Worth Watching

By Mercer BaggsApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
Augusta National released Tuesday afternoon its opening-round tee times for the 2008 Masters Tournament. Here are a few groups worth keeping an eye on:
8 a.m. ET: Ben Curtis, Shaun Micheel
How many times do you think these two guys have been paired together over the last five years? Do tournament committees think Curtis and Micheel, both surprise major champions in 2003, look at the pairing sheet, laugh, wag their fingers and say in a Steve Martin voice, You guys . Those silly Augusta octogenarians.
8:22 a.m. ET: Mark OMeara, Trip Kuehne (a), Ian Poulter
A couple of weeks ago the Golf Guy (Yes, I know the Golf Guy personally. And, yes, ladies, he's single.) was out at the Tavistock Cup and said that OMeara was doing a TV interview after his Isleworth team victory when Poulter (a Lake Nona guy) ran over and doused him with champagne. OMeara played it off on TV, but then gave Poulter a death stare that would have petrified Charles Bronson. Poulter, of course, either didnt notice or didnt care.
8:44 a.m. ET: Gary Player, Miguel Angel Jimenez, D.J. Trahan
How many holes before Jimenez gets tired of the 72-year-old Player yapping in his ear about how hes the most physically fit man in this or any other universe, and that if the Spaniard would quit smoking cigars, do a few crunches and get a decent haircut he might actually contend in a major championship, before he picks him up and dumps him in Raes Creek?
9:39 a.m. ET: Fred Couples, Jerry Kelly, Anders Hansen
Player should have been put in the same group with Couples, who is trying to break the South Africans record mark of 23 consecutive cuts made at the Masters. Couples tied it last year. Should he break it this time around dont be surprised if Player says Couples was the guy he was talking about at last years Open Championship.
10:23 a.m. ET: Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy
Johnson will be trying to join Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only men to successfully defend their titles in this event. He will be trying to avoid sharing the company of Mike Weir, however, who was the last defending champion to miss the cut.
10:45 a.m. ET: Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera, Stuart Appleby
Who held the 54-hole lead in last years Masters? That would be Stuart Appleby, who shot 75 on Sunday and finished in a tie for seventh. As they were in the final round of 2007, Appleby and Woods will again be grouped in Rds. 1 and 2 in 08. But if youre looking for someone to stand up to Tiger this week dont look to the Australian, but rather to the third member of this threesome. Cabrera has the length, the confidence (2007 U.S. Open champion) and the record (three top-10s at the Masters) to give Tiger a run. Maybe.
11:18 a.m. ET: Craig Stadler, Johnson Wagner, Steve Flesch
Johnson Wagner won last weeks Shell Houston Open to make the Masters field at the 11th hour and said even rounds of 90-90 this week could wipe the smile off his face. So the Masters committee put him with Stadler. That will do it.
12:02 p.m. ET: Soren Hansen, Daniel Chopra, Richard Sterne
Winner! Most Non-Descript Threesome in the Tournament. Ever.
1:08 p.m. ET: Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Mark Calcavecchia
Bubba has the length. Sergio has the accuracy. Calc has the savvy. If they could combine their skills ' and find a fourth member who could actually putt ' they might have a chance to win this week.
1:41 p.m. ET: Phil Mickelson, Andres Romero, K.J. Choi
This is the only group over the first two rounds in which all three players have won on TOUR this season. All eyes will be on Mickelson, but dont overlook Choi. He finished third here in 2004.
2:03 p.m. ET: Aaron Baddeley, Camilo Villegas, Lee Westwood
The final group of the opening round. Baddeley is a chic pick to do well this week because of his stellar putting. However, he tied for 52nd last year and missed the cut in two tries as an amateur. Nothing would give Johnson more pleasure ' aside from winning it again himself ' than slipping the green jacket onto his good friend this coming Sunday.

Related Links:
  • Complete first-round tee times
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.''

    Getty Images

    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. 

    Getty Images

    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.