Tiger Gets Early Draw on Day 1 of British Open
The world's top-ranked player won The Masters in April and the U.S. Open last month to become the first player to capture the first two legs of the Slam in the same year since Jack Nicklaus in 1972. Woods has now won eight major championship titles overall and six of the last nine played, and seven of the last 11.
Two more victories -- in this British Open and next month's PGA Championship -- and Woods will be the first player in history to win all four professional majors in the same season.
But, first things first. Woods will be paired with Japan's Shigeki Maruyama and Justin Rose of England in the opening two rounds. The trio will be the 12th group off the tee at 9:01 a.m. local time (4:01 a.m. ET) on Thursday. On Friday, they will tee off at 1:57 p.m. local time (8:57 a.m. ET).
Rd. 1 Tee Times for the 131st British Open
Maruyama won the 2001 Greater Milwaukee Open, making him the first Japanese player to win a PGA Tour event on the U.S. mainland (Isao Aoki won the 1983 Hawaiian Open). He added a victory at the Byron Nelson Classic back in May. His best British Open finish was a tie for 10th place at Royal Troon in 1997.
Rose made his presence felt as a 17-year-old at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale, where he holed a pitch at the 72nd hole to tie for fourth, earning him the Silver Medal as the leading amateur. He turned professional the next day and, after struggling on the European Tour for a few years, broke into the winning ranks with a pair of victories earlier this season.
Ernie Els, who tied for second, eight strokes behind Woods, in the 2000 Open at St. Andrews, will head out a few groups before Woods and company with Lee Westwood and Brad Faxon. A two-time U.S. Open champ, Els has totaled six top-10 finishes in 11 British Open starts, including a tie for third last year.
Sergio Garcia is one on a small list of players, Els included, who pose a real threat to Woods' chances this week. The Spaniard's best Open showing was a tie for ninth last year, and is familiar with Muirfield as the British Amateur champion there in 1998.
Garcia will play alongside Greg Norman, the British Open champion in 1986 and '93, and Sweden's Robert Karlsson.
England's Nick Faldo, victorious three times in the British Open, won the 1987 title at Muirfield with 18 straight pars in the final round. After reeling in a second Open win at St. Andrews in 1990, Faldo won again in '92 in the last championship to be held at Muirfield.
Faldo, who turns 45 on Thursday, will celebrate his birthday playing with Americans Hal Sutton and Phil Mickelson. Sutton won the PGA Championship back in 1983, while Mickelson is still in search of his first victory in a major.
Mickelson has tallied 16 top-10 finishes in major championships, including seven top-threes. However, his best finish in the British Open was a tie for 11th in 2000, 12 shots back of Woods.
Two-time runner-up Jesper Parnevik of Sweden (1994, '97) will share the fairways the first two rounds with Vijay Singh, the PGA Champion in 1998 and Masters winner in 2000, and Jim Furyk.
Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson will be in the third pairing off the first tee bright and early Thursday morning (2:22 a.m. et) with Japan's Kiyoshi Miyazato and Australian Steve Elkington, who earned a spot in the field after completing the 36-hole final qualifier on Monday.
Other notable pairings include: 1997 champion Justin Leonard, Mike Weir and David Howell; 1995 winner John Daly, Adam Scott and Padraig Harrington; reigning PGA champion David Toms, Darren Clarke and Kevin Sutherland; Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie and K.J. Choi; and Shingo Katayama, Thomas Bjorn and defending champion David Duval.
Duval, who posted a three-shot triumph last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, comes into Muirfield in a bit of a slump. He's missed the cut in four of his last five starts, with the lone exception in that stretch being a season-best tie for fourth at the Memorial in late May.
Full coverage of the 131st British Open
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right 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."
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.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.