Break for son's birth revitalized Glover's game

By Will GrayOctober 2, 2015, 7:06 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Not all breaks are created equal.

Some players take a few weeks off to avoid burnout, or perhaps rest for a long stretch ahead. Others step away when things aren’t going right, eager to rediscover a few answers.

But sometimes, circumstances dictate a player’s schedule and force a competitive hiatus. That’s what happened to Lucas Glover this summer, and it led to an improbably swift turnaround for the former U.S. Open champion.

Having last battled for his PGA Tour card in 2004, Glover entered the homestretch of this season knowing that his various exemptions from past wins were about to expire. The time had come to produce some results, but his game simply wasn’t there.

As July came to a close, Glover had missed four of his last five cuts. He hadn’t played a final round in nearly two months, and he hadn’t cracked the top 25 since April. But his wife Krista was pregnant with the couple’s second child, and Lucas Jr. was born on July 31 – requiring Glover to put golf on the back burner.

The shift in perspective that accompanies the birth of a child turned out to be just what he needed to spark a change.

“I was forced to have two weeks off. If he hadn’t come until December, I’d have been playing and probably banging my head against the wall,” Glover said. “Those two weeks off, being with the family and still working, I just started seeing some things that were encouraging. So that was probably a blessing.” Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Glover returned to action with a T-18 finish at the Wyndham Championship in August, and he hasn’t looked back. After clinching his card with three straight top-25 finishes to open the Finals, he is again in contention at the Tour Championship. Glover followed an opening 64 with a 3-under 67 Friday at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, and he trails Emiliano Grillo by one shot.

“I started to see some flashes with the putter, just at home. I got a little help with my ball striking and things started to turn around,” he said. “It’s been a good ride, been happy the last couple days and the last few weeks.”

Glover has struggled mightily on the greens in recent years, especially from short range, and his game barely resembled that of the man who lifted the U.S. Open trophy at Bethpage Black. His world ranking, which peaked at No. 15, slipped as far as No. 634 in January.

Glover is the lone major champion teeing it up this year in the Finals. Grillo was just a teenager when he watched Glover’s breakthrough win in 2009, and the Argentine was surprised to see him back in a position where his playing status was at stake.

“He’s a great player. It’s a shame he’s trying to get his card back and playing here. He shouldn’t be,” Grillo said. “If I get paired with him, it’s going to be a great thing for me. I’m going to try to learn what’s so special about him. He’s got a U.S. Open, it’s a big thing.”

For his part, Glover sees pluses and minuses when comparing his game to that of 2009. At age 35, he feels he is a smarter player now, although he admits that his wedge play and pitching are not what they once were.

“That was six or seven years ago. I’m not the same person,” he said. “None of us are. Every cell in our body is different.”

Then there is the putting – an ever-present thorn in his side – as Glover has ranked 177th or worse each of the last three seasons in strokes gained putting.

But with recent rains slowing the greens at TPC Sawgrass, Glover has rolled in 12 birdies through 36 holes and shows no signs of the short misses that have haunted him in the past.

Glover has offered no excuses for his poor play. He has owned his recent struggles, adopting a workmanlike attitude that has paid dividends amid the make-or-break pressures of this four-week stretch.

He has also been buoyed by the renewed perspective that came with the birth of his son. 

“As bad as the golf was, I’ve got it pretty good,” he said. “I have a beautiful wife and two great kids, and we’re all healthy. Lows on the golf course don’t compute for me.”

Once again invigorated and playing with a champion’s confidence, Glover enters the weekend with a chance for his first win since 2011.

Funny what a little break can do.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.