Another Sunday Showdown Set in Dubai

By Sports NetworkFebruary 3, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Dubai Desert ClassicDUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Three-time winner Ernie Els closed with back-to-back birdies Saturday to shoot 4-under 68 at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Those late birdies moved Els two clear of the field at 17-under-par 199. Second-round leader Ross Fisher managed a 71 and shares second place at minus-15 with Henrik Stenson (69) and Jyoti Randhawa (67).
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to a missed putt during Saturday's round. (WireImage)
World No. 1 and defending champion Tiger Woods also closed with consecutive birdies to shoot 5-under 67. He is alone in fifth and three behind Els at 14-under-par 202.
The second and third rounds at Emirates Golf Club were both completed Saturday morning. The second round was suspended Friday night due to darkness after weather delayed action for over two hours Friday afternoon.
Woods trailed by as many as six strokes early in the round before a birdie on the fifth moved him to minus-10. He dropped a shot on eight, but atoned for that error with a birdie on nine.
The 31-year-old came right back with birdies on 10 and 11 to move within two strokes of the lead at 12 under. Woods parred his next five holes before closing with birdies on 17 and 18 to finish three behind Els.
'When you are chasing and coming from behind you can't afford to make mistakes,' Woods explained. 'That's the great thing about leading, you can slip up and still win the tournament. But coming from behind and given the golf course we have here, you have to make a bunch of birdies. I have to try and do that and hope it is enough.'
Els, who won here in 1994, 2002 and 2005, entered round three one behind Fisher. Els faltered to a three-putt bogey on the first. He erased that mistake with a birdie on two.
The South African birdied the third as well, but remained one back as Fisher also birdied the third. Fisher stumbled to a bogey at six to fall back into a tie for the top spot with Els and Stenson.
Els bogeyed the eighth to again fall one down. He got that stroke back with a birdie on 10. After Fisher bogeyed 11, Els took the lead with a birdie on 12. Fisher and Stenson birdied the 13th to forge another three-way tie for the lead.
After four straight pars, Els converted a 3-foot birdie try on the par-4 17th. He made it two straight as he two-putted for birdie on the 18th to finish two clear.
'It is a great golf course and it will produce a good test (Sunday) that is for sure,' Els stated. 'We have a great leaderboard and the number one player in the world is in there too, so it is going to be great. But it is important to play your own game and concentrate on what you have to do. I have a good game plan.'
Fisher was even par through nine with a birdie and a bogey. After a birdie on 10, he dropped a shot at 11. Fisher's final birdie came at 13 before he parred out to share second.
Stenson connected on consecutive birdies from the second. However, he turned in even par after bogeys on seven and nine. Stenson fought back into the mix with birdies on 10 and 11.
He made birdie on the par-5 13th for the third straight round to move to 15 under, before closing with five pars.
'It is pretty bunched up and a lot of guys will have a chance (Sunday), but the good thing is that I'm one of them,' Stenson said. 'Obviously Woods is in there, but Ernie is playing very well and I think he is going to be the one to look out for.'
Randhawa used a strong back nine to move into contention. He had a birdie and a bogey through nine holes. The 34-year-old moved to 12-under with birdies on the 10th and 13th. He closed with three straight birdies to grab a share of second.
Niclas Fasth flew up the leaderboard in round three with the low round of the day, a 7-under 65. That moved him into a share of sixth with Peter Hanson at 13-under-par 203. Prom Meesawat in one stroke further back at minus-12 after a Saturday 68.
Thomas Bjorn (66), Simon Dyson (69), Joakim Haeggman (69) and Robert Karlsson (68) are tied for ninth at 11-under-par 205.
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    Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

    Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

    Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

    Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

    Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Paul Casey


    5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    6. Ian Poulter

    On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Bubba Watson

    6. Jordan Spieth

    7. Rickie Fowler

    8. Bryson DeChambeau


    9. Webb Simpson

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

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    Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

    After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

    Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

    Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runners-up in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

    There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

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    After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

    Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

    Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

    A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

    So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray

    On the difference between this week and last week ...

    There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

    Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

    At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard

    On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

    Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

    Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

    This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

    Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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    Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

    Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

    After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

    Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

    “Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”