Thankful Its Almost 2009

By Mercer BaggsNovember 27, 2008, 5:00 pm
Its that time of year. Time for golf writers everywhere to reveal those things for which they are most thankful. To be honest, there are really only two things on that list: 1) Free meals in the media center. 2) Printed out transcripts of interviews.
What Im truly thankful for doesnt involve golf. But you dont care to read about my family or how happy I am that Tim Tebow didn't go to Alabama.
So instead of those things, or looking back on 2008, Im listing the top 5 reasons ' golf only ' Im thankful its almost 2009.

Race to Dubai
5. The Race to Dubai
Technically, the new season has already started, but it wont really heat up until next year. The European Tour needed this shot of adrenaline. It had to find a way to lure back its homegrown talent as well as fresh, popular faces from the PGA Tour. And how do you do that? Money. Lots and lots and lots of money. This thing could prove to be duller than Steven Wright. Like the FedEx Cup. But not likely.

Padraig Harrington
4. The Paddy Slam
Padraig Harrington is slower than the wheels of justice. Hes as vanilla as Bob Newhart. And he cant start a sentence without sounding like a goat. But I love the guy. For some strange reason hes been my favorite player over the last 12 years. I told co-workers back in 96 that Harrington would one day win a major. Now hes got three, including the last two. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure leading up the Masters in April.

Sergio Garcia
3. Sergio's Confidence
On the other hand, I dont care much for Sergio. I couldnt care less if he ever wins a major. But the guy has an immense amount of talent and its great to see, judging by his play at the end of 2008, that his confidence hasnt been shattered over the last couple of years. Tiger Woods makes me look like the president of the Sergio Garcia fan club. That would be a tremendous rivalry, if it could develop.

Michelle Wie
2. More Michelle Wie on the LPGA
Im not nearly as much of a fan of Wies as I used to be. But the LPGA needs her star power. For as great as Annika Sorenstam was and Lorena Ochoa is, neither moves the needle, as they say in this business. Wie is the only female player able to transcend the game and bring in the non-traditional fan. Carolyn Bivens and company really, really need her to make it through Q-School finals.

Tiger Woods
1. The Return of Tiger
Golf without Tiger is like eating a club sandwich without turkey, ham, lettuce, tomato, bacon and mayonnaise. Its just a bunch of white bread. No one knows when he will re-emerge, but it cant happen soon enough. I ' and so many others ' will be much thankful when he returns.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.