Langer defends his ACE Champions title

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2012, 1:06 am

NAPLES, Fla. ' The defending champion and runner-up are recovering from thumb injuries, the player of the year is in the field, and so is the guy who hit an upside-down, left-handed shot to win last week.

The 25th anniversary of the ACE Group Classic has multiple story lines this weekend at TwinEagles Club.

Bernhard Langer won The Quarry last season for the last of his 14 Champions Tour titles. He had a tournament-record 20-under total to beat Funk by four strokes but was sidelined later because of a torn thumb ligament. Funk is coming back from thumb fusion surgery.

Tom Lehman is making his first appearance in the tournament, and so is Corey Pavin, coming off his first Champions Tour victory after his incredible shot in the Allianz Championship.

Langer tied for third at the Allianz.

If you know me a little bit, Im a very competitive guy, Langer said Thursday, a day before the start of play in the 54-hole event. I like to be in contention. When youve won so many times, you like to win again. If Im able to practice and work at it, Id like to have some success.

Funk injured his thumb using a swing aid when it struck a porch rail. Thumb surgery did not work, then he had to have fusion surgery'the doctor even had Funk grip a golf club so he could check the preferred angle of the thumb before putting Funk under for the surgery. In his first event since last July, he tied for 10th at the Allianz.

Lehman was the tours top player last year but hasnt started 2012 that way. He tied for 12th at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, then tied for 31st at Allianz.

I feel like the season is only now just starting for me, said Lehman, who played 29 times combined on both tours last year. Didnt have much of a break, so Im really anxious to kind of get moving with this season, and hopefully this week is the start of it.

Pavin won for the first time in 122 starts since the 2006 PGA Tour event in Milwaukee. He had to birdie the first playoff hole to beat Peter Senior, but it was Pavins unlikely up-and-down for par on the par-3 14th that people are talking about. His ball landed in a hole next to a root, and he didnt have a swing from the right side. So Pavin turned the clubhead of an 8-iron over and got the ball over a cart path and to the top of a green sloping away from him. The ball ended up four feet away, and he sank the putt.

It came out better than I could ever expect it to, and it was kind of almost laughable how good it turned out, Pavin said.

The tournament was last played at TwinEagles in 2006. Loren Roberts won that year to become the first Champions Tour player to open a season with three straight victories. Roberts also won in 2009 at TPC Treviso Bay.

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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.