Curing FedExCup-itis

By Tom AbbottOctober 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editors Note: Tom Abbott is the host of Golf Central UK. He will be filing a bi-weekly column on with news, opinions and his inside knowledge of the European Tour.
The Dunhill Links a Good Remedy for FedExCup-itus:
I think I might have FedExCup-itus. Is it me or do you feel like some of the wind has disappeared from the sails of pro golf now the FedExCup is over? The Seve Trophy was a prime example of how this fever has hit the top players in the game. The competition is supposed to pit the best of Great Britain and Ireland against the Continent of Europe. With the Presidents Cup taking centre stage in the United States, there really was no excuse for players to miss this.
I might give Luke Donald a small exception as he is a past champion of the Viking Classic, which ran opposite to the Presidents Cup. But Donald followed many of Europes big names and pulled out, I contacted the folks at IMG to see if Donald had a good reason for not being at the Seve Trophy, but they sent me a message back saying no statement would be issued regarding his absence. Ian Poulter had a wedding to attend, and seeing that it was his own, it seemed like a valid excuse. I can imagine the thought process: Whens a good week to get married thats not in the depths of the British winter? How about the week of the Seve Trophy? Garcia opted out; Harrington took a weeks rest despite the event being in Ireland; and Henrik Stenson was not a part of Team Europe.
The big-guns of Europe were not on display. Its a little disconcerting for the Europeans to hear Americans really hyped about the Presidents Cup, even saying they prefer it to the Ryder Cup. We want the Americans to see the Ryder Cup as the crme de la crme of team golf, the one they want to win; thats what makes winning for either side so special. But we cant help how the Presidents Cup has developed; it does give the International players a wonderful venue and excellent competition. The Seve Trophy seems to be a great way for the Europeans to respond, to have their own little Presidents Cup if you like. But with the failure of the big names showing up it seems were going the wrong way about it. Maybe its because the FedExCup took so much out of the players, and we still have some really important events left in Europe. Evidently the top Europeans dont give anywhere near as much merit to the Seve Trophy as the Americans give to the Presidents Cup, and I cant see this changing anytime soon.
So with that said, the Dunhill Links might just be the remedy for FedExCup-itus. Three of the worlds best courses: Carnoustie, St Andrews and Kingsbarns; Hugh Grant, Ray Romano, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson and Sir Bobby Charlton among the celebrities; and 16 of the top 50 in the world teeing it up. Harrington returns to the site of his Open Championship triumph; Rory McIlroy the low amateur at The Open is playing as a pro; Nick Faldo makes his third start of the year; and even Scott McCarron is in the field ' what a week! And, of course, Renton Laidlaw is in the commentary box for live coverage for GOLF CHANNEL.
Hickory Golf:
During my recent trip over to The Open and Womens British Open, I had the chance to spend a little time at my home club, Walton Heath. The head professional, Ken McPherson, is one of the games great historians, a true golfing gentleman. Anyone making a trip to London on business or pleasure should stop off for a game or at least to pop into the shop and clubhouse. In its 104th year, Walton Heath has had just three professionals: James Braid, Harry Busson and Ken. Braid won five Opens and was a renowned club maker; Busson even more so ' during the Ryder Cup there in 1981 he was inundated with orders from the players themselves. This means Mr. McPherson has some wonderful clubs lying around, and this summer I got the chance to go out and have a good practice session with an old set of hickories. I cant tell you what they were, who made them or their particular vintage, but what I can tell you is, theyre not easy to stripe. I had more than a little trouble getting these beauties to go where I wanted and with some sort of decent flight. With this in mind I was interested to see the results of the World Hickory Championship, which took place last week at Craigelaw in Scotland. Lloyd Saltman was the victor with a 1-over 72. Competitors were limited to six clubs of pre-1935 vintage and many went all out by looking the part with classic Plus Twos and long socks.
If youre an avid golfer and are looking for a bit of a new challenge and a good laugh might I suggest obtaining a small set of hickories; I think youll find it fun.
Tom Abbott will host live coverage of the Longs Drug Challenge on GOLF CHANNEL beginning Thursday at midnight for viewers in the UK Sky Digital Channel 423.
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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.