Els Ousts Singh Bjorn Gets Revenge

By Sports NetworkOctober 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Top-seeded Ernie Els was relentless in the afternoon on Saturday and coasted to a 5-and-4 victory over Vijay Singh to advance to the final match of the HSBC World Match Play Championship.
 
Els will face Thomas Bjorn, his neighbor in the area, in the final on Sunday after the Dane disposed of British Open champion Ben Curtis, 2-up.
 
'It's great to play in the final again,' said Els. 'I think it's my sixth final now, and I'm looking forward to it.'
 
Els, who will try to join Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros as the only five-time winners of this event, looked to be in trouble during the morning session at Wentworth and found himself 4-down after a bogey at the 13th.
 
Singh bogeyed the very next hole but Els relinquished that win with a bogey of his own at the 15th.
 
'Vijay was totally dominating me this morning,' said Els. 'I was really, really not playing good. I wasn't feeling comfortable this morning.'
 
Despite the struggles, Els shifted the momentum in the match with a win at the par-4 16th after his approach from a bunker stopped within two feet of the cup for a birdie.
 
Els then won the 17th and the 18th with birdies to go 1-down after the first 18.
 
Singh squared the match with a bogey at the first hole in the afternoon and Els took his first lead of the day with a birdie at the second. Singh then lost the third with a bogey and Els took a 3-up lead with a birdie at the fourth.
 
The 40-year-old fell 4-down with a bogey at the fifth and 5-down with a bogey at the seventh.
 
'Vijay gave me a nice, gentle start to the second round,' said Els, who won his eighth consecutive hole when Singh bogeyed the fifth. 'I was just trying to play and stay focused and hit the next shot. I don't know what he had for lunch, but he just didn't quite hit the ball the same.'
 
Singh responded with a win at the eighth after his second shot stopped six feet from the cup. Singh looked to continue his comeback at the par-3 10th but he missed the green off the tee.
 
While Els found the putting surface, Singh persisted and chipped in for a spectacular birdie. Moments later, Els, who had upwards of 40 feet to the hole, ran home the putt for the halve.
 
'Luckily I made that putt on 10,' said Els. 'That was a long putt and I just gave it a whack and it went in.'
 
Singh picked up another birdie at the 11th to win the hole and get to 3-down and he looked to capture another at the following hole. At the par-5 12th, Singh, with the sun in his eyes, hit his second shot within four feet of the cup.
 
Els did him one better.
 
The defending champion landed his approach inside Singh's, and both players converted their eagle putts to halve the hole.
 
'I started to come back but Ernie was also playing well and he didn't make too many mistakes,' said Singh.
 
Els increased his lead to 4-up with a birdie at the 13th and converted a six-foot putt for a par at the 14th to put the pressure on Singh.
 
Singh, who defeated Els in the final to win this event in 1997, had the same distance for a par of his own but he failed to convert, handing the match to Els.
 
The other semifinal match was much closer as Bjorn carried a 1-up lead heading to the par-5 18th.
 
Curtis, who won his first major title at the hands of Bjorn's late collapse at Royal St. George's this summer, never led on Saturday but Bjorn could not shake the American.
 
'Ben is a good player,' said Bjorn. 'He's got a great career ahead of him.'
 
Curtis hit his second shot to 12 feet at the 16th and Bjorn conceded the hole after an errant drive nestled against a fence.
 
Both players parred the 17th but Curtis could not keep up with Bjorn at the par-5 last.
 
Bjorn reached the green in two while Curtis played his second shot over the putting surface. Rather than trying to chip in and test Bjorn's putter, Curtis conceded the match allowing Bjorn to advance for a final showdown with Els on Sunday.
 
'Tomorrow will be a strange day for us in the sense that we are good friends and we see each other a lot outside the golf course,' said Bjorn. 'But I think we are going to put that aside and go out and do the best we can.'
 
Related Links:
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  • Full coverage - HSBC World Match Play Championship
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.