Shootout at the OK Doral

By Sports NetworkMarch 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Ford Championship at DoralMIAMI -- Phil Mickelson has the lead after his 10th consecutive round in a stroke-play event. But to win the Ford Championship at Doral on Sunday, Mickelson will have to hold off Tiger Woods, as the two will be in the final pairing.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was all smiles after his 9-under 63.
Mickelson posted a 6-under 66 on Saturday to maintain his two-shot lead at 20-under-par 196. Woods fired a 9-under 63 to trail Mickelson at minus-18.
It will be a battle of the No. 2 player in the world (Woods) and the fourth-ranked player (Mickelson). The two, never the closest of friends, were partners at last year's Ryder Cup (going 0-2) and have duked it out in the final round before.
At the 2000 Tour Championship, Mickelson became the second player ever to beat Woods when Woods had at least a share of the third-round lead. They played together in the final round of the 2003 Buick Invitational, but Woods bested Mickelson by six and went on to victory.
'I'm looking forward to tomorrow,' said Mickelson. 'I know what a great player he is. I've seen it for so many years. It's fun for me to compete head-to-head with him.'
For Woods, a win on Sunday would allow him to overtake Vijay Singh atop the world rankings.
'Phil's playing great golf, beautiful golf,' said Woods. 'I'll have to shoot another low one. I'm going to have to go out there and post a good, solid number.'
Defending champion Craig Parry carded a 5-under 67 and is tied for third place with Zach Johnson (64) and James Driscoll (67). The trio is knotted at 14-under-par 202.
Singh shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday and shares sixth place with Jim Furyk (67) and Jose Maria Olazabal (70) at minus-13.
Those groups will have a lot of work to do on Sunday if they are going to catch Mickelson or Woods.
Mickelson birdied the third, then dropped a shot at four when he missed a 6-footer. The lefthander hit some great iron shots at the next three holes, all resulting in birdies from inside 10 feet. The birdie at seven gave Mickelson a four-shot lead, but Woods closed the gap.
Woods recorded three birdies on the front nine, then hit a 3-wood long of the green at the par-5 10th. He got up and down for birdie, and collected three birdies in a row from the 12th to get within two of Mickelson's lead.
Mickelson played well on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the 10th. He added another birdie at the 12th to move three ahead, but Woods clawed back thanks to an amazing shot at the reachable, par-4 16th.
Woods' drive at the hole landed flag-high, then rolled 40 feet past the cup. He two-putted for birdie and hit his approach from 151 yards to 4 feet at the 'Blue Monster,' Doral's famous 18th hole.
'No one clapped. We didn't have any clue. I knew I hit it in the direction of the green,' said Woods, referring to his shot at 16.
Mickelson, now with a one-shot lead, missed the green with his tee ball at 16. He pitched 3 feet past the hole and converted the birdie try to extend the advantage to two.
Mickelson struggled with the driver on Saturday to the tune of only four fairways hit. He drove into the rough on the left at 17 and his approach landed in a greenside bunker. Mickelson blasted out to a foot and tapped in for par.
At 18, Mickelson's tee ball sailed right, but he still had a good shot at the green. His second came to rest 15 feet right of the hole, but Mickelson missed the putt. That cost him a three-shot cushion and left him one stroke short of Greg Norman's 1993 54-hole record.
'Fortunately, I was able to shoot 6 under to keep a reasonable pace,' said Mickelson, who has won two of his last three starts on tour. 'I will spend a little more time with the driver. I didn't drive it the way I've been driving it. When I was in the fairway, I felt like I could get at a lot of pins.'
Woods has not recorded a round over par in his 2005 campaign. His swing changes that kicked into effect at the end of 2004 are working and Woods will look to add his second title of the year.
'I found one swing and went with it,' said Woods. 'Everything worked out pretty good.'
Joe Ogilvie (66), Harrison Frazar (68), David Toms (69), Tim Clark (69) and Billy Andrade (72) are tied for ninth place at 12-under-par 204.
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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.