Big Week Starts Well for Curts

By Sports NetworkAugust 21, 2003, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- British Open champion Ben Curtis and Sergio Garcia each posted rounds of 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.
 
Tiger Woods, who recorded his worst finish in a major championship last week when he tied for 39th at the PGA Championship, posted a 5-under 65 and is tied for third place with 2000 Match Play champion Darren Clarke.
 
'Overall I just kind of plotted my way around and made a couple birdies here and there,' said Woods, who won the last three times this event was held at Firestone. 'There was nothing spectacular about the day. I just kept myself out of trouble most of the day.'
 
For Curtis, who shocked the golf world with his British Open triumph a month ago at Royal St. George's, this week is about much more than golf. Until his 500-1 long shot win at the British Open, Curtis had scheduled this week off and he and fiance Candace Beatty scheduled Saturday for their wedding.
 
The wedding is still on for Saturday in the suburb of Stow, which is 30 minutes from Firestone, but if Curtis continues to occupy the top spot on the leaderboard, the nuptials may have to be moved back to accommodate his late tee time.
 
'I'm more nervous about the tee time for Saturday now,' said Curtis. 'Hopefully I'm playing late, but at the same time I'd like to be on time and be able to get everything going on schedule.'
 
Curtis broke into red figures quickly with an uphill 15-footer for birdie at No. 1. At the par-3 fifth, Curtis knocked a 5-iron to 25 feet and sank the putt for birdie, then closed his front nine with a three-foot birdie at the eighth.
 
Curtis flew out of the gate on the second nine Thursday with a four-foot birdie at 10 and a long birdie putt at 11 after he drove into the rough.
 
At the closing hole, Curtis played a 9-iron to a foot and tapped in for birdie in front of Candace and several members of the wedding party.
 
'I saw her on the 18th hole and she was smiling and cheering away,' said Curtis.' I think she's going to say, well, the rehearsal dinner might be pushed back a little bit, but I think she'll be happy no matter what.'
 
Garcia did most of his damage on the front nine Thursday. He missed the green with a 3-iron at the par-5 second but chipped in from 15 feet for eagle.
 
Around the turn, Garcia drained a 12-footer to kick off a run on birdies. He wedged his approaches to two feet at both eight and nine and at the 10th, Garcia hit a pitching-wedge less than a foot from the hole to polish off the birdie run.
 
'You know, those were nice,' said Garcia.
 
Garcia stumbled at No. 12 when he missed the green with his tee ball but joined Curtis in the lead at the last when he ran home a 16-footer for birdie.
 
Garcia will join Curtis in Friday's final pairing as the NEC Invitational has no cut and the players are re-paired for every round. Garcia, although not invited to Curtis' wedding, has some questions for the future groom.
 
'If he's doing well, Saturday night is going to be a big night,' said Garcia, who switched caddies with Retief Goosen for the week. 'Because a wedding, what do you do? Do you get drunk or you don't? A lot of decisions are going to be made that night.'
 
Woods, who failed to win a major this season for the first time since 1998, birdied the par-5 second and added another at the sixth when he sank a 15-footer.
 
Woods made an eight-footer for birdie at the 10th then birdied three holes in a row, starting at the 14th. He fell out of a tie for first when he missed the putting surface at 17 and could not convert a four-foot par save.
 
'There's no surprises about this golf course,' said Woods. 'That's one of the great things about coming here, is we don't get the chance to play golf courses of this type very often. Every hole is just well defined for you, just get up there and hit the shot.'
 
Davis Love III, Scott Verplank, 2001 PGA champion David Toms and Chris Riley share fifth place at 4-under-par 66. Goosen, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Jeff Sluman and Niclas Fasth are tied for ninth place at minus-3.
 
Phil Mickelson is part of a group in 14th at 2-under-par 68 while defending champion Craig Parry is a stroke behind Mickelson at minus-1.
 
Shaun Micheel, the surprising PGA winner last week, opened with a 1-over 71.

Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational
  • Full Coverage - WGC-NEC Invitational
     
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry