Langer, Maggert lead U.S. Sr. Open; Watson 1 back

By Associated PressJune 27, 2015, 11:40 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The crammed leaderboard at the U.S. Senior Open has some familiar faces heading into the final round and one notable name nobody expected to challenge for another major.

Good luck predicting what will happen Sunday.

Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert shared the lead at 5-under 205 at Del Paso, where conditions cooled off Saturday after consecutive days above 100 degrees. But the competition remained hot, with eight players one shot off the lead, including 65-year-old Tom Watson and defending champion Colin Montgomerie.

''It's like a horse race,'' Watson said. ''Getting close to the wire.''

Langer shot a 2-under 68, and Maggert had a 70.

Watson, who was tied with Maggert and Peter Fowler through 36 holes, salvaged a 71 after making a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole that sent the gallery into a roar. Montgomerie had a 70, and Kenny Perry surged into contention with a 64.

The trio was joined by Fred Funk (68), Grant Waite (69), Scott Dunlap (68), Woody Austin (69) and Jim Carter (70). Fowler shot a 72 and was among six players at 3 under.

''The only way to separate yourself is by playing great golf,'' said Langer, who should feel comfortable in this position.

Langer and Montgomerie have combined to win six of the previous seven senior major championships. Maggert had the other victory during that stretch earlier this year at The Tradition, where Perry won in 2014.

''I'm kind of getting sick of seeing them, actually, especially on top of the leaderboard,'' Maggert said. ''But it does seem to be a pretty constant theme out there.''

The lone contender nobody saw coming is the Hall of Famer who has made a career of winning on golf's biggest stages.

It's just been awhile.

Watson, an eight-time major champion on the PGA Tour, is decades past his prime. He's is trying to become the oldest winner of the event, the oldest to win a senior major and the oldest to win on the Champions Tour.

''I don't know what that will require me to do, but I hope that I'm within a body length of the leader - if there's a leader out there,'' Watson said.

Each leader took a different route through 54 holes.

Nobody more than Perry, who came out of nowhere with six birdies on his front nine - tying a nine-hole event record with a 28 - and before shooting par on his back nine. Perry, who began the day seven shots off the lead, was so far out of contention he started his round on the back nine under the split-tee setup.

''I felt like I was playing a round of golf with my buddies. Just very relaxing, didn't have much spectators,'' Perry said.

Now he'll try to complete another huge comeback in this championship in front of a crowd.

Perry rallied from 10 strokes behind after 36 holes to win the 2013 U.S. Senior Open in scorching heat at Omaha Country Club. He turned in finals rounds of 64 and 63 for a five-stroke victory.

''I know I did it once. Hopefully, I can do it a second time,'' Perry said.

Montgomerie shot 2 under on his front nine before giving it back after the turn. Maggert made three birdies and three bogeys, including on the 18th for a chance to take sole possession of the lead. And Langer looked comfortable again with his usual caddie, Terry Holt, back on the bag for him.

Holt sat out the first two days recovering from a reaction to a spider bite on his leg. Bobby Siravo, a Del Paso member and former professional golfer, caddied for Langer on Thursday and Friday.

Langer's long putter carried him again, including a 25-foot birdie on No. 13. But his approach on the 18th landed in the long, lush rough below the green, and he missed an 8-foot putt to save par.

Even still, Langer has been as good as anybody on the Champions Tour in this spot.

The 57-year-old German won his second straight Senior Players Championship two weeks ago. And he has won five senior majors, which is tied for fifth most.

Just don't call him - or anybody - a favorite Sunday.

''You've got to try and avoid mistakes and make some putts and hit some incredible shots,'' Langer said. ''It's the only way to really separate yourself.''

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.