Donald Wins Target World Challenge

By Sports NetworkDecember 11, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Target World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Luke Donald fired an 8-under 64 on Sunday and overcame a six-shot deficit to win the Target World Challenge. He finished at 16-under-par 272 and won by two strokes over Darren Clarke at Sherwood Country Club.
 
'It's nice to do it that way,' said Donald, referring to his comeback. 'Fortunately for me, the guys in the first two groups didn't play their best and let me have this one a little bit.'
 
Luke Donald
Luke Donald overcame a six-stroke deficit to win the Target World Challenge.
Clarke collected five eagles through the first three rounds, but played the par-5s horribly on Sunday, especially on the back nine. He walked off with pars at 11 and 13, then bogeyed the 16th to fall out of a tie for the lead. Clarke finished with an even-par 72 for a four-round total of 14-under-par 274.
 
Reigning U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell faced an 8-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to take third place by himself. He missed it, and it cost him $75,000 as Campbell tied for third with 2002 winner Padraig Harrington. The Irishman double-bogeyed the last to post a 73 and join Campbell at minus-12.
 
Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods never got on track this week. On Sunday, he struggled to a 1-over 73 and tied for 14th place in a 16-man field at minus-2.
 
Donald was 3-under par on his round through the first nine holes, and after back-to-back birdies from the 10th, found himself in the hunt. Clarke and Harrington were still the top-two, but Donald snuck to within three shots.
 
At the 13th, Donald, ranked 13th in the world, drained a 6-foot birdie putt to reach 14-under par and trail by two. Donald split the fairway at 14 and knocked his approach to 10 feet. He converted that birdie putt and inched one shot from the lead as Clarke parred every hole from the fifth.
 
Clarke almost fell from the top spot when his tee ball at the par-3 12th landed in the left bunker. His blast ran 35 feet past the stick, but the European Ryder Cupper rolled in the par save to stay in first.
 
He received company atop the leaderboard when Donald got to the par-5 16th. His second skidded through the green, but the man who celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday chipped to 10 feet and sank the birdie putt.
 
Clarke still had five holes to play with a chance to make birdie and go one ahead. He made routine pars at the 14th and 15th holes, and had a great look at the par-5 16th green with his second shot. Unfortunately, Clarke pulled his approach badly to the left and could not even reach the green with his third shot.
 
Clarke pitched 7 feet past the hole, but missed the par save to drop one behind Donald, who was on the range preparing for a possible playoff.
 
At the par-3 17th, Clarke's tee ball rolled 15 feet past the cup. He faced a delicate downhill, left-to-right birdie putt, but never gave it a chance. The ball came up almost 4 feet short and Clarke muttered aloud why he would leave it that short. He made the par-saver and still had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie at the last.
 
If Clarke was to birdie the closing hole at Sherwood, he would have been the first on Sunday. He got the first part down with a strong drive in the fairway, but pulled his approach 40 feet left of the pin. Clarke once again came up short with a birdie try, this time almost 15 feet, giving Donald the title. Clarke missed the par putt to lose by two, but Donald deserved the credit for his 64.
 
'This is the kind of course you can make a string of birdies,' admitted Donald, who posted two runner-up finishes this year on the PGA Tour. 'I played really solidly. I missed a few putts on the front side, so it could have been better.'
 
Donald collected his second win in the United States as he captured the 2002 Southern Farm Bureau Classic. He owns two European Tour victories and a title at the 2004 World Cup with Paul Casey.
 
This is not an official win on the PGA Tour for Donald, but the $1,300,000 first-place check is very official. A win like this can bring confidence to a player who should have more victories.
 
'This year has been a year of 'nearlys' up until now,' acknowledged Donald. 'Luckily I managed to win the last tournament of the year. I have always believed in myself.'
 
Kenny Perry shot a 72 and finished alone in fifth at minus-11. Tim Clark (69) and David Toms (66) shared sixth place at 9-under-par 279. Thomas Bjorn carded a 3-under 69 for eighth place at minus-8.
 
Fred Couples (73) and Jim Furyk (68) shared ninth at 6-under-par 282. Chris DiMarco (73) and David Howell (70) tied for 11th place at 5-under-par 283.
 
Fred Funk shot a 70 and came in 13th at minus-4. Woods shared 14th with Colin Montgomerie, who posted a 71 on Sunday. Davis Love III, a two-time winner of this event, only managed a 2-over 74 in the final round and came in 16th at plus-2.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.