The European Tour Year in Review

By Sports NetworkDecember 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
European TourWith many of the top players having typically solid years, a one-time phenom broke through to win the Order of Merit.
Justin Rose burst onto the scene as a teenager at the 1998 British Open, but finally broke through in 2007. He claimed two titles and won the Order of Merit for the first time.
Two European Tour regulars broke through with their first major titles as Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington took the British Open in a playoff.
There were 18 first-time winners in 2007 topped by Pablo Martin, who won the Open de Portugal as an amateur. He became the first amateur to win on the European Tour.
One year after winning his first Order of Merit title, Padraig Harrington claimed his first major championship.
Harrington, who finished third in the 2007 Order of Merit race, won the British Open in a playoff over four-time European Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia.
The Irishman needed 15 strokes to complete the four-hole playoff, one better than Garcia. The Spaniard had held at least a share of the lead after the first three rounds, but was done in by a two-over 73 in the final round.
Harrington fired a four-under 67 to erase a six-stroke deficit and win his first major title. The victory also snapped a seven-year drought for Europeans as Paul Lawrie's win at the 1999 British had been the last major win for a European.
The Open Championship was played at Carnoustie and the last time it was played there was 1999 when Jean Van de Velde had a disastrous 18th to lose the title to Lawrie.
This year nearly saw a repeat of Van de Velde's meltdown. Harrington led by one on the 18th tee, but stumbled to a double-bogey after finding a burn off the tee.
Garcia, playing behind the Irishman, had to wait while Harrington finished and a raker tended to a greenside bunker. Garcia's second found sand, but he blasted to six feet.
The Spaniard needed that for the win, but he missed. Harrington birdied the first extra hole and Garcia made bogey giving the Irishman a commanding lead.
Harrington parred the next two, then bogeyed the 18th, but it was enough to claim major victory No. 1.
The victory at Carnoustie was Harrington's second of the season as he also claimed his national title, winning the Irish Open in a playoff over Bradley Dredge.
Harrington started and finished the season in strong fashion. He began the '07 season with a pair of top-six finishes, then closed with three top-nine finishes.
In between, he missed just one cut the entire season and that came at the U.S. Open, where he missed the weekend at Oakmont by three shots. His season was so strong he only finished outside the top 25 in three of his 15 starts.
His closing push secured his third-place finish in the Order of Merit race. He has finished in the top seven in that race in eight of the last nine years.
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR - A return to dominance
Year in and year out the HSBC World Match Play Championship has one of the strongest fields. The two players who make the final have to play four 36-hole matches.
Much like Fred Couples is the king of the Skins Game, Ernie Els is the king of the HSBC World Match Play.
Contested at Wentworth, where Els owns a home, the event may soon be named after Els. Els dominated U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, 6 & 4, to win the title for the seventh time.
Els and Cabrera both won their opening matches, 6 & 5, while Els cruised past Andres Romero by the same margin in the second round. Cabrera took out 2006 winner Paul Casey, 4 & 3, in round two.
The semifinals saw both Els and Cabrera battle in their closest matches. Els fended off Henrik Stenson, 3 & 2. Stenson had a strong year in match play events as he won the WGC - Accenture Match Play earlier in the season.
Cabrera held off Hunter Mahan, 2 & 1, to get into the finals against his fellow U.S. Open winner.
Els raced out to a 3-up lead after nine holes, but after that his lead never dipped below 2-up the rest of the way. The first turning point came at the 22nd hole when Els scrambled to a par.
Cabrera had a five foot putt to halve the hole, but could not convert and he slid 4-down. The Argentine got back within 2-down after 27, but Els turned it on down the stretch.
Els drained an 18-footer for birdie at 10, then two-putted for birdie on 12 to extend his lead back to 4-up. He two-putted for par at 13, and that was enough to give him a 5-up lead with five to go.
Els knocked his second to 10 feet and the 14th and was conceded the putt after Cabrera missed the green and could not hole his birdie chip.
SHOT OF THE YEAR - Two hops into the burn
I've played golf for about 20 years now and have caddied for about 10 years as well. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of weird stuff on a golf course.
I have witnessed a hole-in-one where my playing partner seemingly snap-hooked his ball well left of the green until the ball ricocheted off a tree before rolling across the green and into the cup.
About the only shot I've have never seen in person is an albatross, or double- eagle.
Every golfer faces pressure at some point in their career. Standing on the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead in a major championship, when going for your first major championship win, has to among the most pressure-packed moments for a professional golfer.
Padraig Harrington faced just such a moment at the British Open, leading by one on the final tee. Harrington pushed his tee ball right of the fairway towards a burn.
The Irishman's ball bounced not once, but twice, on a small bridge and then into the burn. Harrington scrambled to a double-bogey, then defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff to win the British Open.
As amazing as it was to watch that shot on television, I saw it again just days later.
I played in a golf outing a few days after the British Open and watched a ball bounce past the tee box I was standing on, then bounce four times on a bridge behind the tee.
Unfortunately for that golfer, his ball also found water beneath the bridge. But it didn't matter since the event we were playing in was a scramble.
ROOKIE OF YEAR - A new German power?
Once upon a time, Bernhard Langer was the leading golfer from Germany. That torch has been passed on, but who is the new German star on the European Tour?
In 2007, it was Martin Kaymer. He was the named the tour's Rookie of the Year.
After missing the cut in six of his first seven starts, Kaymer collected five top-10 finishes and finished in the top 20 11 times in 29 starts.
Kaymer, who did not play in any major or World Golf Championship event, closed with two top-seven finishes. In those two events, he collected over 210,000 euros en route to finishing 41st on the Order of Merit.
His main competition for the award came from Alexander Noren and Alvaro Quiros, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Noren finished 63rd on the Order of Merit, while Quiros finished 102nd after missing nearly four months with an injury.
Justin Rose - Since bursting onto the golf scene with a fourth place finish as a teenaged amateur at the 1998 British Open, things have not always gone Justin Rose's way. Rose began to fulfill his potential in 2007 as he won two events, including the season-ending Volvo Masters. That also gave him his first Order of Merit title.
Ernie Els - The South African won twice and posted eight top-five finishes while finishing second to Rose in the Order of Merit race. Made some noise at the end of the year when he skipped the Volvo Masters and a chance to win the Order of Merit.
Henrik Stenson - Despite missing the cut in three of the four majors, Stenson finished fourth on the Order of Merit. Picked up back-to-back wins, one on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour, early in the season and had six top 10s in a limited schedule. Excluding the World Golf Championship events and the four majors, Stenson played just 10 events on 2007 European Tour International schedule.
Angel Cabrera - Picked up his first major title in winning the U.S. Open and took sixth on the Order of Merit despite making just 13 starts on the European Tour.
Retief Goosen - OK, so he finished ninth in the Order of Merit race, but he had more missed cuts (four) than wins (one). After a tie for second at the Masters, didn't have another top-10 finish in a stroke-play event the rest of the year and fell out of the top 20 in the world rankings.
Marcel Siem - This former winner posted just one top-20 finish and that came in his first start of the year. Fell to 129th on the Order of Merit while missing nine cuts.
Gary Emerson - Made 31 starts but finished 220th on the Order of Merit. He was the only player with more than 30 starts to finish outside the top 175 on the Order of Merit.
Jonathan Lomas - The only player to make 20 or more starts and finish outside the top 225 on the Order of Merit. Lomas picked up four pay checks in 20 starts.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.