Monty, Langer set to clash at hot U.S. Senior Open

By Associated PressJune 24, 2015, 11:59 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The biggest challenge facing the field at the U.S. Senior Open is to beat the heat and two timeless wonders who continue to find their way to the top of the leaderboard at major championships.

Sweating out each could prove equally problematic.

With a triple-digit temperature forecast Thursday and Friday in California's capital city, the toughest test on the Champions Tour has some added sizzle.

Bust out the sunscreen and sunglasses. Load up on water and soak up the shade. Between the competition and the conditions, this U.S. Senior Open should be a scorcher.

''We old guys like heat. We don't like cold. We like it hot. Keeps our bones and everything loose,'' quipped 65-year-old Tom Watson, an eight-time major champion on the PGA Tour. ''You get it below 80 degrees, and we start putting our cashmeres on.''

Navigating through the 72-hole grind of the national championship for seniors is always difficult. Doing it in 100-plus degree heat against a pair of past champions consistently wearing down opponents is another matter.

Besides the thermometer, all eyes will be on defending champion Colin Montgomerie and 2010 U.S. Senior Open winner Bernhard Langer at Del Paso Country Club, a green oasis in rain-deprived Northern California (the club says its water is drawn from an old, private well).

Montgomerie and Langer have combined to win six of the previous seven senior major championships. They're the leading money-getters on tour and the favorites to finish on top again.

''They seem to just continue to play the same all the time. They both are in contention on a weekly basis,'' said 50-year-old Lee Janzen, one of the youngest players on the Champions Tour.

The 52-year-old Montgomerie, who finished in a tie for 64th at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on Sunday, captured his second consecutive Senior PGA Championship this year. The Scot beat Gene Sauers in a three-hole aggregate playoff to win last year's U.S. Senior Open in scorching heat at Oak Tree in Oklahoma.

The 57-year-old Langer won his second straight Senior Players Championship this year. The German has won five senior majors, tied for fifth most. Jack Nicklaus is the record-holder with eight.

Langer and Montgomerie, friends and former Ryder Cup partners, are grouped with amateur Patrick Tallen in the first two rounds. They're scheduled to tee off in the afternoon Thursday, when the forecast high is 104 degrees.

''I'm not a big fan of heat,'' said Langer, a two-time Masters champion who lives in hot and humid South Florida now. ''I'd rather put a sweater on and play in the 60s and 70s.''

While Montgomerie has won three senior majors the past two years, Langer has been the barometer on the Champions Tour since joining in 2007.

His six-stroke victory at the Senior Players Championship two weeks ago at Belmont Country Club was his 24th win on the Champions Tour. He has been the money leader six of the last seven years and is second on the money list this season behind Montgomerie, who has played one more tournament.

''It will be fun. It is fun playing with him. You know exactly where you are, where you stand the first two days,'' Montgomerie said.

The challengers for Langer and Montgomerie are vast and varied.

There are 28 past USGA champions, 27 amateurs and 84 sectional qualifiers among the field of 156. That includes three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin and players such as Miguel Angel Jimenez and Kenny Perry who have contended in majors on the PGA Tour in recent years. It does not include Fred Couples; the 1992 Masters champion withdrew because of a back injury.

The nearly 7,000-yard, par-70 course has some uneven lies but is about as straightforward as California courses come. The trick is to stay out of the long, lush rough and control the speed on the fast fairways and fickle greens - all of which will be tougher as the temperature rises and the competition heats up.

''Just stay in the shade as much as possible because it will be quite a while out there,'' Montgomerie said. ''The course is playing difficult. It could take up to five hours to play, unfortunately, and that's a long time to have the concentration out there that one needs to win this type of championship.''

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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.