Oh that rulebook! Penalty strokes continue to be big stories on the tours, especially when they are assessed to big name players in big time contention. The Abu Dhabi Championship had more than its fair share of high profile penalties and near penalties.
In the U.S., the PGA TOUR arrived on the mainland, and a guy—who was ranked almost 600th in the world last year at this time—shot three 9-under rounds to outdistance the field at the Humana Challenge. Instead of his usual caddie (his wife Justine who is pregnant with the couple’s first child), he had his brother-in-law on the bag to fist bump repeatedly at the conclusion of the tournament.
This week is the PGA Merchandise show, the annual golf gearhead geekout in Orlando. Plus, we get to watch Tiger and Phil at Torrey Pines. Mickelson looked in good form at Abu Dhabi. Hopefully, Tiger comes out playing well, too, and we get a good head-to-head matchup. If not, there are another 140+ players to watch, and you’ll probably recognize most of their names. If all that fails, there’s still those hang gliders to watch. Let’s hit the links.
Hole #1: Lefty Goes Right Wrong
Phil Mickelson was in the lead of the Abu Dhabi Championship as he stood on the 13th tee on Sunday. But that was before he drove it into a bush. Playing right handed with a turned-over iron, Mickelson hit the ball, which ricocheted off a twig on the bush and hit the shaft of the club, landing a few feet in front of his previous lie… one stroke penalty for the double hit. He then had to play basically the same right-handed shot from an only slightly better spot. A few more traditional golf shots later, Phil walked off the green with a triple-bogey seven, two shots off the lead. At least we got a classic Phil quote out of it… [Link]
Hole #2: Stupid Rule
Rory McIlroy had to take a two-stroke penalty on Saturday for “a stupid rule.” At least fiancé Caroline Wozniaki was able to be in the gallery for his final round on Sunday (unfortunately that was because she lost in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday). But back to golf and that stupid rule… [Link]
Hole #3: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others
63-63-63-71. Anyone who saw the leaderboard of the Humana Challenge Saturday evening could have been forgiven for thinking that the winner was a given. Patrick Reed shot back-to-back-to-back 63s for 27-under and a seven-stroke lead. In the end, his one-under 71 in the final round was enough for a two-stroke victory but not before it got a little dicey down the stretch. [Link]
Hole #4: A Win in the Shadows
With all the fun Rory and Phil had with penalty strokes over the weekend, we forgot to mention that the Abu Dhabi Championship did have a winner. His name is Pablo Larrazabal, he has a spot-on Seve fist pump, and even in victory he felt a little overshadowed by the two guys sharing the stage as runners-up. [Link]
Hole #5: New Year, Same Story
That vintage German golf machine just keeps roaring along. Bernhard Langer birdied five of the last six holes to outpace Fred Couples and Jeff Sluman, winning the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship by three strokes. [Link]
Hole #6: Uncomfortable
HSBC, the title sponsor of the Open Championship and this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, has stated that it is “very uneasy” with the R&A’s use of male-only clubs’s in the Open rotation. Muirfield, Royal St. George’s, and Royal Troon are the current venues with all-male memberships. Uncomfortable sponsors can make others equally so pretty quickly. [Link]
Hole #7: Holly at Humana
The Golf Channel’s Holly Sonders played the Humana Challenge Pro-Am last week. Though she finished well back in the pack (just behind Craig T. Nelson, actually), she did manage to get her fair share of air time, or maybe just a little bit more. [Link]
Hole #8: Paula Taking the Plunge, Literally
If you are one those guys who have been secretly holding a candle for Paula Creamer, you may be out of luck. Creamer and fiancé Derek Heath got engaged over the holidays following a sky-diving proposal and the ensuing ground-based acceptance. [Link]
Hole #9: Sergio Avoids Simon’s Fate
During the opening round of the very tournament that was Simon Dyson’s first following from a two-month ban for tapping down a spike mark with his ball, Sergio Garcia was himself accused of tamping down a spike mark with his putter. Garcia was cleared of any wrong doing the next day and went on to make the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship. [Link]