A Different Animal

By Rex HoggardJune 14, 2010, 3:46 pm
2010 U.S. OpenFrom Pebble Beach Golf Link’s 11th fairway, Bobby Brown is out of breath, partly the byproduct of a good walk unspoiled and the difference 4 ½ months can make in the agronomic disposition of a golf course.

“I’ve never seen a golf course change so much in (4 ½) months,” Brown gushes into his cell phone. “Unbelievable.”

Brown should know. The soulful looper spent three years working out of the Pebble Beach caddie yard, from 2002 to late ’04, and he has spent the last three seasons caddying for Dustin Johnson, winner of the last two AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Ams. What Brown was realizing and the rest of us will start to understand this week is that the old “Clambake” looks nothing like the course that will host the year’s second major.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson and caddie Bobby Brown have won the last two Pebble Beach Pro-Ams. (Getty Images)
“Our game plan is going to be totally different,” Brown concedes. “It sounds corny, but you have to stay below the hole in these conditions. At the Pro-Am you throw darts.”

Because few, if any, are as qualified as Brown to analyze Pebble Beach we had him do a hole-by-hole breakdown for this week’s championship with an occasional assist from Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s top set-up man who also ran through the Pebble Beach card recently with GolfChannel.com.

No. 1 (par 4, 380 yards): From the outset, Brown makes it clear that Johnson, who led the field in driving distance at the 2009 and ’10 Pro-Ams, will not try to overpower Pebble Beach. “He will hit driver at 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14 and 18,” Brown said. “That’s it.” Johnson won’t have to at the first, which was among the easiest holes during the 2000 Pebble Beach Open with a 4.151 scoring average.

No. 2 (par 4, 502 yards): A par 5 during the Pro-Am and for guests, but the course recently lost two Monterey Pines near the driving area and officials decided to play it, as they did in 2000, as a long par 4. During Saturday’s practice round Johnson his driver/9-iron into the small green.

No. 3 (par 4, 404 yards): The third was lengthened for this year’s championship and the added real-estate appears to have the intended impact. “We wanted to put driver back in their hands,” Davis said.

No. 4 (par 4, 331 yards): Davis’ Open legacy, along with graduated rough and varied tee boxes, is a drivable par 4 and the fourth will be Pebble’s shortie. “Pretty sure they will make it drivable at least one day,” Brown said.

No. 5 (par 3, 195 yards): Davis may also get creative here. There is a forward tee box, which shortens the hole to about 140 yards and slightly changes the angle of the shot. Expect it to be used at least once.

No. 6 (par 5, 523 yards): The easiest hole during the 2000 Open, but don’t expect the longer hitters to be overly aggressive. The fairway has been shifted over to the right, bringing the ocean more into play. “If you get any cut spin at all it’s going to run off (the cliff),” Brown said. “It’s right on the edge. I’m afraid to walk over there.” On Saturday Phil Mickelson hit 2-iron/4-iron into the hole.

No. 7 (par 3, 109 yards): The shortest hole in U.S. Open history is little more than a sand wedge for most players in calm conditions.

No. 8 (par 4, 428 yard): Davis and the USGA have shifted the fairway some 30 yards right of where it was before and the hard, fast conditions will force players to lay well back from the canon. Brown said Johnson will likely tee off with a 5-iron and have about a 6- or 7-iron for his approach shot.

No. 9 (par 4, 505 yards): Brown said the downhill hole will play much shorter with the firm conditions, but – like many of Pebble’s fairways – Davis has brought the ocean into play on the right. The ninth was the hardest hole at the 2000 Open (4.556 average).

No. 10 (par 4, 495 yards): Even with new tees that added nearly 50 yards to the hole, Brown said Johnson should have a short iron for his approach.

No. 11 (par 4, 390 yards): Brown said Johnson will tee off with a 4-iron and, if history holes, this should be a birdie hole. In 2000 the 11th played to a 4.16 average.

No. 12 (par 3, 202 yards): Brown said the 12th is normally into the wind, which will require longer players to hit 6- or 7-iron tee shots.

No. 13 (par 4, 445 yards): Davis calls this the “neatest” hole on the course and Brown said Johnson will be aggressive at the 13th, hitting driver off the tee which will leave him about an 8-iron for his approach because, “Any putt from above the hole is the fastest at Pebble Beach,” Brown said.

No. 14 (par 5, 580 yards): Expect players to challenge here, Brown said Mickelson hit driver/4-iron into the 14th on Saturday, but Davis has shaved the collection area behind the green which will make any shot long that much more demanding.

No. 15 (par 4, 387 yards):
Brown said any tee shot short of the pot bunker will leave little more than a pitching wedge approach shot for most players.

No. 16 (par 4, 403 yards): Brown said the key on this hole is to avoid the “Hale Irwin” bunker off the tee.

No. 17 (par 3, 208 yards): Tough hole will be even more demanding in dry conditions. Brown said Johnson hit his 5-iron tee shot four paces short of the green on Saturday and lipped out the ace attempt.

No. 18 (par 5, 543 yards): Davis said the USGA has narrowed the fairway, from about 45 yards wide in the landing area to about 30 yards wide. Still, Johnson plans to hit driver. On Saturday Brown said he tossed five balls into the bunker where his man got up-and-down from earlier this year to win his second Pro-Am. “He hit them all to 2 feet,” Brown said. “It was great to relive those memories.
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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.