Tanaka and Sluman Revisit Disney

By Mercer BaggsOctober 17, 2002, 4:00 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Hidemichi Tanaka visited Disney three weeks ago, but not for business.
Skipped the Texas Open, came here for one week just on vacation holiday, goofed around for a whole week and got tired, he said through his interpreter.
Standing 55, 135 pounds with a 27-inch waist, 8 shoes, Tanaka was able to ' if not by much ' take in many of the attractions. His favorite?
Animal Kingdom. The one with the water, I guess, where you get sprayed on, he said.
The Japanese player, who shot 9-under-par 63 at the Magnolia Course Thursday to earn a share of the first-round lead, did manage to get in one round at Magnolia during his vacation, but didnt play the Palm, where he will tee off Friday.
Too busy riding the rides, he joked.
Like many of his countrymen, Tanaka is rarely seen without a smile on his face, and said as a kid he admired Tom Watson.
Strong and smiles, the 31-year-old said of the reasons why he followed Watsons career.
The 31-year-old from Hiroshima said as a kid he carried a picture of Watson around with him. In Japan they have these squares, kind of like a cardboard box. It is kind of like an autograph card, his interpreter described.
Tanaka never got a signature from his golfing hero, but said he did get a chance to meet him at the 1996 Kemper Open.

On the Space Coast No One Can See You Win
In 10 previous starts at the Disney Golf Classic, Jeff Sluman has never finished better than a tie for seventh. But he does have some success at the Magnolia and Palm courses ' you just have to go back 20 years to find it.
I won on the J.C. Goosie Space Coast Tour, biggest event he had in 1982, Sluman recanted. I won here at Disney - $15,000. I knew I was set for life. I didnt know what I was going to do with all that money.
The Space Coast is a 72-mile stretch of land in Florida along the Atlantic Ocean, which includes space attractions like the Astronaut Hall of Fame. The tour was a developmental one, where the likes of Sluman, Phil Blackmar, Joey Sindelar, Russ Cochran and Gary Hallberg fine-tuned their games.
It was a lot of pressure. It really kind of helped me get over a hurdle. I got my (PGA Tour) card later on that year.
Sluman shot 9-under 63 Thursday to share the opening-round lead.

Now or Never - or Next Year
David Duval missed a golden opportunity last week to increase his efforts of qualifying for the Tour Championship, which is on offer to the top 30 players on the money list.
Duval held the lead going into the final round of the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas, but shot 71 on Sunday to finish in a tie for sixth. As a result, he only climbed to 73rd in earnings. His finish paid out $167,500, while first-place offered $900,000.
Now, he has to finish at least first and third at Disney and next weeks Buick Challenge. They both offer a $666,000 first-place prize.
Im well aware of that, he said in his usual stone-faced manner after shooting 3-under 69 to finish the first round six off the lead.
If I fail to win a golf tournament either this week or next week, then I have a tournament in Japan and a one-day thing in Mexico, and other than that you wont see me until the 27th of January.
Duval is suffering through he worst season as a professional. He has earned only two top-10s, while going through a host of personal problems such as a break-up with his finance and injuries.
However, as the season is winding down, Duvals play is picking up. Aside from his Vegas performance, he also led through two rounds of the Michelob Championship. And whether or not his five-year winning streak on tour comes to an end, hes looking forward to next season.
Thats the exciting thing about our sport, that everybody starts at zero, we all start on January 1, he said. Scoring average things ' the Vardon (trophy), money titles, majors, theyre all up for grabs.
Its nice to start fresh, but its kind of hard to pay attention to that when you play three or four or five times in November and December.
Full-field scores from the Disney Golf Classic
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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.