Tiger Tops Big Easy in Dubai Playoff

By Sports NetworkFebruary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Tiger Woods has often been called unbeatable. So far this year, he literally is.
Woods made it two wins in a row when he bested Ernie Els in a playoff Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic, walking away with a par at the first sudden-death hole after he birdied the last two holes of his final round to match the South African for the lead.
Tiger Woods
The victory in Dubai was Tiger's second playoff win in as many weeks.
It was the second straight playoff win for Woods, who escaped with a victory at the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational last week -- his first start of 2006 after a six-week layoff.
'I couldn't ask for anything more,' said Woods. 'Two playoffs -- very stressful, but still, I was somehow able to come out on top.'
Woods and Els both finished at 19-under-par 269 for the tournament -- Woods after a 3-under 69 and Els following a 5-under 67 at Emirates Golf Club.
Els held the clubhouse lead for a spell before Woods went birdie-birdie on 17 and 18. Back at the par-5 18th for the playoff, Els found the trees on his tee shot and the water on his second.
Following a drop and his fourth shot, Els missed a par putt and opted not to finish the hole. Woods made par after finding the back of the green in two.
Els had played the 18th hole at minus-5 through four rounds. Which made his finish that much more disappointing.
'I was 5 under on that hole for the week with an eagle and three birdies. But there you go,' said Els, who won the last of his three Dubai titles last year. 'This was strongest field in the world this year...and to almost win is fine.'
Woods is already a third of the way to his 2005 total of six victories, which included wins at the Masters and British Open and helped Woods re-gain his No. 1 world ranking.
'It's a good start,' he said.
Sunday wasn't the first time Woods and Els met in a playoff.
The duo were even through three extra holes at the 2003 Presidents Cup before United States captain Jack Nicklaus and International team captain Gary Player agreed on a controversial draw.
On this day, Els entered the final round two shots behind overnight leaders Woods and Anders Hansen. He used three birdies on a spotless front nine to take the lead around the turn, and his advantage was two shots after another birdie at the 10th moved him to 18 under.
Ernie Els
Ernie Els found the water in the playoff which ultimately led to his loss in the extra session.
However, Els wouldn't find another birdie until his two-putt four at 18.
Meanwhile, Woods collected three birdies on his final six holes to reach Els, including getting up-and-down from the back fringe at 18 for the birdie and a tie.
'Today was a day that I'm very proud of,' Woods admitted. 'I hung in there just like I did last week. It's a pretty good feeling when you're able to do that and turn things around like that.'
Woods now has 25 victories in events that count towards the European Tour schedule. He is tied for sixth all-time on that list with Neil Coles -- halfway to Seve Ballesteros' 50 titles.
Richard Green bogeyed the 18th hole to finish alone in third place, one stroke back at 18-under-par 270. Green had a stretch of four birdies in five holes to claim a brief lead before his bogey at 18 put him at 4-under 68 in his final round.
'These guys are just so good,' Green said of Woods and Els. 'I couldn't quite do enough. It would have been nice to knock off a couple of number ones.'
After sharing the overnight lead with Woods, Anders Hansen shot a 1-under 71 to finish tied for fourth place at minus-17. He was joined there by Miguel Angel Jimenez, who shot a 69.
World No. 3 Retief Goosen began the day one stroke back and played in the final threesome with Woods and Hansen. But he ended alone in sixth place at 16-under after managing just a 71 in the final round.
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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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    Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

    After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

    La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

    "Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

    Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

    The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

    "That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up 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."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    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.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    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.''