ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES |
Henrik Stenson, so often a star of the
desert swing, started the week with lack-
luster rounds of 70 and 72. He had three
putts from three feet at the eighth in his
second round and only twice had the
confidence to pull out his driver.
By the weekend, things were vastly
more encouraging. After a 69 Saturday,
he had a closing 67, taking in nine bird-
ies. He unleashed one cracking drive af-
ter another, while he was positively drool-
ing over a couple of his irons – 8-irons to
four inches at the fourth and the 11th.
“I’d been doing too much search-
ing,” Stenson said of his recent struggles.
“Finally, I’m in the right place at the top of
the backswing to release through the ball.”
Last year, Stenson missed the cut in
Abu Dhabi before finishng second in Qa-
tar and third in Dubai. Now he fancies his
chances of doing much the same again.
As for the WGCs and the majors, he
says, “Once my game’s ready, I’m ready.
The extra edge you get when you’re in
the hunt never leaves you.”
The man with laser-like focus said he
will be preparing with the majors in mind
rather more than he ever has done in
the past. Having finished second behind
Padraig Harrington at Birkdale in the
2008 Open Championship, he missed the
Turnberry cut last summer at 75 and 79.
that the medical men have advised that it
could be a year before he is 100 percent.
POULTER'S FRESH OUTLOOK
Ian Poulter’s take on why he believes
he could win a major this year: “I’m hap-
pier than I’ve ever been. I’m fresher to
play and I’m on top of my schedule.”
Lee Westwood’s condemnation of his
new Ping irons – it was made after he
had missed the half-way cut – is hardly
one the manufacturers will take to heart.
After all, it was Westwood who once de-
scribed St. Andrews, which he now loves,
as “not even the best course in Fife.”
With new grooves regulations, the
Englishman needed to change every
iron. He practiced with the replacement
set but discovered once he began to play
competitively the extent to which he and
the new implements were ill-matched.
Having got off on the wrong foot when
his sand iron to the first green flew 98
yards instead of the requisite 118, he was
soon convinced incorrect shafts had been
inserted. And that his habitual instruction
When Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey
teed up in Abu Dhabi, both had their
fingers crossed that they had finally
shrugged off their injury problems.
Garcia, who hurt his right hand when
playing in the Dubai World Champion-
ships and compounded the problem by
competing in the World Cup straight
after ward, was feeling a whole lot more
positive after opening with 66 and 67.
As for Casey, who injured his ribs on
the eve of last year’s Open, he suddenly
found himself swinging more freely on
the third day as came home in 32 for the
second of three finishing 69s. His back
was still stiff – one of the side effects of
the injury – but he was able to let it rip.
It may not harm either player that
they are not getting the usual badgering
as to whether they will win their first ma-
jor this season. Garcia is saying his 2010
emphasis is “to leave the injury behind.”
Casey, for his part, passes on the news
PEDAL TO MEDAL
Latest sound-bites from Colin Mont-
gomerie on the Ryder Cup ...
“We’re not talking trousers, shirts,
menus and hotel bedrooms anymore.
We’re talking players and the makeup of
The captain mentioned four rookies
— Martin Kaymer, Alvaro Quiros, Rory
McIlroy and Ross Fisher. He said he had
chatted to all of them. In the case of
Kaymer, he had asked about the metal
plates he has had in his right foot since
his go-karting accident of last summer.
Was it stopping him from putting in his
usual quota of practice?
Kaymer was able to put Montgom-
erie’s mind at rest. The German has
explained that the plates are ready to be
removed but, since the process would
take three weeks, he has decided to let
them stay put until the end of the season.
One, it seemed, was not enough.
“What were you thinking?” was quickly
followed by, “How did you manage to do
all that without anybody knowing?”
Ogilvy went on to suggest everyone
thought Woods just left the course and
went straight back to his hotel. “I don’t
know how he did it. Nobody knows. How
did nobody know? I’m amazed because
Tiger Woods is quite recognizable.”
QUESTIONS FOR TIGER
Geoff Ogilvy appeared to be mirror-
ing the thoughts of many another with
his reply to the query, “What would be
the question you would most like to put
to Tiger when he comes back?”
The reason the Abu Dhabi tournament
gets such a good field is down “to word of
mouth in the locker room,” said Ogilvy.
He himself had been won over after locker
room chat: “They told me that the event
was fun, that the players were well looked
after and that the course was great.”
All week, news was going the rounds
that next year’s championship could
be heading for the new Saadiyat Beach
course on Saadiyat Island. “A monster,
a brilliant monster,” said Miguel Vidaor,
last week’s tournament director, of the
7,784-yards Gary Player layout.
However, it seems things will stay the
same in 2011. The players, who had some
input, were asking that old question they
ask of themselves and their golf arrange-
ments…. Why change a winning formula?
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