Bryant Takes Early Lead at PODS

By Associated PressMarch 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipTAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Bart Bryant got his bad shots out of the way early and birdied his last two holes Thursday for a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead among early starters who were lucky to beat the rain in the PODS Championship.
 
Bryant was thrilled to twice escape with pars through six holes, and he wasnt paying that much attention to his card until he realized he was 4 under. Then came birdies on two of the toughest holes at Innisbrook, including a 15-foot putt on the 18th, and he found himself atop the leaderboard.
 
I felt like I got my bad stuff out of the way and I was still even par, Bryant said. I think that gave me a little confidence.
 
Ernie Els, coming off a victory in the Honda Classic that ended an 0-for-47 drought on the PGA TOUR, was part of the afternoon wave that did not finish the first round because of a 2 1/2 -hour storm delay.
 
Els made two straight bogeys when he returned to the course, and finished his day with a birdie at No. 11 to return to even par.
 
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, who has not had full status on the PGA TOUR since 2006, made good use of his sponsors exemption with five birdies that left him one stroke behind with three holes remaining.
 
John Daly, another player without a card but no shortage of exemptions, was 3 over through 10 holes and still got the biggest buzz. After ducking into a Hooters hospitality tent during the rain delay, he emerged with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden as his caddie for the rest of the afternoon. It didnt help much, as Daly three-putted from the front of the 18th green for another bogey.
 
The first round was scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. Friday. It was the first time rain has halted play on the PGA TOUR this year.
 
Rain earlier in the week took some of the bite out of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, regarded as one of the toughest TOUR tracks in Florida, and rarely has it played this easy.
 
Kenny Perry hobbled around on a hip that felt like it was shooting volts down his leg, but he managed seven birdies in a round of 66, tied with Jeff Maggert and Stewart Cink.
 
Cink was playing for the first time since losing to Tiger Woods at the Accenture Match Play Championship, and while he suffered the worst beating in the 10-year history of the final match (8 and 7), he figured this was a continuation of good play.
 
I had a lot of confidence after Match Play, Cink said. Even losing the last match, I was happy to be in the last match.
 
Carl Pettersson, who won at Innisbrook in 2005, and Jonathan Byrd were among those at 67. Jerry Kelly was 4 under through four holes when play was halted.
 
Perhaps it is not surprising that so many guys in their 40s'Bryant, Maggert, Perry, Tom Pernice Jr.'were atop the leaderboard. This is a course that requires more brain than brawn, and experience tends to come in handy.
 
Even the guys with power find themselves throttling back.
 
You cant hit too many shots without putting thought into them, Byrd said.
 
The good news for Bryant is that hes hitting shots without feeling too much pain. It seems every time he recovers from one surgery, another body part starts hurting, which was the case last year.
 
Bryant said his right hip was in such bad shape that he took two months off during the summer. When he returned, his right elbow was acting up again, and he couldnt practice the last three months of the season.
 
No practice, just playing, the 45-year-old said. This year, Ive been able to start hitting balls. My health has been good.
 
The results are slowly coming along. It was only three years ago that Bryants career turned the corner with victories in the Memorial and the TOUR Championship, the latter a six-shot victory over Woods.
 
Last week at the Honda Classic, he was among the leaders on Friday until taking a quadruple-bogey on the sixth hole that sent him back to the pack. Those big numbers can happen at PGA National, and Bryant wasnt too bothered.
 
It showed my game is in the kind of shape that I can get up there at the top, he said.
 
Perry, meanwhile, started feeling a sting down his leg only two days ago, which doesnt affect his swing, only getting around. He is 47 and desperate to win, figuring that will get the attention of Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.
 
The Ryder Cup will be held at Valhalla in Perrys home state of Kentucky.
 
I just havent had that consistency for four rounds, Perry said. I need a win badly.
 
No one needs to win more than Janzen, whose last victory was his second U.S. Open title at The Olympic Club in 1998, has not finished inside the top 125 on the money list the last three years.
 
He has been playing well enough at home that he felt overly confident going to Mexico two weeks ago. Then he missed the cut.
 
The good news is I didnt leave there totally dejected, Janzen said.
 
Divots
 
Dudley Hart withdrew because of soreness in his neck. Kevin Na withdrew after a 76 because of food poisoning. Sean OHair, who has missed his last two cuts, was followed around by swing coach Steve Dahlby. OHair was one shot out of the lead until bogeys on his last two holes for a 69. Azinger four-putted the last hole for double bogey in a round of 79. He had not played since Phoenix.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.