weibring, John Huston, Steve Flesch and Argentine Angel Cabrera for the 18-hole lead. Cabrera led outright at 7-under with two holes to play, but finished bogey-bogey.
Sergio Garcia leads a group one shot back. Garcia, who played in the final group Sunday a year ago, is tied for seventh place with Stewart Cink, Kaname Yokoo and Rod Pampling.
Vijay Singh held a share of the lead through 12 holes, but bogeyed 13 and 14 in shooting 3-under 69. Hes tied with a plethora of players, including 1997 winner Phil Mickelson and Ryder Cup Captain Curtis Strange.
It just so happens that Daly and Woods rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the PGA Tour in driving distance. Cabrera led the European Tour in that category in 2001.
'Driving, of course, is always important,' said Garcia, who averages 287 yards off the tee. 'Getting the right distance (for your approach shots)is really important this week because you're playing with very little margin of error.
'It's tough, but it's a good challenge.'
Thursday, the leaders displayed a combination of overwhelming might and subdued control in attacking the renovated, 7,206-yard layout.
On a warm, yet docile Central Florida day, Woods played his first six holes in 4-under. However, he stalled like a nervous politician, parring Nos. 7-15. Tiger broke that streak with an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th, and narrowly missed a final red number at the last.
I didnt really get off to the greatest of starts, but my short game bailed me out, said Woods, who hit only nine of 18 greens in regulation but needed just 22 putts. I made a lot of putts today. Its nice to roll the ball on some good greens.
The greens have been a primary subject of conversation this week. The rebuilt exteriors are firm, and players are having to adjust in their shot-making.
You had to make sure to drive the ball in play; from there you could take your chances, if you wanted to, said Woods. These greens are hard and baked out ' its quite a challenge.
Playing in the threesome behind Tiger, Daly met the challenge, moving to 5-under through 12 holes, before carding back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14. But rather than folding down the stretch, he hit a driver and a 6-iron to 12 feet on the par-5 16th, and converted the eagle putt.
I played the par-5s in 5-under today; thats what I shot, noted Daly, who earned an invitation to the Masters by finishing last week inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Though Daly is playing some of the most consistent golf in his life over the past two years, he has never fared well at Bay Hill. Prior to this round, he had shot in the 80s as many times as he had in the 60s. His lore of self-destruction was cemented in 1998, when he hit six balls into the lake on the par-5 sixth en route to an 18.
But this year, the granitic greens are playing to his strengths.
I hit it high and the greens are very (hard), Daly said. Im hitting a lot of short clubs into the par-4s which should be an advantage.
Its a course that I havent had a lot of success on, so its very difficult to really judge it.
Ernie Els, the 1998 Bay Hill champion and winner of his last two events, shot 3-under-69. Meanwhile, tournament host Arnold Palmer shot 14-over 86.
Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.