What We Learned: Abu Dhabi

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2013, 1:52 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the week. This week, our writers weigh in on Rory McIlroy's equipment switch and the ever-widening lens of scrutiny he's opened himself up to.

Rory McIlroy is going to get a small taste of what it is like to be Tiger Woods. In other words, he is about to experience a lot more intense scrutiny over every shot he hits. That is the downside of ditching the equipment that got you to No. 1 and signing a multi-million dollar contract with a new company. Yeah, the missed cut at Abu Dhabi is just one event, and probably just a blip in McIlroy's ascendance, but there will be mounting pressure to prove the equipment switch was not dangerous, as Nick Faldo suggested. There will be mounting pressure to win his first event with his new Nike clubs. There will be more of a 'daily referendum,' as Tiger coach Sean Foley calls the scrutiny of Woods' game, on McIlroy's game now, too.

McIlroy jumped more directly into Tiger's world in that game of one-upsmanship he played with Tiger in the entertaining Nike commercial released this past week. He jumped in deeper playing that game of one-downsmanship with Woods in their pairing in Abu Dhabi. 'Whatever you can do, I can do worse' was the theme in Abu Dhabi. – Randall Mell


Appearance fees don’t guarantee a Sunday marquee. Matching 75s from Rory McIlroy and a rules snafu by Tiger Woods sent the world’s top two players home long before Jamie Donaldson rallied to win the title. Spending seven figures to woo golf’s top players sounds good in theory, but as officials in Abu Dhabi learned this week there are never any guarantees. – Rex Hoggard


A player can switch equipment manufacturers and still find immediate success. Rory McIlroy? Nope, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, of course, but his Nike stablemate Thorbjorn Olesen employed a bag that included 14 clubs from the company while finishing in a share of second place, just one stroke out of a playoff in just his second week using the gear. While there weren't too many positives for McIlroy to take from the week, seeing that the clubs do indeed work and can make a sudden impact should serve as optimism for him going forward. Too often, cynics are quick to criticize a change of equipment. Those burying Rory already for making the switch should similarly take note of Olesen's strong play this week, which should help disprove the notion that offseason moves lead to early-season blues. – Jason Sobel


Rory McIlroy never looked right bathed in those Abu Dhabi spotlights, strolling down a catwalk in his new Nike duds. He’s always seemed more understated than extroverted, but when you are given the keys to the kingdom you bend your own rules and play along. McIlroy took one for the team until Friday morning, when he ditched his Nike putter for his trusty Scotty Cameron (he kept the Nike head cover, wouldn’t you know?) and missed the cut anyway. I’m not worried about McIlroy long term (I’m not worried about Nike, either) but the entire week was an odd way to begin a season.

Oh, and one more thing. The golf gods sure don’t miss much. – Damon Hack

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”