Goosen Garcia No Match for Karlsson

By Sports NetworkJuly 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Deutsche Bank Players ChampionshipALVESLOHE, Germany -- Robert Karlsson closed with a 5-under 67 Sunday to win the Players Championship of Europe by four strokes. Despite a double bogey at the 72nd hole, Karlsson still set a new tournament scoring record.
Karlsson's total of 25-under-par 263 bettered the old mark which Colin Montgomerie set in 1989. Monty posted 264 that year to win the crown. Karlsson had also set a new 54-hole record with his 196 total.
'It is never easy, but my focus this week was fantastic. I was really, really happy with how I felt on the course,' admitted Karlsson. 'I just took it one shot at a time and that led to a good week.'
The 36-year-old Karlsson won for the second time this season and for the seventh time in his European Tour career. That makes him the winningest Swede in tour history and likely earns him a spot on the European Ryder Cup squad.
'I haven't really thought about the Ryder Cup so far, obviously I'm still trying to understand what this win was all about,' Karlsson said. 'But I know I definitely playing pretty good at the moment.'
Charl Schwartzel closed with a 5-under 67 Sunday. That moved him into a share of second place at 21-under-par 267, where he was joined by Lee Westwood (69). Schwartzel shared second place for the third time this year.
World No. 5 Retief Goosen also shot 67 in the final round. He was joined in fourth place at minus-20 by Graeme McDowell (65), Andres Romero (66) and Emanuele Canonica (67).
Karlsson drained a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 3 to get on the board Sunday. That was his fourth birdie on that hole this week. He then birdied the par-5 sixth for the fourth round in a row as he two-putted for birdie from the fringe.
The Swede came right back with a long birdie putt on the seventh at Gut Kaden Golf Club to move to minus-23. Karlsson parred his next three holes, but his lead dropped to two shots as Romero made a run at the lead.
Karlsson responded by sticking his approach inside 2 feet at the 11th and kicking that in for birdie. Two holes later, Karlsson drained a 15-footer for birdie to extend his lead back to five.
He got up and down for birdie on 15, then birdied 17 from 5 feet out to move six clear of the field at 27 under.
Karlsson, who won the Wales Open earlier this year, lost his drive off the tee at the last. He played his fourth to 13 feet, then two-putted for double bogey and the final margin of four shots. Karlsson had gone 49 straight holes since his last bogey on the fourth hole during his second round.
'The was definitely the best I've done mentally over four rounds,' said Karlsson. 'I just kept doing my own thing, playing my game and it was enough.'
For the week, Karlsson has played Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 17 at 16 under par with 14 birdies, an eagle and a par.
Schwartzel posted three birdies on the front nine to get to 19 under, but he faltered to a bogey on the par-4 ninth. Around the turn, the South African posted three more birdies to end at 21 under.
Westwood was even-par for his round through six holes with two birdies and a double bogey. He birdied the ninth and 10th, but gave those strokes back with bogeys at 12 and 14. Westwood birdied three of the last four holes to tie Schwartzel in second place.
Gary Orr took eighth at 19-under-par 269 after closing with a 68. Sergio Garcia was one stroke further back at minus-18 after a 68 of his own in the final round. Garcia was joined there by Soren Hansen, who shot 67 on Sunday.
Niclas Fasth, the 2005 champion, shot 68 Sunday to end in a tie for 11th at 16-under-par 272. He ended alongside Christian Nilsson (66) and European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam (72).
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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.