Merritt (61) upstages Spieth (62) on Friday at RBC

By Associated PressApril 17, 2015, 11:18 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Little-known Troy Merritt one-upped Masters champion Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Friday.

Merritt shot a 10-under 61 to tie the course record at Harbour Town Golf Links, only a few hours after Spieth wowed the gallery with a bounce-back 62 to match his lowest PGA Tour round.

Merritt tied David Frost's tournament mark set in 1994 and topped the leaderboard at 12-under 130, a stroke off the 36-hole event record shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.

Merritt, who opened with a 69 on Thursday, saw Spieth's score in the morning and knew the opportunity was there to go low.

''Anytime that you match shot for shot with the Masters champ, with the way he's playing, it's a pretty good feeling,'' said Merritt, whose career best in four seasons on the PGA Tour is a tie for second last year at the St. Jude Classic.

Spieth looked like the headliner Friday, following a 74 on Thursday with the 62 – which tied his career low set at the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2013.

The 21-year-old Texan has been on a major roll the past month, winning the Valspar Championship and finishing second in San Antonio and Houston before capturing his first major title at Augusta National last week.

Spieth birdied his final two holes, electrifying the crowds with the lowest tournament round at Harbour Town in 10 years – until Merritt did him one better.


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Merritt had nine birdies over his final 10 holes, surging to the top of the leaderboard and leaving Spieth six shots behind on a day of low, low scoring. Merritt ended his round with four straight birdies, including a 5-footer on the signature lighthouse hole, No. 18, to tie the course record.

Merritt sits four shots ahead of Matt Kuchar and John Merrick. Kuchar had a 66, and Merrick shot 65.

Past RBC Heritage winners and U.S. Open champions Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk are 7 under, along with Kevin Kisner. Furyk had a 64, Kisner shot 67, and McDowell 69.

Spieth is tied for seventh in a pack that included former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, who shot a 67.

Harbour Town has rarely shown such little bite as low scores were everywhere. Brandt Snedeker, Bryce Molder and Russell Knox had 64s like Furyk. Kevin Streelman, Blake Adams, Brian Harman and John Peterson joined Merrick with 65s.

In all, 62 players, including 11 who didn't make the cut, shot sub-70 rounds. The second-round scoring average of 69.641 was the second lowest in tournament history, only surpassed by the 2000 third round (69.162).

Spieth had the lowest round since Peter Lonard opened the 2005 event with a 62 on the way to capturing the title. It was a distinction that lasted just a few hours. Still, Spieth showed the energy and skill missing in Thursday's struggles.

''That's just better golf,'' Spieth said. ''I told you guys yesterday, no excuses, I just played poorly.''

Spieth said he corrected his ball position and cured the slice that kept him off target Thursday.

''I went back to posture, ball position, hand position and tempo,'' he explained. ''And I struck that ball quite a bit better.''

Most had figured a highly-fatigued Spieth wouldn’t last long at the RBC Heritage. Along with a grueling week of grinding for a green jacket, Spieth spent two frenetic days in New York on an interview and appearance tour.

He arrived Tuesday night and took the course yesterday without playing a hole of practice. But Spieth said he was motivated to improve on his poor first-round showing.

''I don't want to go home early,'' he said.

He won't have to. But he's still chasing plenty of skilled players in his attempt to become just the second player to follow a Masters victory with one at the RBC Heritage. Bernhard Langer accomplished that double in 1985.

Divots: Tom Watson birdied the 18th hole for a 70 to make the cut. Watson made the cut at the age of 65 years, 7 months, 13 days. Sam Snead is the oldest player to make a PGA Tour cut at 67 years, 2 months, 21 days. ... There were 76 players who made the cut at even-par 142. That equals the lowest cut ever at the tournament. It has been done eight times previous, the last in 2011.

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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.