Korea's Jang takes 1-shot LPGA lead in Malaysia

By Associated PressOctober 9, 2015, 8:07 am

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - South Korea's Ha Na Jang used a late three-hole birdie run to take a one-stroke lead Friday in the LPGA Malaysia.

The 23-year-old Jang shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 to reach 10-under 132 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. She made a downhill 10-footer on the par-4 14th, holed a right-to-left curler from 15 feet on the par-3 15th and ran in a 12-footer on the par-5 16th.

''I think today's really good round because no bogeys,'' said Jang, a two-time winner this year on the Korea LPGA. ''Just six birdies straight. I think it's two weeks since I won Korea tournament, so it's a little bit more confident. No pressure today. It's like a little more simple. It's a really good round today.''

Jang lost a in a playoff to Chella Choi in July at the Marathon Classic for the second of her three runner-up finishes in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.

China's Xi Yu Lin was second after a 68.

''I'm pretty confident with my game,'' Lin said. ''On the weeks off I did a little change on my iron game, so yesterday I was so glad to see it's still working.''

Top-ranked Inbee Park, Alison Lee and Yani Tseng were another stroke back.

Park, the 2012 winner, had a 68. The South Korean star won two majors this year and is tied with second-ranked Lydia Ko for the tour victory lead with four.

''Yesterday was a really bad putting day but today was much better,'' Park said. ''Putting is really key to success on every golf course, and especially this golf course. A lot of short irons and when you have a lot of opportunities you got to make those birdie putts.''

Lee, tied with Lin for the first round, bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 en route to a 69.

''I'm definitely a little disappointed with my bogeys obviously, especially with the leader being at 10 under,'' Lee said. ''I pretty much had two bad approach shots. Didn't finish up with great putts. I feel like I made a lot of the good saves. Kind of went downhill, but really looking forward to tomorrow.''

The 20-year-old American is playing her first event since her emotional Solheim Cup debut.

Last month against Europe in Germany, she was in tears after Suzann Pettersen called for the American to be penalized for picking up her ball when she mistakenly thought a short putt had been conceded in the completion of a fourballs match. Infuriated, the U.S. rallied for the biggest comeback in event history, with Lee winning her singles match.

Tseng had a 68.

Defending champion Shanshan Feng was 7 under after a 69. She made a double bogey on the par-4 18th after chunking her approach into the water in front of the green.

Ko was tied for 18th at 6 under after a 65. The 18-year-old New Zealander is coming off consecutive victories in the Canadian Pacific Women's Open and Evian Championship, where she became the youngest major champion.

Michelle Wie, a stroke out of the lead entering the round, birdied three of her last six holes to salvage a 72. She dropped into a tie for 18th at 4 under.

Pettersen, also playing her first event since the Solheim Cup, was tied for 72nd in the 74-player field at 12 over. The competitive Norwegian had her second straight 77, making a quadruple bogey on 15 and a double bogey on 18.

The event is the first of five straight in Asia. The LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship is next week in South Korea, followed by stops in Taiwan, China and Japan.

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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.

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.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.