Kim leads Garcia two back at Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2008, 4:00 pm
THE TOUR Championship by Coke 2007 LogoATLANTA ' Anthony Kim and Sergio Garcia did enough Friday at the Tour Championship to set up a Ryder Cup rematch.
 
Kim had to settle for a 1-under 69 on Friday, making bogey from the bunker on the final hole, to take a two-shot lead over Sergio Garcia and put them in the final pairing just six days after their leadoff singles match at the Ryder Cup.
 
Kim won that match, 5 and 4, and the Americans followed him to victory at Valhalla.
 
The differences are obvious.
 
This is not match play. At stake is $1.26 million, not a 17-inch gold trophy to share. There are 36 holes remaining. And its not unusual for top players to be paired together on the PGA Tour.
 
Even so, it brought some much-needed energy to this event because they are playing so shortly after the Ryder Cup.
 
We had one play of golf ' really, 14 holes of golf, Kim said, trying to downplay the pairing and instead drawing laughter.
 
Kim was at 7-under 133, and while he will have a 2-up lead of sorts on Saturday at East Lake, the momentum might lie with Garcia. He was 4 over through his first six holes of the tournament, rallied for a 70, then followed that with nearly flawless play for a 65.
 
Not to be forgotten was Kims tag-team partner from the Ryder Cup ' Phil Mickelson, who ran off five birdies over the last seven holes for a 68 that put him three shots behind.
 
And theres more at stake than just a big check and an elite title for the winner. Mickelson, Garcia and Kim are the top contenders to win the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average on the PGA Tour.
 
We still have a lot of golf left this weekend that will probably decide it, Mickelson said.
 
They were among six players in the 30-man field who managed to break par over two days, joined by Camilo Villegas (66) at 2-under 138, and K.J. Choi (70) and Mike Weir (69) at 139.
 
Even without their recent Ryder Cup history, Kim and Garcia are two of golfs most dynamic young players. Both can energize the crowd with their personalities, and they are loaded with talent.
 
Both consider the Ryder Cup history.
 
Its Saturday of the Tour Championship, Garcia said. Its a totally different event. Tomorrow is an important day to give yourself a chance on Sunday. Youre not going to win the tournament tomorrow unless you shoot 52.
 
Kim, whose opening 64 was eight shots better than the field average, looked as though he might go even lower when he stuffed his approach inside 3 feet on the first hole and hit two more approaches inside 6 feet through five holes.
 
But he made enough mistakes ' a pair of three-putt bogeys on the front nine ' to keep enough players in range.
 
I feel pretty positive about shooting under par on this golf course and not feeling like I got a lot out of my game, he said.
 
Ernie Els played in the final group with Kim and was trying to stay with him until pulling his tee shot into the water on the 17th and taking double bogey, sending him to a 71 to finish eight shots out of the lead.
 
Hes a good kid, a really good kid, Els said of the 23-year-old Kim. He has a good attitude and hes got a lot of game. We need a good, younger player like him.
 
One difference Friday was using his caddie, Eric Larson, to line up his tee shots. Kim felt he was missing his mark by some 15 yards, and this freed him up to blast away.
 
It worked out great, Kim said. I feel like Im on the LPGA Tour, but it doesnt matter. Im playing good golf and making good swings.
 
Garcia didnt play all that badly Sunday in his loss to Kim except for a few bad drives on the front nine. He made only bogey at East Lake, chipping to firmly on the 18th hole and missing his par putt from about 10 feet.
 
The 28-year-old Spaniard fired off three straight birdies starting with a 9-iron into about 10 feet on the fifth, concluding his run with a 25-foot birdie on the seventh with perfect pace that brought a wry smile. Garcia also hit a delicate bunker shot for a short birdie on the par-5 ninth, and hammered a wedge to 2 feet of a tough pin on the 17th.
 
If you miss the fairway, youre pretty much done, Garcia said. Even from the fairway, its still tough because the greens are so firm and so fast. But if you played well, you had a chance of getting on a roll, like I did.
 
Lurking was Mickelson, until his string of birdies at the end of the round.
 
Lefty won at East Lake in 2000, and he is starting to knock in enough putts to gain some confidence going into the weekend. Even so, he was intrigued by the two players ahead of him.
 
Mickelson and Kim were partners for three matches last week, although they never played against Garcia. Kim did that on his own in the opening match.
 
I like the way it worked out last Sunday, Mickelson said. That was nice. Ive got to go out and try to track both of those guys down. Thats not going to be easy.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.