January 22, 2016 - 10:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
@europeantour on Twitter
A lucky bounce for Jordan Spieth on Friday in Abu Dhabi wasn't so lucky for a fan. On a tee shot that seemed doomed for a watery grave, Spieth's ball instead nailed a fan in the rear and stayed in play.

On the ninth hole of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Friday, Jordan Spieth was given a painful assist from an unsuspecting spectator on a tee shot that would have likely found the water and had the world's No. 1 player hitting "3" for his next shot.

Instead, the wayward tee shot thumped the spectator in the backside and bounced right back into play for Spieth.

Check it out here:

 

And how about the guy in the green shirt? Talk about adding insult to injury. He can't get enough of his friend getting plunked.

Spieth hits spectator's backside with errant tee shot
Bill Haas
PGA Tour via YouTube
Bill Haas knocked in his approach shot for an eagle on his very first hole of his title defense on Thursday.
 
On Thursday over in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Lee Westwood carded a walk-off eagle – he canned his approach shot on his final hole. Now that's the way you end a round in style.
 
Several hours later and halfway around the world, Bill Haas kicked off his title defense at the PGA Tour's CareerBuilder Challenge with what we're calling a "walk-on" eagle. Yup, Haas knocked his approach shot on the first hole in for an eagle.
 
Haas's strike was especially impressive because it came from the rough about 103 yards away. The ball bounced softly a couple times on the green, then checked up and scooted back and to the left into the cup.
 
 
Haas also started what turned into a parade of amazing eagles out in the California desert. Soon thereafter, fan favorite Phil Mickelson sank a 110-yard approach shot that was so cool my colleague T.J. Auclair featured it in its own post here on PGA.com.
 
As the afternoon rolled on, we also saw long-distance eagles from Martin Piller (from 110 yards out on the par-5 11th hole), Bud Cauley (a 65-foot pitch shot out of the rough on the par-5 16th hole) and Shawn Stefani (a 72-foot pitch shot from the tall grass on the par-5 eighth hole).
 
That's five eagles without a single putt in the first round alone. The CareerBuilder Challenge is usually billed as a birdie-fest but, if this pace keeps up, we might have to change that to eagle-extravaganza.
 
Here are the big shots:
 
Bill Haas starts parade of long-distance eagles at CareerBuilder
January 21, 2016 - 3:22pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Phil Mickelson
@PGATOUR on Twitter
Phil Mickelson is off to a blazing start at the CareerBuilder Challenge -- one which included this magnificent eagle hole-out on his eighth hole in the first round.

It's nice to see Phil Mickelson doing vintage Phil Mickelson things early on in his first start of 2016.

Playing La Quinta in the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge on Thursday, Lefty got off to a remarkable start. He made the turn in 5-under 31. That included this gorgeous eagle hole-out from 96 yards on the par-4 eighth hole:

 

He would chip in for birdie on his very next hole to close out the 31.

The 45-year-old Mickelson -- a 42-time winner on the PGA Tour -- has not won since the 2013 Open Championship.

Mickelson hits flag, spins ball back into hole for eagle
January 21, 2016 - 10:55am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Abu Dhabi
@europeantour on Twitter
The hole wasn't safe during the first round from Abu Dhabi on Thursday thanks to a couple of brilliant shots from Gregory Havret and Lee Westwood.

As if there weren't enough fireworks in Abu Dhabi this week with Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler paired together for the first two rounds (and amateur Bryson Dechambeau taking the first-round lead with an impressive 64), check out what Gregory Havret and Lee Westwood did on Thursday.

First, Havret holed this remarkable one-bounce ace:

 

Then, to finish his round in style, Westwood holed his third shot on the par-5 18th hole for a walk-off eagle:

 

Not much of a reaction from Westwood there... that's because it was an otherwise forgettable day as he carded a 1-over 73.

Havret's ace, by the way, wasn't the only one at the par-3 15th hole on Thursday. Thomas Bjorn also scored a hole-in-one there just one hole removed from a triple-bogey 7.

Hole-in-one and walk-off eagle in Abu Dhabi
Phil Mickelson
USA Today Sports Images
Phil Mickelson is making his first start of the 2015-16 season this week, and everyone's curious about the state of his game.
 
