A Wild Day in England

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England -- Its all there. All the ingredients are in the mix to make the final round of the 132nd Open Championship one of the greatest in major memory.
You have the The Great One; The Emotional One; The Stoic One; The Hot One; The Controversial One; The Determined One. And more than one longshot.
On a day when the names on the leaderboard seemed to be thrown into a hat, jumbled around and picked at random to be placed from top to bottom, Thomas Bjorns name came out first.
The Dane shot a mouse-like 2-under 69 on a wild day in South East England. For the second straight day, only one man is in red figures. The Stoic One will enter the final round at 1-under-par 212.
I don't think all the expectations are on me tomorrow, said Bjorn. I think there are a couple of guys around me that people expect to win a major championship constantly.
Overnight leader Davis Love III had a 1-over 72 to fall to even par. Tiger Woods (69), Vijay Singh (69), Kenny Perry (70), Sergio Garcia (70) and PGA Tour rookie Ben Curtis (70) are at 1-over-par 214.
The leaderboard is very similar to that of the last time Royal St. George's hosted an Open. Ten years ago, the best players in the world ' Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Corey Pavin ' were all battling for the title.
There's going to be four or five guys that can win the golf tournament with just a few holes to go, said Love. It's going to be tight.
In all, 16 players are within five shots of Bjorn. Defending champion Ernie Els is in a group six back after a disappointing 72.
There's only one score under par, Els said. If I could go the way I want to play, I've still got a chance.
Englands Mark Roe shot 67 to finish at 1 over. But he and playing competitor Jesper Parnevik disqualified for signing incorrect scorecards. The two did not exchange cards on the first tee and, therefore, wrote down each others scores on their own scorecards.
And that was just a part of Saturdays excitement. Now, if Sunday can live up to its predecessor.
Of course, it all started with The Great One.
Following a trio of pars to start the day, Woods made a 15-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 fourth. Routine enough.
Eagle No. 2 was far more impressive.
Tigers second shot to the par-5 seventh rolled through the green and into the back bunker. With the ball a couple of feet from the back lip, Woods quickly lifted his sand-wedge up and then slapped it down into the soft sand. The ball popped out perfectly and took the desired route into the bottom of the cup.
Woods raised both hands and nearly dropped to his knees in response.
It's not a shot you try to hole, said Woods. That was a bonus.
He closed the front side by making a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth that went up and down one level, and broke at least five feet right-to-left. He held a two-stroke cushion at 2-under par.
The back nine, however, was far more frustrating and far less fruitful.
Woods had four bogeys and one birdie on the second nine. The birdie came at the par-5 14th, where his bid for a third eagle died on the edge of the hole.
For the record, Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes.
I've won eight a different way, so maybe I can win one this way, he said. It's still not a bad percentage, though.
The Emotional One had an experience similar to Woods' second eagle.
Garcia was up and down, and all around Royal St. Georges in Round 3. He started at 2 over, dropped to plus-4, made his way back to even par, and then bogeyed the last to finish at 1 over.
Yet through it all, it was a par that will be remembered most.
After driving his tee shot on the par-4 17th into an impossible position in the heather, it took Garcia two swipes just to advance his ball back to safety. The first time, his ball moved six inches ' and it took nearly two minutes to find it.
The thickest rough on the whole course, Garcia said of his position off the tee.
Faced with a 60-yard shot, he hit his fourth just on the front surface of the green, from where it rolled at length into the target area.
The 23-year-old Spaniard screamed in jubilation, eventually tossed his ball into the raucous crowd and raced to the next hole.
This is what we all practice for and it feels good to be up there, said Garcia, who has labored through a swing change this season. I have been working hard on my game and it seems like it is starting to pay off.
The Stoic One didnt experience such highs. But he didnt have any lows either.
Bjorn made one eagle, one birdie and one bogey on the day. Thursday, he had a double bogey and a quadruple bogey in shooting 73. But he has recovered with rounds of 70-69 to put himself in position to rewrite his greatest golfing moment.
Bjorns biggest triumph thus far ' he has seven career wins on the European Tour ' came at Woods expense. He prevailed while playing all 72 holes alongside the worlds No. 1 in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic.
It's a nice feeling to know you can go head-to-head with the guy and do well. This is a major championship. This is different, Bjorn said.
Love has never had much success against Woods. But hell be paired with Bjorn on Sunday.
The 1997 PGA champion dropped three shots over his first 11 holes in the third round. The Determined Ones turnaround came at 14, which he eagled to get back to even par.
The Hot One and The Controversial One have been in quiet contention throughout the week.
Perry, who has won three of his last four starts, has been impressive in his first Open Championship since 1991. His opening 74 has been followed by back-to-back 70s.
Then there is Singh, who has been embroiled in controversy much of the year. He made disparaging remarks concerning Annika Sorenstams appearance at Colonial, and then withdrew from the tournament. He has also put a personal embargo on the media, unless he is leading the tournament is how he put it.
He did talk to the media, though very briefly, after his roller-coaster performance Saturday. He played holes 7-9 in 4 under, only to bogey Nos. 10-13. He finished with birdies on 15, 16 and 18.
Im in a good position, said the 1998 PGA champion and 2000 Masters winner.
As are so many others after Saturdays wildly exciting round which concluded, ironically enough, with The Stoic One in the lead.
I'm going to go out and enjoy myself tomorrow, Bjorn said. I promised myself the next time I got in contention in a major championship, I'm going to enjoy every second of it.
And hopefully it will last all the way.
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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.