After Further Review: Tales from the desert

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the happenings in the desert in La Quinta, Calif., at the Humana Challenge and in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

While much attention will be paid to the footwork of Rory McIlroy and its costly consequences, my takeaway from this week's event in Abu Dhabi is the Ulsterman's consistent performance from tee to green.

Following a season that was more down than up, McIlroy began the new year in the desert with questions still lingering about the state of his game. He was largely able to silence them this week, though, with a T-2 performance in which he made just one bogey and one double in addition to Saturday's two-shot penalty that ultimately kept him from the trophy.

One event a year does not make, but this week McIlroy effectively built upon the momentum he garnered with a late-season win in Australia last month. If he is able to limit his mistakes this year as he did this week in Abu Dhabi, he's likely to return to the winner's circle on the PGA Tour sooner rather than later. - Will Gray

Even Phil Mickelson’s losses are our gain. He may not be the best player of his generation, but he’s the most entertaining, precisely because he courts risk and reward more fearlessly than any other player in the game today. Yeah, he blew it Sunday risking that right-handed play from under a bush at the 13th hole at Abu Dhabi. The double hit, leading to a triple bogey, was a dumb play, but that’s the risk Mickelson’s willing to take to pull off the magnificent.

If he weren’t, we never would have marveled over that derring-do, final-round shot he threaded through the narrow gap in the trees at the 13th hole at Augusta National when he won the Masters in 2010. Mickelson's gambles may not always be worth the risks, but they’re worth the price of admission. We’re fascinated because he can fail as spectacularly as he can succeed. Nobody can make you shake your head the way Mickelson does, in wins or losses. – Randall Mell

Patrick Reed won two NCAA titles at Augusta State, but he was always overlooked as one of the best players in college golf. Even though, in 2010, he beat Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein in singles on his way to the title. Even though, in 2011, he topped Georgia's Harris English en route to the win, extending his NCAA match-play record to 6-0. The other players collected hardware. Reed, meanwhile, racked up high finishes and polished his game. Now, of course, he has joined English as a two-time PGA Tour winner, an impressive feat considering his 46 career starts. Overlooked? Not anymore. – Ryan Lavner

It seems stories of the old Bob Hope Classic’s demise were greatly exaggerated. There was a time, not that long ago, when one of the PGA Tour’s oldest stops seemed destined for extinction, an imperfect storm brought on by a poor golf course rotation and a parade of disengaged title sponsors. But in 2012 Humana stepped in with a mission to raise awareness of health and wellness in the United States, and enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton and his foundation. The result has been a revitalized event with an ever-improving field and a purpose. Hope would be proud. – Rex Hoggard

 Joey Sindelar once told me that he loved starting his year at the old Bob Hope, because it would give him a guaranteed four rounds (now three) to thaw out from his Horseheads, N.Y., home in less brutal conditions. That message remains. A winning score of 28 under, a cut line at 9 under - some may call it too easy. Or even worse, they’ll use this tourney as Exhibit A in their case against Golf As We Know It, claiming players are too strong, equipment is too dialed in and courses are too obsolete. That would be too nearsighted a view, though. There's nothing wrong with an early-year birdiefest to help eliminate those cobwebs. It doesn't have to endure as commentary on the state of the game. - Jason Sobel

Lost in the focus the past two days over Patrick Reed in the California desert and Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson in the Abu Dhabi desert was the most remarkable performance of the weekend. Zach Johnson wrapped up an incredible stretch of golf with a best-in-field 10-under 62 on Sunday. That gave him a T-3 finish to go along with his wins in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge and Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a T-8 in the Sony Open in Hawaii. Johnson won’t play again until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the end of February. Here’s hoping he comes back just as hot as he is now. – Al Tays

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Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

They were at 7-under 135.

Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.