Very intesting stuff going on on both sides of the world.
In the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emerites, the beginning of the week was filled with anticipation.
They had the top 4 players in the world rankings: Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer. And then they paid Tiger Woods a very large appearance fee to come play too. And so far, he’s more than earning his money.
Tiger shot 2-under the first day and 3 the second to get himself T4 just two strokes off the lead of Dane, Thorbjorn Oleson. And McIlroy is T4 too. But his score included a two-stroke penalty for brushing sand off the line of his putt when both the sand and his ball were off the green. He would have been T1 and the swings I saw left no doubt that he could have been.
Luke Donald could only manage an even par round today and remains 1-under, four behind Tiger. Lee Westwood shot even par twice and is five back. And Martin Kaymer? Where did all the magic go? He shot 77, 73 and missed the cut by four shots. This from the guy who won it three out of the last four years.
So only one of the top 4 were able to hang with Tiger and it could get more difficult still. Thursday, everybody was raving about his swing and mystified that he couldn’t make any putts again. Friday he didn’t have that problem. He made five birdies against two bogeys and he looked better than that. I don’t want to minimize what Matteo Manissero did in shooting 7-under Friday for T2, but Tiger just seemed to have this relaxed, focussed maturity about his manner all day long. I think he thinks he can win this thing.
On this side of the world at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, all of the unevenness of the easy North course and hard South course have been evened out: everybody has played both courses.
And what we have is world-beater, Kyle Stanley with a one-shot lead at 14-under par. He shot 62 on the North Thursday with Spencer Levin and backed that up with a 4-under, 68 on the South course. And that too was impressive in its own right; he was even par on his front nine with 3 birdies, 1 bogey and a double bogey. And then he kicked it in gear with four birdies on the back for his 68, proving that a round is never ruined until its ruined. Hard to know what this second-year player can manage on the weekend, but he was increasing speed at the finish today.
Who we know can handle a weekend is two-time winner Brandt Snedeker who shot 8-under on the North and is one stroke back. And his card included a bogey. Other noteables include Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas four shots off the lead, Robert Allenby and Justin Leonard five back and Nick Watney, Camilo Villegas, Jhonattan Vegas (who came close to winning it last year) and Keegan Bradley (with a triple bogey) seven shots back. With 5-under the low round of the day on the South Course where the last two rounds will be played, all of these players are in reach if Stanley can’t keep the pace up.
So we have two good tournaments to watch:
- Abu Dhabi is live at 4:00 AM (ET) on the Golf Channel and rebroadcast at 8:00 AM, and,
- La Jolla is live at 1:00 PM (ET) on the Golf Channel and continues at 3:00 PM on CBS.
Both are compelling choices.