Canadian Curse

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 7, 2000, 4:00 pm
A tournament sellout. Six-and-a-half hours of televised coverage. The feel of a major championship. All for Tiger Woods. But despite the red-carpet treatment, you'll pardon Mr. Woods if he doesn't feel welcome at the Bell Canadian Open.
Woods, whose only missed cut in 93 professional starts came at the 1997 Canadian Open, shot a rather mundane round of even par 72 to place him seven shots off the first-round lead at the Glen Abbey GC in Oakville, Ontario.
Leading the way after Day 1 of Canada's National Open is Kevin Sutherland. Sutherland shot an early 7-under-par 65 to grab a one-shot lead over Cameron Beckman. J.L. Lewis, Brian Watts, Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik are two back after all opened in 5-under-par 67.
This isn't new territory for the elder of the Sutherland brothers. The 36-year-old, whose younger sibling, David, also plays on the Tour, knows what it's like to lead after 18 holes of an event. He just doesn't know what it feels like to lead after 72 holes.
For the third time in his five-year PGA Tour career, Sutherland holds the top spot through round one. He did so for the first time at the 1998 Buick Classic. He finished tied for seventh. He did so for the second time at the 1999 Greater Hartford Open. He finished tied for 17th.
If Sutherland can continue the prolific putting he showed on Thursday, he may just capture his first career PGA Tour victory. Sutherland, who began his first round on the par-37 back nine, reeled off four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 18th for 6-under-par 31.
'I putted phenomenally well today,' said Sutherland, who took 27 putts in the first round. 'When you're putting well, it keeps the round going, keeps the momentum going.'
Sutherland kept that momentum through to the front nine, though it only bore one birdie. Still, Sutherland didn't drop a shot over his final nine holes to produce his lowest score in his last 74 rounds played.
Putting has also been a friendly companion to Garcia as of late. The 20-year-old Spaniard, who defeated Woods in a head-to-head match play event two weeks ago and tied for fourth at last week's Air Canada Championship, took just 23 putts en route to his round of 67. At one point, Garcia climbed his way to 7-under for the tournament, but bogeyed the 6th and 8th (his 15th and 17th holes of the day) to finish at 5-under-par.
'The putter is a lot better than what it was,' said Garcia, who, coming off a two-win 1999, is in search of his first worldwide victory of this season. 'I'm hitting the irons better than last year, and the driver too, but the putter was keeping me from contending.
'I'm playing better than last year. I just wasn't putting as well. Now, I'm starting to putt better.'
The putter wasn't kind to Tiger on Thursday. Though he needed only 27 swipes to make it around the Jack Nicklaus-designed track, Woods suffered a number of lip-outs.
Tiger was 3-under through his first eight holes, but a bogey at the par-4 9th sent his round into a tailspin. Woods double bogeyed the par-4 11th, when his approach shot from 110 yards found the water surrounding the green.
Tiger hit only two of nine greens in regulation on the back nine for a 2-over-par 39.
Yet despite his back nine troubles, Woods managed to birdie the par-5 18th to secure his 32nd round on the PGA Tour at par or better.
'That's just the way it is sometimes,' said Woods, whose last round over par came in the first round of the GTE Byron Nelson Classic, May 11.
So, it's back to the drawing board for Woods, right? Wrong. It's back to bed. For the first time this year, Tiger will have a Friday morning tee time, going off at 7:57am ET.
'I'm gonna go home and get some rest,' Tiger said. '(I'm) still under the weather a bit.
'As bad as I felt over the ball on the back nine today, to be even par, I feel pretty good,'
Sutherland's feeling pretty good himself. He hasn't played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, but he's had a good excuse. Kevin and his wife, Mary, (mostly his wife) gave birth to their first child on August 28th.
'Yeah, we had a baby last Monday,' said Sutherland. 'My wife said `Why don't you go play golf this week,' so I said, `Okay.'

'I committed (within) the last 45 minutes.'
Parnevik was close to not competing this week either. Unhappy with his performance over the weekend at last week's Air Canada, Jesper considered not making the trip from British Columbia to Ontario. Last week, Parnevik led after two rounds, but wilted into a tie for 11th after rounds of 70-74.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

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."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

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.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

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. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“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.