Bjorn in Familiar Territory at Dubai

By Sports NetworkMarch 7, 2002, 5:00 pm
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn posted a 5-under-par 67 Thursday to match Sweden's Robert Karlsson atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The duo owns a one-shot edge over Ernie Els, the winner of the last week's Genuity Championship on the PGA Tour, Charlie Wi, Olle Karlsson, Ryder Cupper Niclas Fasth and his captain at the Belfry, Sam Torrance, who made his 2002 season debut after knee surgery.
The co-leaders are also making returns to the tour in some respects. For Bjorn, this is his first competitive action of the year after a shoulder injury caused him to miss several months.
'I didnt have any expectations,' said Bjorn, who bested Tiger Woods by two shots last year. 'I knew I was swinging the club well but I would have taken anything under par for my first competitive round of the year. I knew if I went out and hit the shots Ive been hitting on the range then I could shoot 64 but it could also have all gone up in the air.'
Karlsson's absence was for a more joyous occasion. Prior to Christmas, he welcomed his first daughter, Thea, into the world and he took time off to be a father after three tournaments early in the 2002 campaign.
'Thea, my baby daughter, was born on the 19th of December and I was getting used to being a father when I went to Australia,' said Karlsson, a four-time winner on the European Tour. 'Perhaps I should have practiced instead of playing. However Ive got over the shock of being a dad and Ive practiced hard during my break.'
Bjorn opened with three birdies in his first six holes at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club before adding another birdie at No. 11. The Dane matched Karlsson for the lead with a birdie at the 17th hole to reach minus-five.
Karlsson took a different approach to his 67, mixing five birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. His birdie at the ninth, his final hole of Thursday's opening round, gave him the clubhouse lead over his playing partner, Els.
Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, collected five birdies and a bogey while showing no hangover from his win on the PGA Tour last weekend.
'I felt good today,' said Els, who won the Heineken Classic in early February. 'The celebrations and all that stuff was done and dusted. I like the course and Im ready to play.'
Torrance, the European Ryder Cup captain, came out on fire with four birdies in a row, starting at the second hole. He picked up two birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way for his 68.
'It was just down to wear and tear,' said Torrance of his knee injury. 'I hadnt had any problems before and it seems fine now. Today was all a bit of a shock, to be honest, but a nice way to start the year.'
Pierre Fulke, also a member of the European Ryder Cup team, posted a 3-under 69 and shares eighth with Mark Mouland, Paul Broadhurst, Gregory Havret, Sven Struver and John Bickerton.
Padraig Harrington shot a 2-under 70 while Colin Montgomerie carded a 1-under 71 Thursday and is part of a logjam tied for 28th.
Darren Clarke, Justin Rose and Nick Faldo are part of a group at even-par 72, five shots out of the lead.
Full field scores from the Dubai Desert Classic
Getty Images

Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x