Mickelson and Garcia win the Battle at the Bridges

By Sports NetworkJuly 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia teamed to defeat the higher-ranked duo of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, 3 and 1, Monday at the Battle at the Bridges.
'It was fun,' said Garcia. 'We made some key putts to get us going on the front nine and then we just held on to it. It was fun playing with all three.'
2003 Battle at the BridgesMickelson and Garcia, both out of the top 10 in this week's World Golf Rankings and winless in 2003, upstaged Woods and Els, ranked 1 and 2 in the world with nine wins around the globe this year.
'You have to give Sergio and Phil all credit,' said Els, who was making his first appearance in the made-for-television event. 'They played great and they kept us under pressure.'
Mickelson and Garcia were 1-up when the teams made their way to the par-5 16th at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, which Mickelson plays as his home course.
Both Mickelson and Garcia reached the green in two, under the lights and both balls stopped about 30 feet from the hole. Els knocked his second into a lake on the right side of the green, taking him out of the hole. Woods played his second into a bunker long and left of the pin.
Woods blasted out to 10 feet and Mickelson missed his eagle try. Garcia rolled home his eagle putt to the put his team 2-up with two to play.
Garcia and Mickelson both hit driver at the 17th and found the rough on the left side. Woods and Els laid up with irons and split the fairway, but neither hit approaches that put Mickelson and Garcia under pressure. Els landed 25 feet left of the cup, while Woods' ball checked up on the ridge and rolled down to 30 feet.
Garcia chunked his second short of the green from the rough. Mickelson, perhaps using some local knowledge, skipped his second 12 feet from the hole. Woods left his birdie putt short, a common theme for the top-ranked player, and Els blew his birdie putt past the hole.
Els and Woods conceded Mickelson's birdie putt to end the match.
'Sergio made a great putt there on 16,' said Woods. 'That really put us behind the eight ball.'
Mickelson and Garcia each pocketed $600,000 for the win. For Mickelson, this was his first venture into the exhibition match that brings golf to primetime. Garcia moved his record in the matches to 2-1 after beating Woods in 2000 and losing with Lee Trevino to Woods and Jack Nicklaus last year.
Woods and Els split $500,000 and now Woods is 3-2, including wins with Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam and a win over David Duval in the inaugural event in 1999.
Mickelson and Garcia broke out of the gate quickly Monday when Mickelson hit an enormous tee ball at No. 1 and sank a 12-foot birdie putt. Woods had a 15- footer for birdie before Mickelson, but his putt skimmed the left edge.
No birdies were made at the par-3 second and Garcia cashed in a birdie attempt at the third to put his team 2-up. The teams halved the fourth and it looked like Mickelson and Garcia would forge ahead 3-up at the fifth until the South African flashed his short game.
Els was the only player to miss the green at 5, but he chipped in for birdie. Garcia's birdie putt missed the hole, but Mickelson drained an eight- footer for birdie to halve the hole.
At the sixth, Garcia won the hole with a 12-foot birdie putt to put his team 3-up. The higher-ranked tandem had some strong golf ahead, though.
Woods reached the green in two at the par-5 seventh, although Garcia was on the fringe. Garcia left himself with five feet for birdie after his eagle putt but Woods lagged his to tap-in range, forcing Mickelson and Garcia to concede the birdie. Garcia missed his birdie putt, leaving Woods and Els 2-down.
Woods hit a 5-iron two feet from the hole at the par-3 eighth and Mickelson was the only other player to reach the putting surface. His 35- footer for birdie narrowly missed and Woods tapped in for birdie to cut the margin to 1-down.
The teams halved the next two holes with birdies and then halved several holes on the back nine. Woods, in particular, struggled with the speed of the greens and missed a makeable eight-footer for birdie at 12 and a 15-footer for eagle at 14. He also missed a 20-footer for birdie that could have knotted the match at 15.
From there it was Garcia winning 16 and the match was over on the next hole.
'We didn't get off to the start we needed to,' said Woods. 'On top of that, I had some good looks at putts three holes in a row on the back nine and I didn't make them. I thought that was the key to try and get back to even.'
'It certainly helped knowing the greens,' said Mickelson. 'I felt like I had a lot of good looks at it but I never got to hit them because Sergio kept making every putt.'
The pace of play was slow, with the match coming in around 4 1/2-hours. All four players were miked but there was not a lot of chatter.
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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.

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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''