Surprising Sunday Gives Weir Win

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 23, 2003, 5:00 pm
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. ' Charles Howell III never thought hed lose. Mike Weir didnt think he could win.
Both happened when Weir birdied the second extra hole to defeat Howell in the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club.
Weir laid up on the 315-yard, par-4 10th, the second hole of sudden death, while Howell tried to drive the green.
The strategy worked in Weirs favor, as he was left with a scant 76 yards from the fairway. Howell was in the right greenside bunker, faced with a lengthy sand shot and little green to work with.
Howell played a brilliant approach to six feet. But after Weir made his eight-footer for birdie, Howell pulled his effort to tie.
Following a year when he didnt even post a top-10 finish, Weir collected his second victory of the season, having also captured the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Getting ready for this year, I got away from the game for a couple of months and just needed to reassess my passion for the game and why I was playing, he said. I came to a few conclusions that motivated me this year to work hard in the off-season ' but I never expected to play this well.
Weir shot 5-under 66 to finish regulation at 9-under-par 275, and was surprised to find himself in a playoff after Howell shot 73.
I just wanted to play solid and try to shoot a really good number. I wont say winning was in my mind, said Weir, who collected $810,000 and moved into first place on the seasonal money list with just over $2 million.
The defeat was a near shock to Howell.
At no point did I think I wasnt going to win the tournament, he admitted.
When asked to comment on the loss, the normally docile 23-year-old said as politely as he could, It sucks.
This is Howells second playoff defeat. He lost to Shigeki Maruyama in the 2001 Greater Milwaukee Open.
In Milwaukee, I was much more nervous, Howell said. I felt a lot more calm this one than in Milwaukee.
Weirs second win was similar to his first. He overcame a four-shot deficit on Sunday, making a birdie to win after laying up with his approach on a par-5, while Haas went for the green in two and found the water.
The cautious approach worked again this time. He said he had tried to drive the 10th green each of the first three days, and played the hole in 1-over. He laid up in regulation Sunday and made birdie. He did it again in the playoff to the same result.
Weir has now won five times on tour ' all of which have been come-from-behind victories.
I guess Im not sure why that is. I guess I can go out there and freewheel it, he said. Just a little more peaceful mindset starting the day.
Howell said he was a peace despite sleeping on the 54-hole lead for the first time as a professional. He started the day three shots clear of his nearest opponent, Nick Price.
Howell even birdied the par-5 first, but Price made eagle. There you have it. I make birdie and lose a shot. This game can change so fast, Howell said.
While Price continued his West Coast drought, Tiger Woods extended his losing streak as a professional in this event to six. He shot 6-under 65, his lowest round of the week by three strokes, to move from tied for 28th place as the day began into a tie for fifth with K.J. Choi (72).
Weir was in need of a Tiger-like round to have any chance of overtaking Howell. He birdied his first two holes on the back nine to get to 4-under for the day, and 8-under for the tournament.
Yet, he still found himself trailing Howell by three strokes.
Howell turned in even-par 35 to remain at 11-under. He stayed there after trading a bogey at 10 ' he hooked his tee shot 50 yards left of the pin while going for the green ' for a birdie at 11.
At the par-4 12th, he drove the ball into the ideal portion of the fairway. Faced with 180 yards to the pin, he came up short on his approach. The ball landed in the right greenside bunker, from where he wasnt able to advance his ball onto the green. He made bogey to cut his lead to two.
Another bogey ensued at the 176-yard, par-3 14th. Howell had an 8-iron into the green, but left it 65 feet right of the pin. He three-putted from there to fall to 9-under, tied for the lead with Price and Weir.
Price didnt stay there long. He missed the green at 15 and 16, and bogeyed them both. He shot 72 to tie first-round leader Fred Funk (68) for third.
I just didnt feel very comfortable out there, said Price, who added that he tried to work out the kinks in his swing in a late practice session Saturday. I ought to be happy where I finished in one respect, but Im disappointed because Im more capable of hitting the ball a lot better than I did.
That left Weir as Howells only foe. The left-handed Canadian played near perfect golf coming home. After his birdie-birdie start to the back, he saved par from eight feet at both 12 and 13.
He birdied 17 and parred 18 before heading to the practice range to stay loose.
Howell could have avoided sudden death if he could have matched Weirs finish. But he wasnt able to get up and down for birdie at the par-5 penultimate hole and two-putted the last.
The two went back to the 18th hole. They each made par, with Weirs winning effort dying on the lip.
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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.