Big Three Vying for No 1 at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 16, 2005, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods and Ernie Els were on opposite sides of town Wednesday. Still, it was much closer than where they have been over the last two months, which was opposite sides of the world.
Woods played on his home course at Isleworth about 10 minutes down the road from the Bay Hill Invitational. Els decided to practice at Lake Nona, where he has a house along the 15th fairway.
Vijay Singh, who seems to have a home on the range, was the only player among the ``Big Three'' who worked on his game at Bay Hill on the eve of what was shaping up as a supreme battle.
Then again, it seems be a heavyweight bout every week on the PGA Tour.
Singh birdied the final hole at the Sony Open to beat Els by one shot. Woods capped off a dramatic rally with two clutch putts to beat Phil Mickelson by one shot at Doral.
But what makes Bay Hill so compelling is that the top three players in the world ranking are in the same tournament for the first time since the Buick Invitational in January. Better yet, the No. 1 ranking is up for grabs. Woods returned to the top spot two weeks ago, but Els and Singh can take it away with a victory at Bay Hill.
``A lot of the top players are winning,'' Woods said. ``It would be nice if we played together more often, but it's usually just two or three of us in the same field. It's pretty exciting when we all get together.''
Getting them together in one tournament is tantalizing enough.
Packing even more of a punch is Woods, Els and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, ranked No. 5 in the world, playing in the same group the first two days.
``Hopefully, we can play some decent golf,'' Els said.
They aren't the only ones at Bay Hill, even though it seems that way. The 118-man field includes nine of the top 12 in the world ranking. The defending champion is Chad Campbell, who made up a four-shot deficit against Stuart Appleby.
One player not in the field is tournament host Arnold Palmer, who is not expected to play a PGA Tour event for the first time since 1953.
Palmer can appreciate a good rivalry. He was part of the ``Big Three'' that first was marketed by IMG in the 1960s when Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player took turns winning the majors.
``I don't think there's any question that we have some marquee players that are doing a lot in the game,'' Palmer said. ``That's the kind of thing you want to see more and more of to get attention. We're getting it.''
Woods won Bay Hill four straight years until he finished last year with three straight rounds over par and wound up in a tie for 46th, the start of a slump as he changed his swing. The new version is coming together, the best evidence being his two victories in five starts this year.
Two weeks ago in Miami, Woods closed with a 63-66 on the weekend to beat Mickelson.
``I was struggling last year to find my game,'' Woods said. ``This year, I just have to do a couple of touchups, just like you do every day.''
Els is comfortable with his game, too, especially after the last two weeks.
He was poised to at least force a playoff in the season-opening Mercedes Championships until hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 18th at Kapalua. He had a chance at the Sony Open despite shaky putting. He had good chances at Torrey Pines and Royal Melbourne.
But during his global sojourn, Els made an 18-foot eagle on the last hole to win in Dubai, then rallied from five shots down in the Qatar Masters to win his second straight even on the European tour.
They didn't have the strongest fields in the Middle East, but winning does wonders anywhere in the world.
``It was really important to get back in the winner's circle, especially after the first four weeks; I felt I had a chances in all four weeks to win and I didn't finish it off,'' Els said. ``So to come from the outside and win those two was quite important.''
Els had taken three weeks off to enjoy the life on the beach at his home along the Indian Ocean in South Africa, although he does have a satellite dish and paid attention to the statements being made by the top players -- Woods winning twice, Mickelson winning twice.
``It was good for me to see that the guys are playing well, and probably motivated me a little bit to come back, to play and get into the mix of things,'' Els said. ``The guys are really tearing it up. Those top players that we talk about week in and week out, they are definitely doing the business now.
``It should be one of the more exciting years in golf.''
It might get started this week at the Bay Hill, where there could be a new No. 1 on Sunday. And then they all get together, Mickelson included, at The Players Championship, then the Masters.
Bay Hill might simply be Round One.
Related Links:
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    Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

    Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

    “We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

    Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

    “It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

    It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

    Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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    McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

    By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

    McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

    But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

    Said Harmon:

    “Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

    “This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

    McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

    “Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

    McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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    How The Open cut line is determined

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

    Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

    The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    • After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

    • There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

    • There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

    The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.