Reed, Woods throw up red flags Sunday at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 10, 2014, 12:55 am

Doral, Fla. – For the second consecutive year the guy in the red shirt won the PGA Tour’s south Florida siesta otherwise known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship, just not the guy the majority of the golf public thought it would be.

It’s far too early to declare Patrick Reed the other guy just yet, that kind of high cotton only arrives after a six-pack of majors and a dozen Tour tilts, but there is no denying that the 23-year-old has gone a long way to back up all that brashness.

On Sunday, under the most glaring spotlight of his young career, Reed held off the deepest field of the year for a one-stroke victory and his first World Golf Championship.

If comparisons to Tiger Woods seem a tad too farfetched when it comes to Reed, consider that he has now won three Tour events in his last 14 starts and climbed from 370th in the world at this point last year to inside the top 20 with his victory at the new Doral thanks to a stellar short game and an inner belief that belies his resume.

“My whole team behind me they know how good I am and they believe I'm a top‑5 player in the world. And I believe it, as well,” said Reed, who closed with a 72 to edge Bubba Watson (68) and Jamie Donaldson (70) by a shot.

Misplaced confidence is part of professional golf, consider it a job requirement or an occupational hazard, depending on one’s point of view. Either way, doubt is the easiest way to squander potential and if Reed rubs some the wrong way with his self-belief consider the fact that he’s come by it honestly.

Josh Gregory saw it the first time he met Reed, who was leaving the University of Georgia after one year and was looking to transfer to Augusta (Ga.) State.

“My job is to convince players they are twice as good as they are,” said Gregory, who was the golf coach at Augusta State at the time. “(Reed) didn’t need to be told how good he is.”

That confidence will likely only grow following Reed’s victory at Doral, where he began the final round two shots clear of the field and birdied three of his first four holes.

Although things wouldn’t go entirely to script with a bogey at the 14th hole to drop him to 3 under, a miscue at the last by Donaldson would give Reed a cushion to play the potentially devastating last hole in an uncharacteristically conservative manner.

Reed hit 7-iron short of the 18th fairway, punched up to 76 yards with his second and two-putted for victory and has now turned all three of his 54-hole leads into Tour titles.

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“I asked, ‘What’s Donaldson at?’ and heard he’d missed a 15‑footer (at No. 18) so he made bogey,” Reed said. “I was playing for that right rough and laid up with 7‑iron, hit a little wedge to the middle of the green and easy two‑putt.”

But if Reed’s results have finally caught up with his confidence, Woods enters his final run up to the Masters with a balky back and a game that ebbs and flows depending on his medical status.

Through his first three holes on Sunday, Woods hit a water hazard and two fans. It’s not often the world No. 1 signs more gloves during the round than he normally does after the round but such is life for Woods in 2014, a calendar which features just 10 rounds on the Tour and only a single completed card on a Sunday.

Woods opened his day with a drive that sailed right of the first fairway and clunked a fan on the head, followed by another at the third that caromed back into the fairway.

“Everybody OK?” Woods asked the fans along the third fairway.

He was not.

Before hitting his 5-iron approach shot into the third, Woods tried to loosen his back with a few simple twists. It didn’t work and his approach sailed into the lake for the second time in three days.

By the turn he was eight strokes back and moving gingerly, again. Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic after just 13 holes a week ago and he spent the better part of Sunday on his way to a closing 78 and a tie for 25th place stretching what was obviously a tender back.

“If I feel good I can actually make a pretty decent swing. You saw it (Saturday, when he carded a 66),” said Woods, whose last scheduled start before next month’s Masters will be the Arnold Palmer Invitational in two weeks. “I actually can make some good swings and shoot a good score, but if I’m feeling like this it’s a little tough.”

In Woods’ defense, the entire field likely felt a little tender after four trips around the nip/tucked Blue Monster. Donald Trump wanted the hardest golf course on the PGA Tour and with an assist from Mother Nature on Friday – when winds gusted to 35 mph – he, and architect Gil Hanse, succeeded.

The week’s scoring average (73.852) makes Doral the toughest course in 2014. That’s nearly 2 ½ strokes harder than the course average last year (71.35), when 19 under was the winning total compared to Reed’s 4 under finish.

“I think it needs to mature a little bit, tweak it here and there,” said Watson, who has a victory and two runner-up finishes in 2014. “I never looked at the green on No. 9 because for me being a lefty, all it takes is the ball going a little bit to the right and rolls off the green into the water. I think it's very severe.”

With the possible exception of Trump, Reed may have been the only person giving the Blue Monster a perfect score in its debut, but then what else would one expect from the winner or a player with as much confidence as the Texan?

On Saturday night, Reed raised eyebrows in certain circles when he said he considered himself a top-5 player in an NBC Sports interview. It was a telling glimpse into the mind of a player who appears precariously perched between confident and cocky.

The same could be said for Reed’s choice of a Sunday wardrobe, which dates back to his junior days. But one shouldn’t confuse confidence for careful respect.

“The best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt,” Reed said. “I was growing up watching him, I always thought, you know, it would be cool to wear black and red come down Sunday. You know, it’s worked.”

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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.