Ko, with No. 1 in sight, leads Thompson in S. Korea

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2015, 11:59 am

INCHEON, South Korea – Lydia Ko took advantage of Sung Hyun Park's struggles to take the lead Friday in the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.

The second-ranked Ko made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead over Lexi Thompson. Park followed her course-record 62 with a 74 to drop two shots behind.

"I thought I played really solidly and made a lot of good putts," Ko said. "When I was in trouble, I got a little fortunate, got a good lie in the rough."

The South Korean-born New Zealander moved into position to regain the No. 1 spot in the world from South Korean star Inbee Park, one of her playing partners Friday. Ko would take the top spot with a victory and also could move up under other scenarios depending on where Inbee Park finishes. Inbee Park replaced Ko atop the list in June with the first of her two major victories this year.

"The closer we get or if there is a switch, the media is going to talk about it," Ko said. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to try and ignore you guys. I think that's the best way. Because when I'm out there, I'm just trying to hit a good shot and put myself in good position. If I thought about the rankings, the awards, it's just way too much. It's hard enough just trying to hit the ball straight out there."

Ko had a 10-under 134 total on Sky 72's Ocean Course. She tied for second last week in the LPGA Malaysia after winning her previous two starts in Canada and France, where she became the youngest major champion.

Inbee Park was tied for 25th at 3 under after a 72. She's tied with Ko for the tour victory lead with four.

Thompson birdied three of the final four holes for a 67 on the course made more difficult by some tough pin positions.

"There were a few that were tucked on some ridges and that were just hard to get to," the American said. "I think there's going to be even harder ones tomorrow."

Sung Hyun Park took a four-stroke lead into the round and was seven shots ahead of Ko.

"I think it would be a lie to say that I didn't feel any pressure because of the record that I set yesterday," Sung Hyun Park said.

Still four strokes in front after birdies on Nos. 4 and 5, she bogeyed the next three holes to drop into a tie for the lead with Ko. The 22-year-old South Korean player, making her first LPGA start, missed a 3-foot putt on No. 6 for her first bogey of the week, had a 4-footer circle the cup and stay out on No. 7 and missed from 6 feet on No. 8. She birdied the 10th, but bogeyed the 12th and 18th.

"It was very difficult to read some of the putting lines," she said. "I think I missed a couple of putts that I could have made. That's kind of lingering on my mind at the moment."

South Korea's Yoon-Ji Cho also was 8 under after a 68. Taiwan's Yani Tseng, the 2011 winner, and South Korea's Mirim Lee were 7 under. Tseng shot 67, and Lee had a 69.

England's Charley Hull, playing alongside Sung Hyun Park and U.S. Solheim Cup hero Gerina Piller in the final group, pulled within a stroke of the lead on the seventh hole, but dropped five strokes on the next six holes and finished with a 74 to drop into a tie for 19th at 4 under. Hull four-putted for a double bogey on No. 8, made a bogey on No. 10 and had another double bogey on the par-5 13th after hitting into the water.

Piller also was 4 under after a 74.

American Jessica Korda, the Malaysia winner, was 1 under along with Michelle Wie and U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inskter, the oldest player in the field at 55. They each shot 72.

Ko and Inbee Park attracted a large gallery.

"It's great to play in front of big crowds," Ko said. "I think they are as excited as us, even a little bit more. ... Last year was the first time playing in Korea, and I've been noticing even more and more how much they love the LPGA and how much they love golf. I think the numbers are only going to go up. I think it's going to be pretty crazy on the weekend."

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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).

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.” 

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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.”

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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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.