Rex Hoggard is in Abu Dhabi this week covering the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for GolfChannel.com. Tiger Woods shot a second round 69 and talking to him after the round it was like a mirror image of yesterday. While he hit the ball great but missed putts on Thursday, he did the exact opposite on Friday. His success on the greens today came down to committing to his stroke as well as knowing the grain better.
Rory McIlroy was penalized two shots on the 9th hole for moving sand in the fairway and Rex was impressed at how well he bounced back from the penalty. Rory said that it was a brain freeze and as soon as he did, Luke Donald pointed out that he may have made a mistake and Rory agreed.
Rory and Tiger seemed to be in a more competitive mode today than they were on Tuesday and Thursday. While they talked a lot on the first two days, they were very focused on their golf in the second round and at times it seemed as though they were sizing each other up. This is the first time that they have been grouped together in an official event (they were paired together during the 2010 Chevron World Challenge) and it is possible that they will be paired together for the 3rd round in Abu Dhabi.
In his second live report from Abu Dhabi, Rex began by saying how Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Robert Karlsson will be grouped together for the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The reason for the change has nothing to do with weather and a number of people were surprised to see the switch from pairings to groupings in the third round. Some think this may have been because they wanted to get better groups or because they have come close to sunset in the last two days but many seem to be leaning towards the former.
Matteo Manassero has put himself into contention and is one back after 36 holes and another notable group is the one before the Tiger-Rory group and that is the one that includes Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington who are playing with Richard Finch. Graeme McDowell has also gotten off to a good start this week and he is grouped with Miguel Angel Jimenez in the third round.
Sergio Garcia’s hole-in-one on Thursday is the shot of the week so far but he has actually been a bit under the radar because the field is so strong this week and because whenever Tiger Woods is in the field, everyone seems to go under the radar by comparison. What makes this week even harder for many players is the fact that Abu Dhabi is an emerging market and many people do not know the rules of watching golf and they tend to move often during players’ shots.
Seeing Matteo Manassero in contention in a huge event is a boost for the European Tour and is also a bit of a surprise because this is a very long course and he is not a long hitter. If he can continue to perform well this week, it would suggest that he has become a longer hitter and it will also give him a lot of confidence heading into the rest of 2012.