Fowler stakes his claim for a Big 4
Ultimately, Rickie Fowler stole the show at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Fowler leveraged a 65-69 weekend finish beating former Illinois star Thomas Pieters by 1. Fowler had a clutch chip-in for birdie on the 17th to extend his lead to two over Pieters. Needing an eagle to tie, Pieters’ long eagle putt burned the edge, giving Fowler the victory. Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s challenging lightning fast greens and thick rough predictably brought only the world’s best to the top as Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson finished two back of Fowler in a tie for 3rd, and Jordan Spieth along with 5 others finished 4 shots back in a tie for 5th.
With the win, Fowler moved to 4th in the world behind only Spieth, Day and McIlroy. His resume stacks up with the rest aside from the one glaring exception of a major championship win. This marks Fowler’s 4th win in the past year, all of which featured exceptionally strong fields (2015 Players Championship, the Scottish Open, Deutsche Bank Championship and this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship). Fowler’s propensity to close out tournaments against the world’s best bodes well for his hopes of winning a major championship.
How the other headliners faired
This week’s coverage was dominated by 2016’s inaugural battle between Spieth and McIlroy. While neither disappointed, both left Abu Dhabi feeling like they could have played better. Spieth was not as sharp as usual as missed greens and putts marred his four rounds. That being said, his “poor play” resulted in a tie for 5th at a tournament with a world-class field. Spieth heads to Singapore this week before taking a few (well-deserved) weeks off.
Rory McIlroy made his first start since mid-November playing alongside Spieth and Fowler in the first two rounds, and all remembered what makes this golfer so special. McIlroy’s power and accuracy off the tee give him the most dominant tee-to-green game in golf, and when his putter is on, no one stands a chance. This week, though, McIlroy’s putter was inconsistent, missing countless 5-10’ putts that most golfers would have to make to compete at a high level. Given that this was his first competitive round in 8 weeks, his putting should improve and his 2016 wins should start to stack up.
The first ever (self-proclaimed) golf scientist
Heralded amateur Bryson DeChambeau made the trip to Abu Dhabi and showed off a few of the talents that won him last year’s U.S. Amateur and NCAA Championship. DeChambeau held the 18-hole lead after a blistering 8-under 64 and found himself in Saturday’s final group with Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan. Dechambeau struggled with the spotlight, shooting 78 in the third round and finishing in a tie for 54th at -2.
DeChambeau raised eyebrows with his comments proclaiming himself a “golf scientist” and comparing himself to the likes of Albert Einstein and George Washington.
While his confidence can be a bit polarizing, it is interesting to note that he has applied scientific studies to his game, such as using water and Epsom salts to identify which balls are flawed and not to be used.
One thing is clear... we now know that DeChambeau can at the very least talk a big game.
Dufner ends winless stretch in Palm Springs
Fan favorite Jason Dufner went through a rough stretch since his 2013 PGA Championship win following a series of injuries and a nasty divorce. His play bottomed out last year when (once ranked 7th in the world) he fell to 135th in late 2015. As his personal troubles cleared up and a newfound dedication to fitness kicked in, things began to turn around.
In late 2015, Dufner paired with Brandt Snedeker to win the FT Shootout. Last week, he started 2016 on a good note finishing T9 at the Sony Open, and this week he beat David Lingmerth in a playoff to win the CareerBuilder Challenge and end the over 2-year winless drought.
The win didn’t come easy. Dufner played nearly perfect golf the first 3 days, riding a hot putter to a 3 day total of 23 under par and a two-shot lead. Sunday was a different story. Dufner struggled, and Lingmerth came from five shots back to catch Dufner on Sunday’s back nine. On the 17th hole (a tough par 3), it looked like Dufner had lost the title as his ball ended up left of the green in the rocky hazard. Dufner responded by hitting a remarkable shot nearly holing a pitch from the hazard. He showed his major championship mettle again on the first playoff hole having to make a 12-foot par putt to extend the playoff. He did, and in true Dufner form, yawned walking off the green. Lingmerth found trouble in the water on the next playoff hole, and Dufner returned to the winner’s circle. These two sum up the look of victory...
Editor’s note: the fried egg loves Jason Dufner but in no way condones the buttoning of his top button.
The tour heads to beautiful Torrey Pines for the Farmer’s Insurance Open. Top headliners include world number two Jason Day who is back to defend his title, Rickie Fowler and his return to the PGA Tour after his win in Abu Dhabi, and Phil Mickelson who is back at his hometown course after this week’s T3. Full preview to come in Wednesday’s edition.
When a rock gets in the way of your ball.