McIlroy opens with bogey-free 65, leads U.S. Open

By Associated PressJune 16, 2011, 11:50 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Rory McIlroy made six birdies and not a single bogey to lead the first round of the U.S. Open by three shots Thursday over 2009 PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

McIlroy, who blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the Masters, has the largest lead after the first round of the U.S. Open in 35 years.

There’s still a lot of golf between now and Sunday, but there’s no denying McIlroy looks like the player most poised to break through on one of golf’s biggest stages.

This is the third time in the last four majors McIlroy has held the first-round lead. And at this one, his first round at a Grand Slam since the meltdown at Augusta, he didn’t look at all intimidated by either the moment or the long course at Congressional.

“I felt comfortable with my game and comfortable on the golf course,” McIlroy said. “And when you have that combination like that, everything’s OK.”

The Northern Irishman hit 17 greens in regulation and did it from the fairways, which he hit nine times, and the rough, which was thick, but maybe not as vicious as it can be at the typical U.S. Open venue.

He made putts from short and long range and strung together three straight birdies in the middle of his round. He went 18 holes without a bogey – the only player of the 156 in the field who did – a remarkable feat on a course measuring 7,514 yards for the first round.

He played most of the round in breezy conditions that weren’t present in the morning, when Yang was shooting his 68 in calmer conditions. Rain that greeted the players early started again as McIlroy was heading to the ninth green – his last hole of the day – but there was no dampening this effort.

“I have to back it up tomorrow so I can go into the weekend in good position,” he said.

Sergio Garcia, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, American Ryan Palmer, Kim Kyung-Tae and Scott Hend were tied for fourth at 2 under; a group of 10 finished another stroke back.

McIlroy beat the players in his featured afternoon threesome – Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson – by a combined 19 strokes.

“I just need to keep it going,” he said. “I played really good out there, didn’t make any mistakes, which in a U.S. Open is huge. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Closest to catching him will be Schwartzel, who ended up with a green jacket that could have been McIlroy’s, and Yang, whose 2009 win at the PGA Championship might be better remembered as the one that Tiger Woods lost.

When Yang captured the PGA, it marked the first time Woods failed to win after taking a lead into the last day of a major. Yang hasn’t contended at a Grand Slam tournament since, but said Congressional fits his game better than most courses.

“I’ve been playing more conservatively,” Yang said. “I’m trying to make more pars, less bogeys and I was lucky to make a few birdies. Overall, the course and my approach has worked to my advantage.”

As McIlroy, Yang and Schwartzel showed, there were good scores to be had in the USGA’s first return to Congressional since 1997, when Ernie Els won the championship.

The three members of the morning’s marquee group – No. 1 Luke Donald (74), No. 2 Lee Westwood (75) and No. 3 Martin Kaymer (74) – combined for 17 bogeys and one double.

“Any course is a mental grind if you’re not sharp. The U.S. Open is no different,” Westwood said.

Meanwhile, Mickelson and Johnson were supposed to share the stage with McIlroy, but instead ended up as sideshows.

Mickelson opened the day by dropping his tee shot on the par-3 10th into the water en route to double bogey. He spent the rest of the day hitting driver out of the rough, searching for his ball in the weeds and looking for miracle up-and-downs from greenside, among other things. He shot a 3-over 74 that could’ve been much worse.

Johnson, who blew a three-shot lead in the final round of last year’s U.S. Open, will have to do a lot of work to get there this time. He hit two balls into the water on No. 11 – his second hole – and never found his groove. He finished a round of 4-over 75 that, like Mickelson’s, could have been much worse.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.