Its a Date

By Mercer BaggsJune 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
Much has been made of THE date. May 12, 1970. Its the day on which Masters champion Mike Weir was born. Its the day on which U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk was born.
 
Scotsman Andrew Coltart shares the same date of birth. Could he win the 132nd Open Championship? Probably not; he has never finished inside the top 10 in an Open in 11 tries. But aside from THE date, there has been little rhyme or reason to the season.
 
Theres been Annikas appearance, Tigers knee, Ernies wrist and Vijays mouth. Woods rested, Els reigned. Woods returned, Els feigned. Both have dominated. Both haveslipped.
 
Davis Love III experienced triumph three times over, and tragedy second time familial.
 
A left-hander not named Mickelson won a major, while Phil ' now ranked ninth in the world, by the way ' has yet to win a thing.
 
Theres been an elderly revival and a bad boys redemption. Drivers are a hot topic, while Augustas discrimination has been put on the back burner ' for now.
 
This year, to predict is to be foolish.
 
And now those inconsistencies shift to the unpredictable winds that blow off the southeast coast of the United Kingdom. Sandwich, England to be precise.
 
Similarly to Olympia Fields, familiarity will not run rampant on this Open layout.
 
For the 13th time, Royal St. Georges will play host. It last did so in 1993, when Greg Norman won his second Open, and final Grand Slam title.
 
That means many in the field will not introduce themselves to the course until Open week. And even those who have played it before ' like Els, Singh and Love ' will have to rely on a decade-old recollection.
 
Royal St. Georges is 7,106 yards with a par of 71. It was the first course outside of Scotland to stage an Open Championship. John H. Taylor never broke 80 there in 1894, but still went on to claim his second consecutive Open victory. His 326 total is still the highest in championship history.
 
The course was a part of the regular rotation until the second half of the 20th century. Bobby Locke won at RSG in 1949; it wasnt used again until American Bill Rogers prevailed in 1981.
 
The Open made an expedient return four years later, when Sandy Lyle won. That was RSGs penultimate showcase until 2003.
 
In British Open history, all 131 years of it, there have been seven rounds of 63, and none lower. Two of those were recorded at RSG in 1993 (Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart). Norman also set the 72-hole championship scoring record with his 267 performance in 93.
 
Defending champion Ernie Els tied for sixth a decade ago, in what was just his second Open appearance. Steve Elkington, who along with Stuart Appleby and Thomas Levet lost to Els in a four-hole playoff in 2002, also competed 10 years prior. He made the cut, tying for 48th.
 
Last years playoff was the third contested in the last five years. Only two extra sessions have been needed to determine a winner at Royal St. Georges
 
Harry Vardon defeated Arnaud Massey over 35 holes in 1911. Bobby Locke beat Harry Bradshaw over 36 holes in 1949.
 
This year's Open will conclude on July 20. The last time it did that was 1997, when Justin Leonard won. Leonard was born June 15, 1972. What does all this mean? Nothing. They're just dates, just like May 20, 1970. It's all random. Just like this season.
 
Unless, of course, Andrew Coltart wins.
 
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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.