After two weeks in beautiful Hawaii, the PGA Tour returns to the mainland this week for the first of five straight weeks in California and Arizona. The CareerBuilder Challenge, in case you missed the announcement, is the new name for what used to be called the Humana Challenge and was for many years previously the Bob Hope Desert Classic.
 
The courses in the tournament's rotation this year are the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (that's the host course), the Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club. These are all familiar Palm Springs-area layouts, and it'll be interesting to see if they play any differently this week after all the rain southern California has gotten in recent months.
 
 
So who will we be keeping our eyes on this week? 
 
5. Charley Hoffman 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Missed Cut Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: Hoffman won this event the very first time he played it, back in 2007, and he's been a regular here ever since. Even more impressive is his recent trajectory: He tied for 10th here in 2013, tied for ninth in 2014 and then tied for second last year. This is his first start of 2016, so he's likely been focusing on desert golf for a few weeks now. And one other thing: His outgoing yet laid-back personality is a plus in a pro-am event like this.
 
4. Zac Blair 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: 3 Sony Open
Reason to watch: An overview of Blair's recent performance doesn't give a lot of hope – he's 45th in Driving Accuracy, 190th in Driving Distance and 216th in Greens in Regulation so far this season. But his putter was something to behold last week in Honolulu, where he finished third as he missed the Gomez-Snedeker playoff by a shot. He finished second in Strokes Gained Putting at the Sony, but is on my list this week because I'm eager to see if he can keep that flatstick firing.
 
3. Bill Haas 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T18 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Haas is a Carolina guy born and raised, but something about the California desert really works for him. Of his six PGA Tour wins, two came right here – last year, of course, and in 2010. He also has six top-10s here, including a playoff loss in 2011. He's making his 12th straight appearance in this event, so he clearly likes it, and all his success has made him the tournament's all-time leading money winner.
 
2. Patrick Reed 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: 2 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Reed is a consensus favorite this week, and with good reason. He earned his PGA Tour card in the Q-School finals at PGA West back in 2012, and won this event in 2014 with a record-setting total of 28 under par. To go along with those great memories is his recent form: He's recorded seven straight top-10 finishes around the globe coming into this week. He also leads the PGA Tour in scrambling and is second in Total Strokes Gained.
 
1. Phil Mickelson 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: This is his first start
Reason to watch: Phil the Thrill tops our list not because he's a two-time champion here or because we necessarily think he's going make it three this week. No, it's because this is his first PGA Tour start of the 2015-16 season, as well as his first tournament after splitting with longtime coach Butch Harmon and teaming up with new swing guru Andrew Getson. Mickelson, 45, was disappointed not to win last season, and we're very curious to check out the state of both his game and his mindset as he begins another run at the majors – and potentially his 11th Ryder Cup team.
 
SLEEPER PICK: Ryan Palmer 
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T13 Sony Open
Reason to watch: I can't guarantee that the stats will back me up all the way, but it seems like Palmer is one of those guys who does much of his damage in the early and late portions of the PGA Tour schedule – his three wins have been in October, November and January. He's done well in this event, too, with a tie for sixth in 2013, a solo second in 2014 and a tie for 10th last year, and is coming off a solid tie for 13th in Honolulu. 
 
Here's how T.J. Auclair's five to watch fared last week at the Sony Open:
 
5. Russell Henley -- Cut
4. Brandt Snedeker -- Second
3. Zach Johnson – Tied for ninth
2. Matt Kuchar – Tied for 13th
1. Jimmy Walker – Tied for 13th
 
Five to Watch at the 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
USA Today Sports Images
Rafael Cabrera-Bello can get the ball into the hole in many entertaining ways.
 
Rafael Cabrera-Bello is kicking off his 2016 campaign this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and it looks like he's been working on his short game during his offseason. The two-time European Tour winner from Spain has been showing off a couple of putting trick shots on the practice green.
 
In one of them, he takes his normal stance over the ball, then turns 180 degrees so he's facing away from the ball – but without moving his putter from its address position – and putts backwards between his legs. Nice.
 
 
The second one is even better. In this one, he lines up like he's going to putt but, instead of hitting the ball, he scoops it up with the flange of his putter and flips it over his shoulder – and right into the hole. Very nice.
 
Cabrera-Bello enters this week ranked No. 117 in the world. When it comes to entertaining us on the practice green, he's definitely in our top five. 
 
Trick shots on putting green from Rafael Cabrera-Bello