Harrington survives PGA National's water torture

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2015, 7:13 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thrills and spills defined Monday’s wild finish to the Honda Classic.

The final thrill was Padraig Harrington’s, the final spill Daniel Berger’s.

In a punishing conclusion at PGA National, where every contender seemed to need a life preserver in a sink-or-swim final round that extended over two grueling days, Harrington emerged the winner, beating Berger with a par at the second hole of their sudden-death playoff.

Harrington, 43, survived a five-day marathon of weather-delayed golf to claim his first PGA Tour title since the PGA Championship in 2008. He did so after Berger’s tee shot at the 17th hole in the Bear Trap sailed right, splashing down in the moat guarding that hole. Harrington won with a two-putt after stiffing a 5-iron to 3 feet, becoming the first player to win a PGA Tour event on a sponsor exemption since Lee Westwood won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2010.


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There was something cruelly apropos about this all ending with one last splashdown, because all that water around the Champion Course was such a large factor in the finish.

Ian Poulter took a share of the lead into the final round and then hit five balls in the water, still somehow managing to finish tied for third, a shot out of the playoff.

“It makes you feel pretty sick,” Poulter said. “I’ve handed one away, and it hurts.”

Patrick Reed held a share of the lead going to the 15th tee before – kerplunk – pushing his tee shot in the water there.

“It was a rough day,” Reed said.

Even Harrington was a bit waterlogged entering the playoff. He looked like he had this event won in regulation, taking a one-shot lead to the 71st hole before slicing his tee shot in the water. He needed to hole a clutch 15-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to go to extra holes with Berger, who closed hard and early with a 64.

“It’s hard to be the leader on this golf course,” Harrington said. “Just like it’s hard to be the leader in a major.”

How difficult did all the trouble make the Sunday/Monday finish? Harrington made two double bogeys in the final round and still won. He was five shots down with eight holes to play. Berger was nine shots back beginning the final round.

Harrington resumed the suspended final round at the eighth tee. In the end, he hit the shots he needed to win.

“I never have trouble hitting a big shot at a big time,” Harrington said.

Harrington needed a big shot to regain some relevancy in the game. Once ranked No. 3 in the world, he entered this week No. 297. He wasn’t eligible for last year’s Masters, and wasn’t this year, not until this victory. His exempt PGA Tour status also ran out this year. He has been playing the Tour on sponsor invites and as a past champion.

“There are no doubt low points in those years, because you know, in 2008, 2009, I'm very much in the penthouse,” Harrington said. “I wasn't quite down to the doghouse, but not far away from it.”

This was Harrington’s 30th worldwide title, his sixth PGA Tour victory, his second Honda Classic title, coming 10 years after his first.

Berger, a 21-year-old rookie from nearby Jupiter, finished the final round brilliantly, closing with back-to-back birdies to shoot 64. He missed a 13-foot birdie chance to win on the first playoff hole at No. 18.

“If you told me I was going to finish solo second when the week started, I'd probably take it,” Berger said. “Right now, not as happy as I wish I was. But it's just a good learning experience.”

Berger, the son of former tennis pro Jay Berger, a three-time ATP winner, saw a chance to play in his first Masters sink to the bottom of the lake along with his ball at No. 17 in the playoff. It was a disheartening finish for locals rooting for Berger, who grew up driving the range picker while working at Dye Preserve.

“I think this week shows, with the depth of the field and how many great players there are, that I can compete with the best in the world,” Berger said. “I know this won't be the last chance that I have to win, so just look at it like that.”

While Harrington relishes regaining exempt status and returning to the Masters, he isn’t allowing himself to dwell on that quite yet.

“A lot of things are being said about what this means going forward,” Harrington said. “The one thing you learn is you don't win as often as you think. I'm just enjoying winning the Honda 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.