Lexi leads Pettersen, Park, Wie through 54 at ANA

By Associated PressApril 2, 2017, 3:34 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - One day after Lexi Thompson couldn't even tee off until shortly before sunset, she had to get back to the Dinah Shore Course before dawn to start a 28-hole day.

Thompson is excelling under unusual conditions at the ANA Inspiration, and it has put her in prime position to play for her second major title.

Thompson claimed the tournament lead while completing her wind-delayed second round Saturday before moving two shots ahead of Norway's Suzann Pettersen with a third-round 67 . After an extra-long day of play in wind and sun, Thompson is at 13-under 203 heading into Sunday's final round.

''I struggled a little bit off the tee and had a few more rough shots than I wanted, but you can't ever complain about a 5-under round,'' Thompson said.

The 22-year-old Thompson's victory here in 2014 is her only previous major victory, but the U.S. Olympian simply excels at Mission Hills Country Club. She smashed her drives and got great results from her inconsistent putter on the way to six birdies in the third round, keeping a competitive field squarely behind her.

''I just love this golf course,'' Thompson said. ''I get to hit a lot of drivers, and it just sets up nicely for me all over.''


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Thompson and Pettersen stayed ahead of a field posting unusually low scores, with the 2-over 146 cut matching the lowest cut score in tournament history.

They did it despite intermittent returns of the desert wind that called an early halt to Thursday's play and forced two days of catch-up, forcing 56 golfers to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning. The field got all caught up on a postcard-perfect desert Saturday, and warm weather is expected Sunday.

''It's definitely not a usual week, what we're used to, but it's a major week,'' Thompson said. ''We have to deal with the wind conditions and whatever weather we get.''

Pettersen shot a third-round 68 to reach 11 under, while Australia's Minjee Lee joined a South Korean trio - Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Mi Jung Hur - at 10-under 206. Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and France's Karine Icher are five shots behind Thompson at 8 under.

''I think I've always said since the first time I saw this place, it really fits my eye,'' said Pettersen, a two-time major champion.

''I'm driving the ball well, and that's a major key on this golf course. I've got a big job to do (Sunday). The leaderboard is packed behind me as well. You've got to expect to go out there and shoot low. There's a lot at stake, but I'm all in for it.''

Thompson debuted at the Dinah Shore Course as a 14-year-old amateur in 2009, and she won in 2014, the tournament's final year as the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has finished seventh and fifth in the two years since the major's name change.

Thompson immediately took charge Saturday morning with back-to-back birdies, claiming the outright lead and surging to a second-round 67. After following two birdies with a bogey early in her third round, she settled in and finished the final 14 holes at 4 under.

Wie battled to a third-round 71 while struggling with a nagging back injury during her own 28-hole day. She repeatedly saved par to stay in contention.

''I just hit one shot that was a little bit out of sync and kind of threw my hips out of place,'' Wie said. ''I think it was just a lot of golf. The two full warmups (and then) 28 holes. Just not a young stallion anymore, I guess.''

DIVOTS: World No. 1 and defending ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko shot a 71 to move to a steady 5-under 211. ... Jutanugarn appeared to play herself out of contention with three bogeys in five holes early in the third round, but the Thai star rallied back with three birdies and a spectacular eagle in the final eight holes on the course where she blew a two-shot lead with three holes to play last year. ... Lucy Li, the 14-year-old prodigy who qualified last week, was the only amateur to make the cut with a 1-over 145. She played her first two rounds alongside Wie. Li is 7 over after a third-round 78.

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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.