Putting the Roar into 16

By Rich LernerJanuary 29, 2009, 5:00 pm
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. ' Its a journalistic score. Bigger than Tigers comeback date.
 
I got my hands on the list.
 
The list contains critical bits of information about every player in the FBR Open field. For example, Brian Bateman reads novels by Clive Cussler. Dustin Johnson played for the Dutch Fork High Silver Foxes. James Nitties dad was backup bassist for AC/DC. Matt Bettencourt once had a job selling shower doors after college.
 
The list belongs to Mike Leonard. Hes the leader of The Minnesota Boys, a group of guys whove made the trek every winter for the last decade from the frigid 'Land of a Thousand Lakes' to the Arizona desert. Just to greet the brave men who walk the roughly 17 steps through the tunnel and onto the tee box at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.
 
Its 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' with free wheeling, audience participation. And the gang from up north comes fully prepared.
 
We rise out of bed early, get a few pre-game cocktails and arrive at the bleachers for a day of watching golf, drinking and cheering, said Leonard. Its fun to start a chant about a guys high school or small college and see the reaction they give us when they walk through the tunnel.
 
I couldnt believe they knew my dogs name was Brutus, past FBR champ Aaron Baddely said.
 
Walking to the tee is like seeing a police car in your rearview mirror, Joe Durant once explained. You dont know if theyre after you or not.
 
I thought it would be cool to do some research on all of the players to cheer for them as they came through the tunnel and teed off, said Leonard. We use anything from pet names to favorite hobbies. Thats how the cheat sheet or the list was born.
 
What are some of Leonard's most memorable chants?
 
'In 2005 Vijay (Singh) had recently fired his caddie,' he recounted. 'He'd teed off 10 on Friday morning and arrived at 16 around 9:30. We started singing, 'Who's you caddie?' As he walked toward the green he turned to us and said, 'Isn't it a little early?' He wasn't real happy with the chant but normally he loves the hole.'
 
In 2007 Brandt Snedeker was named Rookie of the Year. When he came through the tunnel the chant rang out, 'Rookie of the Year.' Leonard's friend, Brady Daggett, then yelled to Snedeker, 'Great plot, terrible movie!' He was refrerring to the baseball movie 'Rookie of the Year.' Said Leonard, 'Brandt got the joke and was laughing pretty hard on the tee box.'
 
Rookie Derek Fathauer can expect to hear a chant featuring the name Kelly Hemberger. Shes last Ocotobers Playboy Playmate of the Month and graduated with Derek from Martin High School in Kentucky. Theyll probably remind Jonathan Kaye that he once attached his player ID badge to the zipper of his pants. Its all on the list.
 
Leonards journey from Minnesota to the epicenter of the 16th-hole earthquake began 12 years ago.
 
My brother Dave and I were watching the tournament on TV back in Burnsville, Minn., completely unaware of the tournaments past, when Tiger made his hole-in-one, he said.
 
Two years later Dave began his freshman year at Arizona State. Hed gone with some friends to the 16th hole; at the time there were no bleachers or skyboxes.
 
He called me and told me what a cool experience it was, Mike recalled. So beginning in 2000 Ive flown in every year to attend the tournament.
 
The Thunderbirds, the civic organization which brilliantly runs the tournament, added bleachers in 2001 in an attempt to tone down the rowdiness and gain some control over the situation.
 
A lot of the original people that started the scene, the 16th-hole regulars, Mike said, they kind of thought the hole was dead and stopped going.
 
The hearty Minnesotans hung in. They were mostly friends from high school and later Gustavus Adolphus College. Theyd meet up with Mikes brother and his pals from Arizona State.
 
Besides chanting for the ASU guys like Mickelson and Mayfair and Minnesota guys like Lehman and Lumpy, said Mike, weve made it a tradition to wear maroon and gold on Friday for ASU and Vikings jerseys on Saturday because it is always Super Bowl weekend, even though the Vikes havent made a Super Bowl in our lifetime!
 
Mikes not sure how many more years theyll make the sojourn from Minnesota, but says its been the experience of a lifetime. For Mike and his buddies, that may be true. But for the players, its different.
 
Its the shortest, easiest, most intimidating hole in golf, said Baddely.
 
Rory Sabbatini should be very afraid. 'The list' reveals that he once said 'Tiger's as beatable as ever.' The Minnesota Boys are ready.
 
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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.