Countdown to Carnoustie Underway

By Tom AbbottJune 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editors Note: Tom Abbott is the host of Golf Central UK. He will be filing a bi-weekly column on thegolfchannel.com with news, opinions and his inside knowledge of the European Tour.
 
Countdown to Carnoustie:
I have been told on good authority not to expect Carnasty in three weeks time when the focus of attention in our sport turns to the old links on Scotlands east coast. In fact, the mere mention of the term makes the locals cringe. How dare we refer to their dear golf course in such a derogatory way! Since 1999 some slight adjustments have been made -- a few mounds added there, a bunker changed here -- but in general the lay-out remains the same. Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald have all made trips to take a look at the course ahead of the tournament which tees off on July 19. Apparently, all three were impressed, but remember Bjorn and Montgomerie have been regular visitors for the Dunhill Links Championship.
 
Carnoustie makes-up one of the three courses used in the pro-am format event. Played in much the same way as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, all the competitors play one round at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns and then two at St. Andrews, including the final round. Montgomerie even has a victory to his credit in that event, winning in 2005 when he shot 70 at Carnoustie. How this years Open Championship course will play depends a lot on the weather over the next few weeks, but one thing is for certain: the fairways will not be as narrow as in 1999. The R&A enjoys the fast running links style we saw at Hoylake last year, but that will only be possible at Carnoustie with the cooperation of Mother Nature.
 
Baker is Back?
Peter Baker quietly went about his business on the Challenge Tour last week capturing victory at the Credit Suisse Challenge in Luterback, Switzerland. Some of you may remember the name, but maybe not the face. Baker was a member of the 1993 European Ryder Cup side, and back then he was a rising British star. But greatness didnt materialize for the man from Staffordshire. Failing to finish inside the top 10 on the Order of Merit after his seventh place in 1993, his form began to dwindle, until the beginning of this season when he found himself without a European Tour card having used his all-time leading money winner exemption.
 
Full credit to him for swallowing his pride and returning to a tour which doesnt have anywhere near the money and prestige of the European Tour and doesnt carry the same attention as its contemporary in the States, the Nationwide Tour. Not one single Challenge Tour event is televised and the prize money outside of the top 10 wont usually allow players to break even for the week. But getting rich isnt the goal of the Challenge Tour; its an invaluable experience designed to allow up-and-coming players the chance to develop and earn their way to the main tour. Except now we're seeing players like Baker use it as a way to make their way back to the main tour, which I think is great.
 
European Pick:
I wasnt far wrong with Justin Rose, and Lee Westwood had his moments at Oakmont. Time now for me to make some picks for Pine Needles. Three Euros to watch at the US Womens Open:
 
Gwladys Nocera: A Solheim Cupper who won four times in Europe last season, and in her last four starts in Europe hasnt finished outside the top 10, with one victory at the KLM Ladies Open. Shes struggled to bring the form from Europe to the United States, but I think its only a matter of time before she competes for a major on US soil.
 
Suzann Pettersen: As long as she avoids slow play -- she received a two-shot penalty last week in New York -- the big hitting Norwegian could make it two in a row for major victories. Theres nothing to stop the 25-year-old as long as she hasnt been too burned-out by her win at the McDonalds LPGA Championship a few weeks ago.
 
Laura Davies: Although I like Becky Morgan, my British pick would be Laura, who needs a win to enter the Hall of Fame. This season in the States, Davies has struggled to put four good rounds together, but theres been low numbers -- a 65 at Kingsmill and a couple of 66s at the Ginn Open. My main concern is whether she can control her game enough to keep it in the fairway at Pine Needles.
 
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.