Woods fights way back into contention

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 14, 2013, 9:54 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Those expecting the undercard to Mayweather-Canelo were disappointed Saturday.

There were no more flare-ups in the oft-contentious Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia saga. No barbs. No bickering.

There was no time for acrimony. Not when Woods was too busy trying to claw his way back into contention at the BMW Championship.

That task was already proving more difficult than anticipated, especially after being slapped with a controversial two-shot penalty late Friday, which sent him from five to seven shots behind heading into the weekend at Conway Farms.

Not even several TV replays, or a “very good discussion” with rules official Slugger White, or a long night to think about what happened could convince Woods otherwise. Over and over again he watched the replay, and he still didn’t change his mind. He thought the ball behind the first green oscillated, but did not change position. He thought the penalty was unwarranted.

So often in these situations the ruling goes in the player’s favor. Not this time.

“Today was going to be hard,” Woods said. “When situations like that happen, I had to fight, and I fought my tail off today.”

And he did so with a familiar opponent – OK, foe – in the same pairing.

The Tiger-Sergio rivalry has been decidedly lopsided over the years. In their previous 20 meetings, Woods was 13-3-4 against Garcia, head-to-head, with Tiger holding the advantage in the last five meetings. More than that, though, Woods was more than two shots better than Garcia in those meetings (69.9 to 71.95), and the Spaniard hadn’t broken 72 in his last five rounds with Tiger.

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This was the 21st time that Woods and Garcia have been paired together in a tournament, but Saturday’s encounter was notable after their most recent exchange in mid-May.

By now you know the story: Garcia accused Woods of distracting him during a shot. Called him out on national TV. Tiger returned the favor in an interview. Sergio couldn’t keep quiet. Their mutual dislike was always apparent, but it had never aired publicly, at least not like this. A week later, Garcia made a racially insensitive remark at an awards dinner. Apologized profusely, to Woods and anyone he offended. Left a note in Woods’ locker. Chapter closed.

So, yes, this meeting was more curiosity than animosity.

With both players seven shots back to start the third round of the BMW, the intensity wasn’t as high as their showdown at TPC Sawgrass. Nevertheless, they barely acknowledged each other’s presence during their four-hour spin. Sure, they wished each other well on the first tee and identified their golf balls. But that was it.

And like he’s done so many times before, Woods took the upper hand early.

He made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 6-8, but then the round began to drag.

On the ninth, Woods waited in the fairway for several minutes as Garcia sized up his approach from the right native area. A hole later, Woods had a kick-in birdie while Garcia’s approach shot found the right hazard. As Garcia examined his options, Woods retreated to the back of the green, to the shade, out of view, where he leaned against one of the TV towers, closed his eyes, crossed his arms, and waited eight minutes.

The delay seemed to annoy Woods, but it didn’t affect his play. On the next hole, the par-3 12th, he stuffed his tee shot to 6 feet, and then he nearly holed his approach on the 13th for another birdie, his fifth in six holes.

Woods’ round stalled midway through the back nine, however, when he missed a 6-footer for birdie on 14, and then botched the drivable 15th, where he was in between 3- and 5-wood, went with more club, tried to hit a soft cut, and instead hit a “pull straight ball” that splashed in the pond.

“God!” he grunted, and then spun around to take an angry swipe at the turf. After a reload, his third shot rolled through the back of the green, and he couldn’t hole his chip shot for a deflating bogey.

Woods managed to get up and down from the greenside bunker on 18 to shoot 66 – three shots better than Garcia’s 69 – and now he sits four shots off Jim Furyk’s lead heading into the final round.

“I fought back today,” he said, “which was not easy to do. Today was a tough round, but I got myself back within striking distance.”

With that two-shot penalty looming larger than ever.

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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.