Brew Master

By Mike RitzOctober 6, 2002, 4:00 pm
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Charles Howell III experienced two firsts here Sunday evening - one as sweet as sugar, the other resulted in 'Bitter-Beer Face.'
The 23-year-old won for the first time on Tour, capturing the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill. Traditionally at this event, the champion drinks a celebratory Anheuser Busch product on the 18th green during the awards ceremony. First, Howell was presented the trophy, then the check and then an ice-cold bottle of brew.
Young Charles - a self-described 'geek,' growing up in Georgia - had never had a beer in his life. Never, not even a sip. After much prodding from a crowd filled with Michelob devotees, Howell gave in. The resulting expression on his alcohol-virgin face should dissuade millions of young golf fans from ever even thinking of drinking a beer. Call it Howell's first Public Service Announcement.
Much to the horror of the dozens of Anheuser Busch executives gathered greenside, the repulsed Charles then grabbed a microphone and announced, 'I sure wasn't missing much.' It was an ironically appropriate ending to the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill, which disappears from the PGA Tour schedule after a 22-year run.
One would think there would be many more opportunities for Howell to toast victories. The young man has now accomplished what most pundits predicted as inevitable. Charles had done everything else. He earned his tour card last year playing with just sponsors' exemptions. He turned those opportunities into a million-dollar season that earned him Rookie of the Year honors.
Now, with this win, Howell has earned $1,928,647 and launched himself into the top 20 on this year's money list. He appears headed to the elite Tour Championship at season's end. His two-year total of $3,449,279 is the most money ever earned by a player in his first two tour campaigns (even more than Tiger). Charles also seems sure to pass Tiger in the record books with the most lucrative second year on tour (he trails Woods' record by $138,186).
Woods is mentioned as comparison for a reason. Ever since Howell was spotted crushing the ball as a skinny kid in Augusta, Ga., he has been touted as 'the next Tiger challenger.' Charles doesn't shy from the thought. 'If I were able to challenge Tiger, obviously in the years to come and all that,' he said, 'I can't imagine something more fun to do and more exciting every single week.'
Even though he weighs all of 152 pounds, Howell won at Kingsmill in very Tiger-like fashion. He overpowered the course. The par-71 track has three par-5s. For the week, Charles played those 12 holes at 11-under-par. That's 11 of his 14-under winning total.
On Sunday, when he started the day three strokes out of the lead, Howell went birdie, eagle, birdie on the three 5s. On the 516-yard seventh hole, Charles hit driver, 9-iron on his way to eagle. That's right - a 9-iron for his second shot to a par-5 sound like anyone else you know?
Howell's birdie on the par-5 15th gave him the lead for good. Oh, by the way, Charles hit a 3-wood off that tee and then hit a 250-yard 3-iron over the green. A most Tiger-like performance.
The skinny kid with a heavyweight's power is second on tour in the total-driving statistic to just one man - Woods.
The most intriguing match-up between Woods and Howell will most likely come in Augusta - at the major championship that Tiger dominates - in the town where Charles grew up.
Howell may have a secret weapon with him next April at the Masters. Just two months ago, he hooked up with a new caddie, Brendan McCartain. Brendan has been caddying here and in Europe for nine years. Three years ago, he was on the bag of Jose Maria Olazabal when the Spaniard won his second Masters.
Asked if he was eager to team with Howell at the next Masters, a wide smile of anticipation spread across his face and McCartain said, 'That could be fun.'
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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.