Crane leads by 1 at Nelson; Spieth shares 2nd

By Associated PressMay 21, 2016, 1:41 am

IRVING, Texas - For Jordan Spieth, it only seems as if it has been awhile since he topped a leaderboard. For Ben Crane, it actually had been.

Crane shot a 7-under 63 on Friday at the Byron Nelson to take the second-round lead at 12-under 128. He was one stroke ahead of a quartet of players that included Spieth, playing only his second tournament since squandering a five-stroke lead on the back nine when trying to win his second consecutive Masters.

Spieth was alone in the lead for a bit while playing in the morning, but after finishing his round of 65 was tied at the top with Brooks Koepka (64) and Bud Cauley (65). First-round co-leader Sergio Garcia also joined them after a 66 later in the day.

''It hasn't been that long,'' said Spieth, speaking before Crane's afternoon round. ''The Masters felt like it was quite a while ago and that's why it almost feels like, that's why I'm getting the questions, 'Was it nice to have your name back on top?' Well, I mean (it was) two tournaments ago.''

The last time Crane had led a tournament was going wire to wire to win at Memphis two years ago, the last of his five PGA Tour victories and his last top-10 finish. This is his 48th tournament since.

Crane, who turned 40 in March, took the lead after six birdies in an eight-hole stretch during the afternoon, including a 70-footer from a greenside bunker at the par-4 third hole, his 12th of the day, to get to 10 under for the tournament. He initially took the outright lead with a 3-foot birdie putt at the par-4 sixth.

''I've been struggling really for three years now, but intermittent bits of encouragement,'' Crane said. ''This has been one of those weeks where I feel like my game is really coming around.''

His only bogey came on his 17th hole Friday, the 463-yard eighth hole where his first two shots found the primary rough before his 16-foot par chance curled under the cup. Crane had two-putted from 50 feet on the previous hole to save par, and regained the outright lead with his final stroke of the day, a 14-foot birdie putt to match the best 36-hole score at Lord Byron's tournament.

''A great way to finish and just kind of good continuation of all the good stuff that was happening throughout the day,'' Crane said.

After the Masters last month, Spieth didn't play again until missing the cut last week at The Players Championship. The Dallas native and world's No. 2-ranked player is now at TPC Four Seasons, where he played his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old amateur six years ago and finished in a tie for 16th, still the best of his five previous starts there.

Spieth has hit 33 of 36 greens so far, and the only one he missed Friday was No. 9, his final hole of the day. He pitched to 11 feet and saved par.

''I still got pretty frustrated at times because I would have a really good wedge number ... that should be within 10 feet all day,'' he said. ''With the size of the greens, my misses are still holding the greens. I've had so many 40-footers out here I've managed to get in in two putts.''

Spieth made the turn after three consecutive birdies, two-putting from 45 feet at the par-5 16th and rolling in a 35-footer at the par-3 17th. A 30-foot birdie try at No. 2 curled just under the hole, and a 45-foot eagle chance at the par-5 7th hole stopped just short. His only bogey Friday was a three-putt at the par-3 13th, the same as in his opening 64.

Even without feeling like he's playing his best golf, Spieth has had consecutive rounds in the mid-60s.

''Great sign,'' Spieth said.

D.A. Points had nine birdies and a bogey through 13 holes in his second round, then parred the last five holes to finish a round of 62, the best round of the day and nine strokes better than his first round.

Defending champion Steven Bowditch shot 70 on Friday and just made the cut at 2-under 138. The Australian who lives in North Texas had missed the cut in his five previous tournaments, and seven of the last nine.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.