Mr Comeback Goydos Wins Sony Open

By Sports NetworkJanuary 14, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- With all of the talk all week about the young players in the Sony Open in Hawaii, it was a 42-year-old journeyman who has battled injuries throughout his career that hoisted the trophy on Sunday.

Paul Goydos
Paul Goydos' last win on TOUR came in 1996 at Bay Hill.
Paul Goydos birdied three of his last four holes in the final round to shoot a 3-under 67 and win at 14-under-par 266. It was good for a one-shot win over third-round leader Charles Howell III (70) and the world's 10th-ranked player, Luke Donald (69).

It came down to the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club. Goydos and Howell were tied at 13 under par with Donald one back when Goydos played his second shot one group ahead of the 20-somethings.

Goydos' second rolled 30 feet short of the surface and his chip hit the stick and stopped 2 feet from the hole. He tapped in and waited to see if either Howell or Donald could force a playoff.

Both found the right rough off the tee, but both got their second shots close to the green, but not on the putting surface. Donald also hit the stick with his chip from right of the green and left himself a tap-in birdie to finish one behind Goydos.

That left it up to Howell, the 2001 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, who has only won once on TOUR. He was nearly in the same spot as Goydos a few minutes before him, but he hit his chip too hard and his ball ran 16 feet past the stick.

Howell's putt never threatened the hole and he left with a par.

That gave Goydos his second PGA TOUR victory. His only other win came at the 1996 event at Bay Hill, but the 11-year gap did not matter to a man who has lost his card several times in between wins.

'I do try to win every decade,' joked Goydos, who pocketed $936,000 for the victory. 'That chip shot at 18 could have gone where Charles' did.'

This is a remarkable story for Goydos.

He tied for second in last year's final full-field event, the Chrysler Championship, and the pay day moved him from 160th on the money list inside the top-125 to 97th.

Goydos underwent sinus surgery and hip surgery in 2004. He also dabbled as a substitute teacher while perfecting his craft on the Nationwide Tour in the early '90s.

'This is my job,' admitted Goydos. 'I really don't have any other skills. I'm a little numb. I didn't pay much attention all day. I'm stunned. That's the word I'd use.'

Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old amateur, who became the second-youngest player to make a cut on the PGA TOUR, crashed a bit on Sunday. The local hero, who has produced huge galleries, struggled to a 2-over 72 and tied for 20th place at 5-under-par 275.

Still, the 16-year-old, who upstaged fellow high-schooler Michelle Wie this week, took everything from this week as a positive.

'It's been great. It's unbelievable,' acknowledged the 5-foot-1 Fujikawa, who qualified for last year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot. 'It's the best feeling in the world. It's not something you do everyday. In years to come, I'll be back here.'

World No. 2 Jim Furyk (69), Doug LaBelle II (65), K.J. Choi (68) and reigning PGA TOUR Comeback Player of the Year Steve Stricker (70) shared fourth place at minus-9.

For most of the final round, it appeared to be a two-horse race between Howell and Donald. When Howell converted a 14-foot eagle putt at the ninth, he moved two clear of Donald, with Goydos nowhere in the picture.

Howell fell apart from there. He could not get the ball in the fairway at the 12th and missed a 17-footer for par. One hole later, Howell went from the left rough to the right rough and recorded another bogey. He was still one ahead, but it was now in front of Goydos.

Goydos was 1 under after an eight-foot birdie putt at the 12th, but was three down. He holed an 11-foot par putt at 14 and thanks to Howell's miscues, was only one down.

Goydos ran home a 25-foot birdie putt at the 15th to move into a tie for the lead. At the 16th, he rolled in a 16-footer for birdie and found himself one ahead of Howell.

That lead was short-lived as Goydos' tee ball at the par-3 17th rolled into a back bunker. He blasted out to 12 feet, but missed and fell back into a tie for the lead.

Howell made a great par save at 16, then also found sand at 17 and, like Goydos, got up and down. Unfortunately, Howell could not duplicate Goydos' success at 18 and is left with another runner-up finish.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy had a nice Sunday. He fired a 6-under 64 and tied for eighth place with Robert Allenby, who shot a final-round 69, at 8-under-par 272.

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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.