Sunday 25 June 2017

Flu victim Day to miss clash with McIlroy in WGC event

Rickie Fowler playes his tee shot at the ninth during the final round of the Honda Classic. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Rickie Fowler playes his tee shot at the ninth during the final round of the Honda Classic. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Sponsors, Tour officials and fans just love it when Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day play a big tournament and all are in top form.

Class is, of course, permanent while form can fluctuate, but at a minimum, the mere presence of these guys who between them have won six of the last 10 Major championships gives serious 'oomph' to a tournament.

Unfortunately, gathering these four stars together at the one time has proven a tad difficult to arrange so far in 2017.

That's partly due to the various scheduling priorities of the individuals concerned, but there's an added complication - the reality of the toll physical and mental stress takes on the bodies of professional sports people.

This week's WGC-Mexico Championship was to have a McIlroy-Johnson-Spieth-Day show, but that has been scuppered due to the Australian's withdrawal which was announced yesterday.

Day took three months off due to injury problems at the end of last year, and now he's in bother again, this time with flu and ear infections.

"I'm truly disappointed to announce that I won't be able to play in next week's World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship. I have a double ear infection and the flu, which precludes me from preparing for and playing in the tournament.

"I have heard great things about the Mexico Championship and the golf course. I want to thank the Salinas family for their support of the event. I look forward to teeing it up there next year," said Day in a statement.

It seems to be a game of musical chairs, with one in, one out, but the welcome mat will be laid down for McIlroy, who returns to action with - hopefully - no ill effects from the rib injury which has sidelined him for the last few weeks.

And right up there at the top of the world rankings, Johnson just keeps turning up and playing well, as does Spieth.

Both of them have claimed a win already since the Christmas break, Johnson in the Genesis Open and Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Prestigious

They were free to make their plans for the week in Mexico while their peers on the PGA Tour battled it out last night for the prestigious Honda Classic title at PGA National, the 1983 Ryder Cup venue.

Rickie Fowler, chasing his seventh worldwide win, and his first since Abu Dhabi on the European Tour in February 2016, shot 65 on Saturday and took a four-shot lead into the final round.

Fowler recovered from a double-bogey six at the fourth to file 71 and win by four shots on 12-under par

Back in the pack, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell ground out a one-under-par 69, finishing with 276 (-4) on the Champion Course.

McDowell gave up two shots to the course with bogeys on the first and second holes, but claimed his first birdie of the day on the 395-yard, par-four fourth, where he holed from five feet after a fine approach shot.

He was delighted with a birdie two on the tough seventh, covering the 226-yard par-three with a hybrid off the tee and then holing a 16-foot putt.

A run of pars followed, broken by just one more birdie, a three on the 13th hole.

Crucially, apart from those two opening holes, McDowell stayed bogey-free on a tough course which played almost two shots more on average than its 70 par.

Paul Dunne earned €10,523 for his 69 and tied-23 finish on nine-under at the Joburg Open which was reduced to 54 holes because of recurring flooding and weather delays since it began last Thursday.

Darren Fichardt was a popular winner in his native South Africa.

He shot 68 for 15-under, to win by a shot from Stuart Manley of Wales and England's Paul Waring.

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