Tiger Makes Impact with Absence

By Rich LernerJanuary 3, 2007, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The season-ender and the season-opener --Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson skipped both. Thats not the kind of streak we were hoping to talk about this week. We were promised a New Era. Instead, were getting the same cross wind that blew through the TOUR Championship in November.

This hurts the TOUR. It hurts our network, because no one moves the ratings needle like Tiger. But lets be clear: If this is what Tiger needs to do to ensure that he keeps delivering at peak efficiency when he does play, then so be it. Tiger never, ever cheats the game when hes in it. He doesnt play for a team, has no coach, general manager or owner mandating his schedule.

Naturally, we all want him to play because hes entertaining. But Tiger doesnt play to merely entertain. He plays to win and if he feels he cant prepare in a manner which best sets him up to do that then he just wont step into the arena. Tigers formula -- to be well rested and ready when it counts the most -- is a proven winner.

The questions been raised: Does Tiger, as the No. 1 star in the sport, have a responsibility to be here? First, he has a responsibility to his family. He has a responsibility to his charitable foundation, and that means staging his own event in conjunction with Target just before Christmas. Like it or not, Tiger has a responsibility to his marketing partners. In the case of Nike, Tiger uses November to travel to China and Japan, growing the brand and the game in a way no one else can. It all translates to a need for down time just when the PGA TOUR is starting its season. What about, you might ask, his responsibility to the fans? Its just awfully hard to make the case that hes been anything but a gift to this sport and its fans over the last decade.

And yet, with so much emphasis on the majors, golf runs the risk of looking like tennis -- a hodgepodge of big money affairs that scatters players across the globe, attracting serious interest only four times a year. So, at the very least, it would be helpful if the superstars -- who campaigned for and were granted the shorter season ahead -- gave extra consideration to the season-opener and the season-ender.

On the plus side, if Tiger now plays and wins all the events most believe hell enter, he could break Byron Nelson's record (11 straight PGA TOUR wins) at the Masters. That, of course, would generate a much different kind of dialogue.

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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.