Woods still fighting old habits at Greenbrier

By Will GrayJuly 3, 2015, 11:40 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – As Tiger Woods arrived to the first tee to begin his second round at The Greenbrier Classic, another player sauntered up to the brick patio that sits adjacent to the opening tee box.

His round had yet to begin, and he simply wanted to watch the best player of a generation fire off a competitive shot. After marveling at the sizeable gallery that lined the opening hole from tee to green, he fixed his eyes back on Woods.

“Well,” he wondered aloud, “I wonder where this one is headed.”

Indeed, there were doubts about how Woods would fare, even among his professional brethren and even after an opening-round 66 on the Old White TPC. The fact that Woods parked that opening tee shot into a stand of trees well right of the fairway certainly didn’t allay any of those concerns.

After weeks of struggle, Woods has basically been relegated to wait-and-see mode.

He’s playing well during a practice round? Let’s see if he can take it from the range to the course. Oh, he made it around a PGA Tour track without spraying it all over the park? Let’s see if he can do it again. He made it past the cut, did he? Let’s see if he can play his way into contention. And so on.

For much of his second round, Woods appeared ready to silence many of those doubts. After so many rounds that produced scorecards painted with circles and squares, Woods was basically on autopilot on the front, hitting all nine greens in regulation. He ran that streak to 10 in a row before his approach to No. 11 missed the green by a foot.

Ah, what a difference a foot makes.

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That slight error led to a muffed chip, a shot that harkened back to painful memories from Isleworth and TPC Scottsdale. And from there, as though a switch had mysteriously been flipped, Woods reverted back to the form with which he has been all too familiar this season.

Tee shots that were barely off line through his first 28 holes were now miles from their target, as Woods nearly hit it out of bounds on No. 13 and then found the water for the second straight day on No. 17. Approaches lacked the correct distance, and Woods couldn’t buy a putt with Jim Justice’s money before finally rolling in a 6-foot birdie try on the home hole – his longest make of the day.

Any insight into what changed over the final eight holes left the property quickly in a courtesy car, as Woods declined all media interview requests.

While Woods’ performance at the halfway point may have exceeded some expectations, a second-round 69 has to feel like an opportunity lost.

Sure, Woods carded back-to-back rounds in the 60s for just the second time in the last 16 months, but when he began his round late in the afternoon, the lead had not budged from the overnight mark of 8 under. Woods’ early-late draw clearly received the more favorable weather conditions, with heavy rains delaying play earlier in the day, and a repeat of Thursday’s seven-birdie performance could have put him at or near the lead.

Instead, he finds himself four shots off the pace with 25 names above his in the standings. While more than half of those players have never won before on the PGA Tour, that doesn’t detract from the fact that Woods is further adrift than he had hoped to be when the day began.

His frustration was evident throughout the day, notably after rinsing his drive on the penultimate hole and slamming his club both into the turf and against his bag, and his decision to decline post-round comments hints at a player who feels he let a low score slip away.

While Woods raced to the clubhouse in his opening round, carding a trio of birdies to build some true momentum, Friday’s close felt more like a car that suddenly ran out of gas, left desperately sputtering toward the finish line.

Woods has a chance for redemption this weekend, and he has earned a few more treasured reps before heading to St. Andrews for the Open Championship. But even after a pair of sub-par scores to start the week, he hasn’t earned any extra margin for error.

For Tiger Woods, it’s still wait and see.

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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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.