Kelly Rides Ace to Verizon Heritage Lead

By Associated PressApril 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Jerry Kelly's hole-in-one helped move him past a fading Ernie Els on Saturday in the Verizon Heritage.
 
When Kelly stepped to the par-3 fourth hole, he was two shots behind Els, who looked like his smooth-swinging, Big Easy persona the first two rounds. But Kelly stunningly caught his playing partner with a 4-iron shot that hit the green, bounced to the flag stick and dropped in.
 
And Kelly wasn't done.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els survived an opening double-bogey to stay within one of the lead. (WireImage)
He tapped in for birdie on the next hole to move in front, then added two more birdies to extend the lead to two shots. When Kelly knocked in an 8-footer for birdie on the 12th hole, he was three strokes ahead of the field.
 
Kelly finished with a 67 and, at 13 under, stood a stroke ahead of Els (71), who drained a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, and Kevin Na (66).
 
Masters winner Zach Johnson kept up his inspired play after his emotional, draining triumph at Augusta National. His 66 left him four shots back along with Stephen Ames (64), Vaughn Taylor (67), Sean O'Hair (69) and Stephen Leaney (70).
 
Els seemed ready to end his nearly three-year PGA TOUR victory drought and cap a lengthy comeback since knee surgery in 2005. He made only one bogey the first 36 holes, his two 65s leaving him a shot off the tournament's halfway scoring mark.
 
But Els was off target from the start Saturday. He drove right into some trees on the first hole, then struck a tree with his next shot. His third landed in a bunker and Els ended with a double-bogey 6. He steadied himself two holes later with a birdie that pushed him two shots in front of Kelly -- and set up Kelly's dramatic ace.
 
After the tee shot went in, Els high-fived Kelly, who raised both arms in celebration. When Kelly pulled the ball from the cup, he gestured to throw it into the gallery before abruptly stopping and shaking his head 'No,' a big smile on his face.
 
'Not many times things go the way you plan them,' Kelly said. 'That went in the way I planned it.'
 
It was the 12th ace at the Verizon Heritage, which has been played on Harbour Town Golf Links since 1969.
 
Kelly's three-shot margin disappeared with a pair of bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes. But he regained the lead when Els had more tree problems, this time on the 16th. Els drove behind the large tree on the right side of the fairway. His approach struck the branches and landed about 50 yards away, leading to a bogey.
 
Johnson continued to show he wasn't out of game after his big victory and three days of celebrations and celebrity meetings. He shot a 66 -- improving by two strokes for third straight round -- and had a chance to become the first Masters winner to follow with victory here since Bernhard Langer in 1985.
 
Johnson didn't spend much time practicing since gaining the green jacket. After all, there were TV appearances like David Letterman to make and dignitaries like presidential candidate Barack Obama to meet. So Johnson called on last week's momentum to keep him going here. 'I still feel the good vibes from last week,' he said.
 
Divots:
Ames' 64 was his best round of the year, surpassing a 67 last month in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. ... Threatening weather led organizers to move back Sunday's tee times to 11 a.m. with groups of three going off the first and 10th tees. ... Overheard along the third hole, a spectator from the Northeast talking of Sunday's impending storm: 'Enjoy the snow. Make sure you plow my driveway.' Harbour Town was expecting severe thunderstorms forecast for overnight and early Sunday morning.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Verizon Heritage
  • TV Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.''

    Getty Images

    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. 

    Getty Images

    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.