A Name to Know Asian Invasion

By Tom AbbottMarch 20, 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.
 
Anton Spotted:
I was walking to the clubhouse at Bay Hill on Wednesday when I spotted a tall chap walking alongside Chubby Chandler, agent to many top players including Ernie Els; the gentleman bore a striking resemblance to Anton Haig, winner of the Johnnie Walker Classic. Later in the day I saw him again standing behind Ernie Els on the range and it turned out indeed to be the young South African. Haig is part of Chandlers stable and thanks to his win at the Johnnie Walker, the 20-year-old qualified for the WGC-CA Championship at Doral this week. Chubby thought it might be a good idea for Haig to get some practice in Florida the week before and set it up for him to stay with Ernie at Lake Nona, with Els acting as a sort-of mentor; although Ernie might not want to give too many tricks away and risk being beaten by him this week! Haig is tipped to be a real star of the future and both Els and Retief Goosen were singing his praises when I spoke to them on Sunday. Despite the age gap between Haig and Els it seems they get on well away from the course. Els told me that Haig knows how to have fun in his spare time; although Im sure come Thursday itll be down to business at Doral. Haig is making his first appearance in the States and the trip has whet his appetite for more golf Stateside. He informed me in our chat on Wednesday that he has aspirations of playing a large part of his schedule on the PGA TOUR in future.
 
Edfors Follows Suit:
It seems Johan Edfors would also like to play more golf in the US. The Swede, who won three times in Europe last year having come through the qualifying school the year before, is planning to play 10 events on the PGA TOUR this season. He told me that he aims to get his card through those 10 starts and then split his time between Europe and the U.S., similar to Henrik Stenson, whos building a home at Lake Nona and will play in the Tavistock Cup next week. Edfors finished tied for 28th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but will not receive FedExCup points because he is not a member of the TOUR. Johan will now play at Doral then head to Augusta for the MastersTournament.
 
Asian Invasion:
We should have know it when Yong-Eun Yang surprised the world and Tiger Woods with his victory at the HSBC Champions Tournament to start the season on the European Tour that this is becoming the year for players from Far East Asia. Chapchai Nirat became the third winner from the region last week with a dominating performance at the TCL Classic, a win in which he seemed to show no fear; he didnt falter, becoming the third wire-to-wire winner on tour this season. Despite his relative anonymity outside of the region, Nirat has been touted as a future star in Asia. He had an impressive rookie season on their tour in 2005, finishing second at the Taiwan Open; following that with a 21st finish on the Order of Merit in 2006 with five top-10s. Nirat comes from a good golfing family; his father is one of Thailands top amateur golfers and the younger Nirat has been playing since the age of four.
 
In Brief:
  • Tony Jacklin will return to the Open Championship this year for the first time since 2005. The winner of the 1969 tournament first retired following the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, but he returned to the Open in 2001 and then again at St. Andrews in 2005.
     
  • Valderrama will continue to host the Volvo Masters until 2010. An agreement has been reached between the sponsors, the tour and the course for the most famous Spanish venue to continue hosting the event which has been played there since since 1988 -- except from 1997 to 2001 when it moved to Montecastillo.
     
    Tom Abbott will the host GOLF CHANNEL's live coverage of the Safeway International beginning at 9pm GMT on Thursday on Sky Digital Channel 423
     
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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.”