Did Johnson get assist from above?

By Rex HoggardMay 27, 2012, 11:39 pm

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.Psalm 27:14

FORT WORTH, Texas – Those were the words Zach Johnson tweeted early Sunday before setting out for the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. It turned out to be a prophetic twist to a frenzied day.

Regardless of which side of the Tim Tebow divide you find yourself on, Sunday’s final round at Colonial was riddled with the unexplainable that transcended the simple rub of the green, an eventful 18 holes that featured three lead changes, four two-stroke, or more, turns and one of the most bizarre PGA Tour finishes in recent memory.

And at the center of that storm was Johnson – patient and, if one believes in such things, protected.

Johnson and Jason Dufner, the hottest player on the PGA Tour vying for his third title in his last four starts, traded blows, as many predicted, until the haymaker arrived in the form of a pitching wedge that sailed, inexplicably, 148 yards and into the water hazard behind the 15th green.

This is where things get mysterious. No, not Dufner’s triple-bogey-7 on the par 4, that was simply shocking considering his near-flawless play of late. It was Johnson’s wedge shot on the same hole that somehow didn’t meet the same watery fate as Dufner’s that makes for an interesting conversation about fate.

“We hit the approach shot on (No.) 15 and he said, ‘I think Daddy blew into that one so I didn’t go in the water,’” said Johnson’s caddie Damon Green, whose father, Rev. Douglas Brooks Green, died last Thursday.

“We should have gone in the water with Dufner. We were going 30 feet right of the pin and we pulled it and when you do that it goes a lot further and somehow it stopped short of the water.”

Johnson and Green wore green ribbons on their hats this week to honor Rev. Brooks Green, who had been battling stomach cancer. Considering how things played out it’s hard to imagine that Green’s father wasn’t paying attention.

Dufner’s miscue resulted in a four-stroke swing, and Johnson needed almost all of it to claim his second plaid jacket in three years and his eighth Tour title.

Cruising along at 14 under, three strokes clear of Dufner, Johnson made a mess of the closing hole, hitting out of turn from the tee and forgetting to replace his mark on the green after he’d moved it from Dufner’s line.

Thinking he secured a three-stroke victory, it wasn’t until Green hugged him and quietly asked, “Did you move your mark back?” that Johnson realized what he’d done. The two-stroke penalty dropped him to 12 under, a shot ahead of Dufner after a closing 72.

“How lucky I am,” Johnson shrugged, sounding a little like Roberto De Vicenzo, who famously said, “What a stupid I am,” after losing the 1968 Masters because of an incorrect scorecard.

Lucky? Sure, but one of the PGA Tour’s most devout Christians did not dismiss the unexplainable. Nor did he dismiss the pitched match that he Dufner put on Sunday at Hogan’s Alley.

Beginning the day a stroke adrift, Johnson pulled ahead in a birdie-bogey volley at the second hole. Two holes later Dufner squared the match with a 10-footer, and on it went.

The lead changed again at the fifth when Dufner rolled in a lengthy birdie putt and last week’s Byron Nelson Championship winner pulled two clear when Johnson hooked his tee shot at the eighth and made bogey.

The golf world will remember Dufner’s sloppy triple at the 15th, to say nothing of Johnson’s faux pas at the 18th, but it was a rinsed wedge shot at the ninth that likely cost Dufner his third Tour tilt and a chance to become the first player to score the DFW Slam in the same season since Ben Hogan did it in 1946.

“To be honest Zach played better than I did today,” said Dufner, who closed with a 74 to finish alone in second place. “He deserves the jacket but that is definitely one of the weirdest finishes on the PGA Tour anyone has ever seen.”

They call Nos. 3-5 at Colonial the Horrible Horseshoe, but it was Dufner’s play on Nos. 9, 11 and 15 that seemed more nightmare-ish.

He played that trifecta in 6 over with a swing that was slightly off and a putter that went cold at the worst possible moments, which seems apropos for a man whose idol is Hogan.

Dufner has two weeks to think about what could have been before his next start, the U.S. Open where he will be one of the more surprising favorites.

Chances are Johnson will do a good amount of reflecting in the next few days as well, but not about what’s to come. Johnson’s thoughts will fixate on what could have happened.

When asked about his 4-footer at the 18th hole, a putt he thought was for par and a breezy victory but turned out to be for a clinching double bogey, Johnson dropped his head: “I guess it went in. If I would have missed it . . . I don’t know . . .”

Green, however, was a little more sure of what guided the two through a turbulent and testing final loop.

“We’ve been thinking about my dad all day,” Green said. “I told Zach on (No.) 11, ‘Daddy will take care of us the rest of the way in.''

Word is the Rev. Brooks Green had a sneaky good sense of humor; Johnson just had to be patient.

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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.