Ames outlasts Langer to win first Champions title

By Associated PressApril 16, 2017, 11:56 pm

DULUTH, Ga. - Stephen Ames hadn't won a tournament in eight years, so he knew it was critical to keep his cool.

''My biggest goal this week was to control my anxiety and my emotions and my breathing, which is something I worked on pretty hard this week,'' he said. ''That calmed me down a lot.''

Ames won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions title, easily holding off Bernhard Langer at TPC Sugarloaf.

The 52-year-old Ames, a naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad, closed with a 6-under 66 for a four-stroke victory over Langer. Ames opened with rounds of 67 and 68 to take a one-stroke lead over five players heading in to the final round.

Making his 49th senior start, Ames had six birdies in his bogey-free round to finish at 15-under 201. He won for the first time since taking the 2009 Children's Miracle Network Classic for the last of his four PGA Tour titles.

''I felt very much in control of my tempo and everything else,'' Ames said. ''It was nice to be in that situation and play the way I did today.''

Ames is the third Canadian to win on the 50-and-over tour and the 11th player to win on the PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour and Web.com Tour.

Langer, a 30-time winner on the tour, had a 65 to jump from a tie for 21st. Fred Funk (66),David Frost (68) and Brandt Jobe (70) tied for third at 10 under, and 2016 winner Woody Austin (68) and Kevin Sutherland (71) followed at 9 under.

Langer's tour-record streak of par or better rounds at 36 ended Saturday with a 73.

''It was a sad way to finish yesterday, especially bogeying 18 was bad,'' Langer said. ''But I didn't think I hit a bad tee shot and ended up with a horrible lie. I couldn't even extract it out of the rough and ended up making 6, so that was pretty poor. I just never made a putt yesterday.''

Ames did himself an early favor to create some breathing room, chipping in on the par-4 seventh. It was his second straight birdie and fourth on the front nine.

''I read the line like a putt,'' he said. ''I picked my spot where I wanted to land it. When I hit the ball and it came off the face, I was like, 'Ooh, this felt good.' It landed on my spot and the ball went to the hole like a putt. It was perfectly executed.''

When Langer closed within two strokes, Ames locked back into his mantra of staying calm. Nobody has dominated the PGA Tour Champions in recent years like Langer, so Ames knew his lead wasn't safe just yet.

''Oh, I was watching,'' Ames said. ''Don't worry. I'm a leaderboard-watcher.''

Ames calculated how many holes Langer had left and how many birdies he needed to take the lead. When Langer made par on the last three holes, Ames felt some relief.

''I had to keep an eye on him,'' Ames said. ''When I saw that he finished at 11 (under), I realized that I could actually put this in cruise control coming in, which is what I did.''

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.