Duel in Dubai: Donald, McIlroy battle for title

By Associated PressDecember 6, 2011, 2:25 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After rallying to win the Hong Kong Open in dramatic fashion Sunday, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy brings plenty of momentum into this week’s showdown with world No. 1 Luke Donald for the European Tour money title.

The No. 2-ranked McIlroy knows it won’t be easy snatching the Race to Dubai title from current leader Donald. The 22-year-old Northern Irishman trails Donald by just under $1 million and must win the Dubai World Championship starting Thursday, and hope that Donald finishes outside the top nine – something the Englishman has done only three times on the European Tour this year.

“Still got a slim chance of trying to win the Race to Dubai and so it’s nice to just have that coming to the quick,” said McIlroy, whose Hong Kong win ensured the Race would come down to the final tournament.

“It’s going to be a tough task but I’ll give my best and it would be great to finish the year on a high.”

Donald is not the only golfer McIlroy has to worry about. He must also finish ahead of two of the hottest golfers on the European Tour right now - No. 3-ranked Lee Westwood, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Sunday, and No. 4 Martin Kaymer, who had birdies on the final nine of 12 holes to win the HSBC Championship last month to get his topsy-turvy season back on track.

And McIlroy has to overcome his own shaky fitness. He acknowledged he is still feeling some of the fatigue that hurt his play in the second and third rounds in Hong Kong. He said it might be the lingering effects of a virus he picked up in the past few months, though he said blood tests taken Monday to check his white blood cell count haven’t come back.

“I’m not energy wise where I want to be but I took a day off yesterday and took it easy,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent but I’m still able to go out and play 18 holes and try and give it my all.”

McIlroy said he took inspiration from his finish on Sunday – a come-from-behind victory which he clinched with a greenside bunker shot on the 18th – as well as his previous experience on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He finished fifth last year and third in 2009, though his 2009 finish cost him the Race to Dubai title when Westwood won the tournament and the money title.

“Hopefully, it won’t come down to having to hole a bunker shot at the last,” McIlroy joked. “But if it does, I know that I’ve done it before so I’m really looking forward to this week. It’s a golf course that I’ve had some success on the last couple of years with a third and fifth place.”

Donald said he wasn’t surprised that McIlroy had kept alive the Race to Dubai that features 52 tournaments on the European Tour. It sets up a dramatic finale at the $7.5 million Dubai World Championship, similar to the 2010 tournament in Dubai when Kaymer beat Graeme McDowell to win the money title and a year before that when Westwood blew away the field to win the title over McIlroy.

“I didn’t expect anything less from Rory,” Donald said after finishing seventh at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. “I knew he’d put the pressure on me and make it tough going. But I’ve still got a nice comfortable lead – he’s going to have to go out and win next week and beat a high quality field, and I think the advantage is still in my court.”

The tournament normally features the tour’s 60 top money earners, but Justin Rose pulled out as his wife is expecting their second child and Fredrik Jacobson will not be playing because of injury. No players will replace them.

Donald, who has the chance to make history by adding the European money title to the PGA Tour title he already has won, knows what it’s like to be in McIlroy’s shoes. Donald’s scintillating finish to win Disney’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic snatched the U.S. money title from Webb Simpson and put him on course for unprecedented success on both money lists.

“I turned on the scores and saw Rory was having a good day and some of the other guys ahead of him weren’t putting too much pressure on him,” Donald said. “So he did what he needed to do and won the tournament. It was the same in Disney, except this time I have a lead, so I hope I can hold on to the lead.”

Arriving Tuesday in Dubai, Donald’s tweet indicated he may be starting to feel the pressure. “Just got to Dubai, With Rory, Lee and Tiger winning, feeling a bit ganged up on!!”

Kaymer said he felt it would be a good battle but he predicted that Donald would come out ahead.

“With Rory and Luke, it’s exciting. It’s almost the same – almost the same that we had last year with Greame and me,” Kaymer said. “But I don’t really believe that Luke will have a bad week. The way he played golf the last few months … So I think it would be very difficult for Rory but I’m sure he will be aggressive and try and do everything to try and win, and then that puts a little bit of pressure on Luke for the weekend.”

Westwood also favors Donald, though he welcomed the duel, saying it was a great way to cap what has been “a very good year” for the European Tour.

“All the top players have played pretty well this year, been successful in the major championships,” Westwood said. “So yeah, I think it has been a very good year. I think that’s part of the reason why the money has not dropped. I don’t want to say we give value for money because we are playing for a lot of money. But it’s certainly a good brand and a good product, the European Tour, at the moment.”

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”