Fowler Shoots 61 to Win in Paradise but Woods is the Real Hero
ON ANOTHER day in paradise, Rickie Fowler stole the limelight from comeback kid Tiger Woods, firing an incredible final round of 61 to win the Hero World Challenge at Albany in the Bahamas. Fowler began the final round seven shots behind leader Charley Hoffman and finished four ahead of his fellow American.
Fowler knew that he needed something special and boy, did he come up with it. He made eight birdies on the front nine, including seven on the trot, and suddenly found himself in front. When he added three more birdies it looked like there might be a chance that the 28-year-old could shoot a 59. In the end he had to settle for breaking the tournament record with an 18-under-par total, and a new course record.
Woods finished with a 68 and ended the week on eight under par, in eighth place. It was his first tournament since the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of the year, when he withdrew after an opening round of 77. Back then, he complained of back spasms and subsequently went under the surgeon’s knife for his fourth serious back operation.
The 14-time major champion raced to the turn in 31, with three birdies and an eagle. He suffered a double-bogey at the 10th and then birdied three of his next five holes, before finishing with bogeys at the 17th and 18th holes.
Woods came off the final green and announced that he had felt no pain during his latest comeback. He played some wonderful golf over four days, although there were still some duffed chips. But Tiger watchers will be encouraged by the fact that he is hitting the ball as far as he ever did in his prime and that he has regained his full swing speed.Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood carded a five-under 67 to finish tied third with world number two Jordan Spieth, six shots behind Fowler.
The day began with Hoffman leading Spieth and Justin Rose by five shots, but it was Fowler who turned the tournament upside down, starting his round with seven successive birdies, including a chip-in at the fifth, as he reached the turn in 28.
Fowler then birdied the 11th, 13th and 15th holes and needed two more to score the magical 59, but finished with three pars. "I needed to get off to a quick start today to at least show Charley I was there," Fowler said. "We took care of that and kept it rolling from there."
On a beautiful sunny day with little breeze, only three of the players in the 18-man field failed to break par - and one of them was Hoffman, who could only manage a 72.
So what of Woods? After rounds of 69, 68, 75 and 68, he said: “I am very pleased with my performance, and have shown some good signs all week. It is one thing doing it back at home, but producing it in tournament conditions is totally different. The best thing is that I can stand here and tell you I am completely pain-free."Woods drove the par four seventh hole and drained the putt for an eagle, to go with six birdies. It is perhaps understandable that his challenge faltered on the back nine, but he can look back on a performance that saw him finish ahead of US PGA champion Justin Thomas, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and world number one Dustin Johnson.
"I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds, that wasn't going to be an issue," said Woods. "The issue was how my scoring was going to be, how was my feel? How am I going to get used to the adrenaline in my system, because it's the first time in a while - that took a little bit of time."
The 2018 Masters, the first of golf's four major championships, starts on April 5 and Woods said he is still working out a schedule to prepare him for the majors. "I need to play enough but not play too much and I don't know the best way to go about it yet but we will figure it out," he said.
Driver: KING F8+ Nardo | 8 degrees | 12g weight in front | Aldila NV 2K Blue 70x | 43.5in
3 Wood: KING F8+ 3W | 13 degrees | Aldila Synergy 70X | 42in
5 Wood: KING F8+ Baffler 5W | 17.5 degrees | Aldila Synergy 70X | 40.5in
Irons: KING Forged MB Irons (4-P) | KBS Tour C-Taper S+ 125
Wedges: KING V-Grind | 52°, 56°, 60° | True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
IT TOOK playoffs to find the winners of the weekend’s two European Tour events, the Mauritius Open and the Australian PGA Championship, with both tournaments reaching thrilling climaxes.
In Mauritius, South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli won his second title of 2017 when he beat Arjun Atwal with a birdie at the first sudden-death hole after both men had finished tied at 16 under par.
The 27 year old crowned a glorious week in which he was named European Tour Graduate of the Year after finishing 19th on the 2017 Race to Dubai. Atwal had a chance to beat him in regular play when he struck to magnificent blows to the par-five 18th hole and saw his eagle putt slide narrowly beyond the hole. The 44 year old from India, who will captain his continent in next month's EurAsia Cup, finished with a 68, and Frittelli paid tribute to him afterwards
"Arjun Atwal - great payer, tremendous player," he said. "I played with him on Saturday and it was one of the most fun rounds I've had in recent times. He's a played all over the world, won in America, won all over the world and I'm glad I could steal one from him here. It's been a pretty good year for me. I've set some pretty lofty goals and achieved most of them so I can't wait for 2018 - set more goals and go and chase them again."
Frittelli chipped in for a par at the sixth, picked up another shot at the seventh and got up-and-down from a bunker at the ninth before chipping close at the 10th to pick up another shot.
Another birdie at the 14th put him in control, but he failed to birdie the final hole, leaving the door open for Atwal.
France's Romain Langasque, who lost his card at the end of last season, recorded his best European Tour finish as a 67 saw him finish third on 14 under.
Earlier a late charge from Louis Oosthuizen had lit up the final round.Former Open champion Oosthuizen began his final round six shots back and there was little sign of a late title tilt when he turned in a one under par 34.
However, the South African started for home with three birdies and then hit a spectacular second to the par five 14th to set up his second eagle of the day. But his challenge ended at the 16th when a wild tee shot cost him a triple-bogey seven.
Meanwhile in Australia, Cameron Smith delighted a home crowd when he defeated fellow Aussie Jordan Zunic at the second extra hole to win the Australian PGA Championship, his first victory as a professional. Smith shot rounds of 68, 67, 67 and 68 to finish on 18-under with Zunic, who began the final round with a three-shot lead. The pair were involved in a head-to-head battle through the 18 holes, sharing and swapping the lead several times.
The Queenslander edged to a one shot lead over Zunic on the 17th hole but dropped a shot at the last, leaving Zunic to make par and force the playoff. They each parred the first playoff hole and after Zunic made bogey on the second attempt, Smith’s par was good enough to take the Joe Kirkwood Cup.
“That was a bit of a grind out there today. I didn’t quite have my best ball?striking stuff on the back-9 but managed to get away with some good short game and just holing the putts that I needed to hole,” said Smith. “I tried to stay aggressive all day. With the lead Jordan had, I thought that I had to stay aggressive, I knew he was playing well.”
Smith attended the tournament as a youngster and said he had always dreamt of winning it. “I remember going out there with dad and mum watching Adam (Scott) and those type of guys up there at Coolum,” added Smith. “Winning it became one of my goals, I wanted to win one down here, and just being in Queensland makes it a little bit more special. This will be on my schedule as long as I have my card.”
South Australian Adam Bland finished third at 17-under the card, narrowly missing the second place finish he needed to win the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit title - that honour goes to West Australian Brett Rumford, who will now receive an invitation to The Open, the WGC – Mexico Championship and the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational.
Finishing in a tie for fourth were David Bransdon and Marc Leishman who both shot 4-under 68 to be 14-under.
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