A Reason to Play Hooky

By Rex HoggardMarch 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. ' There is a refined elegance to these types of gatherings, no matter the contrived nature or competitive void, like a turn-of-the-century ballpark, however many of those remain, or a comfortable porch.
 
The Tavistock Cup will never be confused for team tilts of deeper meaning and even deeper roots ' Tiger Woods light-hearted offering of a pair of autographed tighty whiteies on the opening tee to Henrik Stenson all but cemented the events place among the games more buoyant gatherings ' but there is an ageless quality to golfs most high-profile club match.
 
The dichotomy between old and new is palpable. The driveway into Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, the cups posh south Orlando digs, is lined with pricey, high-powered ski boats and sports cars. Corporate tents frame the 18th fairway. Motorcycles and boats and all manner of adult toys are on the table for participants, as well as $300K for the stroke play winner. Not a bad take for two days of work.
 
And yet on the course, away from the trappings, there is a gentle aura that comes when fans ' those of the core variety, not the You da man, masses ' gather to watch a game.
 
As Woods drifted passed moss-draped oaks lining the 10th fairway early Monday, the crowds carelessly wandered with him. It was a scene void of the normal sprinting and maneuvering required when the world No. 1 plays the game in public, a civilized and to scale version of the Masters with crowds easing down the middle of fairways, moving to within feet of modern legends and gleaning a rare glimpse into the mind of a touring professional.
 
Its a snapshot from a bygone era. A scene pulled straight from grainy black-and-white photos and historic matches contested by golfs greatest ghosts. The only thing that has changed is the names on the tote boards and the galleries attire ' per Tavistock requests fans must wear either red, representing Isleworth, who else?, or blue, supporting the Lake Nona home team.
 
This must be what it was like for Vardon and Hagen and Sarazen. Back before we had drug testing and launch monitors and fitness trailers, appearances fees were not only acceptable but the only way to pay the bills. They played majors for glory and exhibitions for money and pure entertainment value and the masses gathered not because a marketing machine told them to, but for the experience.
 
In modern terms, the Tavistock Cup is little more than a curiosity for the fringe fan. Without official money or FedEx Cup point implications, wouldnt this be called a practice round? But for the lucky few who donned red and blue the matches are a scene straight out of the cinema classic The greatest game ever played, intimate and unhurried and as good as any reason to play hooky from work.
 
The helicopter service from Isleworth to Lake Nona, a span of less than 15 miles, may seem a bit much and the sprawling hospitality curiously out of place, but the competition is pure and the seats as unobstructed as they come.
 
Besides, part of the events contrived nature is part of the reason it works. Where else could one see Stenson, a European Ryder Cup thoroughbred, teamed with Chris DiMarco, an American cup workhorse? This made-for-the-masses one-off pairs Mark McNulty and Mark OMeara, now Champions Tour staples, with Darren Clarke and Ben Curtis, players still in the prime of their careers.
 
Best of all you get laughs. Laughs from Tour players more often than not blinded by competitive blinders and the moment. Where else would you here one player gush over the opportunity to play with Woods because of the laughs they were going to have?
 
Any time you get to play with Tiger is great. You get to watch him hit shots and in this format you can have a lot of laughs to, said Ian Poulter, Woods singles opponent on Tuesday, with a straight face.
 
Seriousness will envelop the game soon enough. The intensity of Augusta National will soon give way to the pressure of Bethpage Black and the U.S. Open. Soon enough the masses will be moved back behind the gallery ropes and the smiles will fade.
 
So for two days in March we turn the calendars back to before Tiger made the game the coolest ticket in town, and just enjoy the walk.
 

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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.