Minjee Lee (65) leads China LPGA by 2

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2016, 10:01 am

HAINAN, China - Minjee Lee birdied the final three holes for a 7-under 65 and a two-stroke lead Thursday in the Blue Bay LPGA, playing in perfect conditions two days after Typhoon Sarika hit the resort.

Lee hit a long flop shot to a foot from a difficult angle on the par-5 18th on Jian Lake's Blue Bay course, back in top shape after a large cleanup effort. The 20-year-old Australian was delayed traveling from the event that ended Sunday in South Korea and finally got to the resort Wednesday, limiting her to nine holes of practice.

''Maybe it's better,'' Lee said. ''I think it was pretty similar for a lot of the girls. I just took it as it is. It's OK. ... We have an amazing view from our hotel room and the course is in great condition. I think we're really lucky to be here.''

American Jessica Korda and Germany's Sandra Gal shot 67 on the long course with large rolling, tiered greens with small effective landing areas.

''It's in great shape and we had no wind,'' Gal said. ''There's lot of tiers and little pockets on the greens, so you really got to know where to pitch it and you got to be sharp with your wedges and distances.''

Lee hit to 6 inches to set up a birdie on the par-5 14th. She has two LPGA Tour victories, winning last year in Kingsmill and in April in Hawaii.

''I just took it one shot at a time and didn't get ahead of myself,'' Lee said. ''Just played my own game today and a lot of my putts dropped.''



Gal holed out from 89 yards for eagle on the par-4 second hole. She settled for par on 18 when her chip from light rough just off the green, hit the downslope, ticked the flagstick and ended up 12 feet away.

''I think we're very lucky that the course is in such great shape and that we all got here safe and the typhoon didn't do too much damage,'' Gal said. ''It's all good.''

Korda birdied three of the final four holes.

Spain's Carlota Ciganda, coming off a playoff victory last week in Incheon for her first LPGA Tour title, was three strokes back at 68 along with South Korea's Chella Choi.

Ciganda didn't practice after arriving late.

''I thought it was better to rest,'' Ciganda said. ''I knew the course and my caddie just went and walked the course. Just hit some chips and putts to try to get the speed of the greens. No practice. Just go and play. I like it. Keep it simple.''

Canada's Brooke Henderson birdied four of the last five to join Germany's Caroline Masson and American Austin Ernst at 69. The 19-year-old Henderson is playing for the fourth straight week in Asia and plans to make it six in a row with stops in Malaysia and Japan.

South Korea's Sei Young Kim, the winner last year in the wind without shooting a round in the 60s, opened with a 71. Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn also shot 71. The Thai star leads the tour with five victories.

Michelle Wie had a 72, playing alongside Gal and Na Yeon Choi. The slumping American got into the field on a sponsor exemption.

''Just going to play out the rest of the season and then I'm going to go back home to Hawaii, take some time off and try to regroup for next year,'' Wie said.

Na Yeon Choi had two double bogeys in an 82. The South Korean player threw her ball in the water on 18 after missing a 12-foot eagle putt and tapping in for her lone birdie.

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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 right 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."

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.