Hooks Cuts Honda to Bay Hill

By Rich LernerMarch 7, 2007, 5:00 pm
  • Arnie and Jack still compete. After The Bear tightened the screws on PGA National, The Kings responding at Bay Hill by turning the fourth and 16th from par-5s to very long fours. With 5 under now the vogue winning score, the Florida Swings suddenly become a nice U.S. Open tune up.
  • The Mark Wilson Affair again lifts golf above politics and other blood sports, where players knowingly hold and scuff and generally attempt to get away with whatever they can so long as an official hasnt blown the whistle. Golf needs no whistles. The contestants hang their conscience around their necks when competing.
  • Tiger turns TVs to golf, but proof abounds that non-Tiger tournaments are capable of delivering drama: Fujikawas fairytale in Hawaii; Hoffmans Hope; Baddeleys bold run at Phoenix; Howells gutsy overtime takedown of Mickelson at Riviera; and now the Honda battle royale.
  • Love the natural, home-made swing of Jose Coceres, and the rags-to-riches story from which it was made.
  • For believers in karma, Wilsons win was exhibit A. You do the right thing, the only thing, and then you make enough putts to cover the Florida Turnpike from Disney to Dade.
  • A peek at the money list reveals a few early eye-openers. Sean OHairs 198 in earnings after five starts, Jason Gore 206 after six, and Shigeki Maruyama 206 in a half dozen events.
  • As for the world rankings, where have you gone Justin Leonard, now 194? Hes missed five cuts, hasnt broken 70, and appears to be a shell of the player who won the British a decade ago. Justin has three young children and the guess is that at some point the focus will sharpen again on the game hes played so well.
  • The current leader in consecutive cuts made? Ernie Els, who would likely trade his 44 straight for just a single victory.
  • Charlie Howells put together a nice stat package: fifth in driving distance, 15th in GIR, and, most impressively, 25th in putting average.
  • Many of us whove bemoaned the lack of personality on TOUR must concede that The Honda playoff offered plenty: the ultimate good guy in Mark Wilson; the Latin heartthrob in Camilo; the Argentine Rocky in Coceres; and the deep-fried, Panhandle original in Boo Weekly.
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.