Fin-Tastic Times Howell on Augusta

By Tom AbbottFebruary 20, 2007, 5:00 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.
Fin-tastic Times
How pleasing it is to see a former British Amateur champion winning on the European Tour. If you look back at the winners of the Amateur since 1980, only five (including Ilonen) have gone on to claim a European Tour title. When you consider how much winning the British Amateur Championship means to a golfer - exemptions to the Open and the Masters - it is difficult to explain the winning drought. Furthermore, only one player in that time period has captured a major title, Jose Maria Olazabal, who won the Amateur in 1984.
Ilonen won at Royal Liverpool in 2000; he was the first Scandinavian player to win since Christian Hardin in 1988, and he was, of course, the first Finnish player to capture the title. There seems to be a growing number of Fins surfacing on the European golfing scene. Ilonen became the first from his country to capture a European Tour crown when he won in Indonesia last week, but fellow countrymen and women have been successful elsewhere. Toni Karjalainen won the Telenet Trophy on the Challenge Tour last season; Rikka Hakkarainen is the reigning Tenerife Ladies Open champion; and Minea Blomqvist, a winner on the LET in 2004, is trying to break through in the United States. So watch out for a Fin near you.
No Moodie Blues
Janice Moodie recorded a tie for fourth last week at the LPGA's SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Moodie is now back on tour having given birth to her son Craig last summer. The American-based Scot is traveling with her new born, wisely employing a nanny and taking full advantage of the crche facilities offered by the tour. Any worries that adapting to the new lifestyle might be difficult have been quickly quashed, which is great news in this Solheim Cup year. Moodie has played on two teams (2000, 2003)
Donaldson Gets Needed Boost
Jamie Donaldson must have been bitterly disappointed to miss his European Tour card in 2006, having finished 79th on the Order of Merit the year before. Full credit to the Welsh golfer, though; he knuckled down this year, taking his medicine and returning to the Challenge Tour where he won twice in 2001. After a couple of average weeks in Columbia and Costa Rica, the 31-year-old opened last weeks Abierto Telefonica da Guatemala with a 63, and despite a charging Emilio Dominguez, he hung-on to take the win. Donaldson has been plagued by back injuries in his time as a professional and we can only hope that he stays healthy this year on the Challenge Tour and uses it to propel himself back into the forefront of European Tour golf.
Howell Ready to Excel in Augusta
David Howell has the distinct disadvantage of always being the second Howell at the Masters, Augustas favorite son, especially of late, is Mr. Charles Howell III, but David doesnt mind. Speaking recently, he told me that of all the majors the Masters gives him his best shot at a title. His results (T11, T19) over the past two years show he likes the course, and with his tidy short game he can handle the tough situations players have to face at every corner. Howell has won only four times in Europe, but all of those wins were in the biggest events; hes got the BMW Championship, Dubai Desert Classic and HSBC Champions replica trophies on his mantle. So this seems like a good time for him to focus on the United States: 'Five or six years ago, I wasnt ready to hold my own on the PGA TOUR, but I took my card for 2006 because of the 2007 FedExCup, he told a press conference last week for the WGC-CA Championship, his title sponsor and an event hell use in his run-up to Augusta. Hell also play this week in the Match Play, then sandwich weeks off with a trip to the Singapore Masters before Doral. The finishing touches to his Augusta preparation will be made in Houston before that bid for a green jacket. Last season, he thought hed played too much, which led to the shoulder injuries that plagued him late in the year. But six weeks away from the game and a better understanding of his schedule have put him right where he needs to be this year. Im not a betting man, but I certainly dont mind advising people of where to put their money and David Howells name wouldnt be a foolish place come Thursday 5th April.
Tom Abbott will host the LPGA Fields Open on The Golf Channel UK (Sky Digital Channel 423) this week. Live coverage begins on Thursday at 11:30 p.m. ET
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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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.  

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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.”