Ko, Wie, Jutanugarns advance at Ochoa Match Play

By Associated PressMay 4, 2017, 11:12 pm

MEXICO CITY – Lydia Ko beat home favorite Ana Menendez, and the Jutanugarn sisters set up a second-round showdown in the Lorena Ochoa Match Play.

The top-ranked Ko edged Menendez 3 and 2 on Thursday at Club de Golf Mexico in the event that switched from stroke to match play and from November to April.

''I am going to try to give myself as many birdie opportunities as I can,'' Ko said. ''I think a big key going forward is that you need to have many birdies opportunities, because some of them will end up falling.''

Third-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn will face older sister Moriya in the second round.

''I think playing against her will be fun, because even if I don't make a putt in that hole and she does I'll feel happy for her,'' Ariya said.

Ariya beat Amy Anderson 5 and 4, and Moriya topped Alena Sharp 2 and 1.

''Is a little too early this week to see my sister, but ... tomorrow will be fun,'' Moriya said.

Ko will face Jennifer Song, a 3-and-2 winner over Mi Hyang Li.

Ko took a two-hole lead with birdie win on the par-5 second and par-4 fourth. Menendez took the par-3 fifth with a birdie, and Ko rebounded with birdies on the par-4 seventh and eighth to make it 3 up. Menendez won the par-5 10th with a birdie, Ko took the par-3 14th with a par and ended the match with a birdie halve on the par-3 16th.

''Hopefully, that last birdie is good momentum going into tomorrow,'' Ko said.

The event is the LPGA Tour's first match-play tournament since 2012.

Carlota Ciganda, the November winner in stroke play at Club de Golf Mexico in the then-Lorena Ochoa Invitational, topped Mexico's Gaby Lopez 5 and 3.

Michelle Wie routed Lizette Salas, 6 and 5.

''I love match play,'' Wie said. ''It reminds me of Solheim Cup. It brings back lot of memories. I love it. I had fun today and Lizzete was a really good opponent. I chipped down for eagle twice.''

Wie will play Laura Gonzalez Escallon, the Belgian player who knocked off fourth-ranked In Gee Chun 2 and 1.

Cristie Kerr topped Brittany Altomare 2 and 1. Kerr won three weeks ago in Hawaii and lost to Haru Nomura on Sunday on the sixth hole of a playoff in Texas.

''I didn't really have my full game today and I still got it done,'' Kerr said. ''I made some really clutched-outs coming in and I was able to get it done.''

Olympic champion Inbee Park beat Peiyun Chien; Shanshan Feng had a 7-and-5 victory over Laetitia Beck; and Brooke Henderson outlasted Katherine Kirk in 20 holes. Stacy Lewis dropped a 1-up decision to Ayako Uehara.

Second-ranked So Yeon Ryu, the ANA Inspiration winner, is taking the week off.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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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).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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 contacted 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.