Munoz trails Ryu by four headed into Canada finale

By Associated PressAugust 23, 2014, 11:07 pm

LONDON, Ontario - After dunking her ball in the water, Azahara Munoz later rebounded to shoot a 9-under 63 Saturday to vault into contention at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

She's tied with Na Yeon Choi in second place, four strokes behind So Yeon Ryu, who leads at 20 under going into the final round.

''The key of my round was on (hole No.) 4, I was going for it in two with a 4-iron and I hit in the water,'' Munoz said. ''But I kept it calm, I knew I could still make up and down for par, so I did, and after that everything just went my way.''

Except, perhaps, for Ryu, who didn't drift back to the pack by shooting a 67. She's looking to become the sixth wire-to-wire winner in this tournament's history and the first since Michelle Wie in 2010.

Munoz had six birdies on the back nine as part of a bogey-free round, tying the course record at London Hunt and Country Club that Ryu set Thursday. The 26-year-old Spainard felt as if she was doing ''everything'' right.

''I was driving the ball really well, and I was hitting really good iron shots into the greens,'' Munoz said. ''I had so many chances. And then I made lots of putts, too - I made a couple really long ones and quite a few shorter ones.''

As dazzling as Munoz's round was, she still has some work to do to catch up to Ryu, who has been consistent through three rounds with 21 birdies and just one bogey.

Ryu is looking for her first victory since 2012.

''I haven't won any tournaments the last two years,'' the 24-year-old said. ''If I'm going to win this tournament, I'm going to break that. I really want to break it, I really want to stop it.''

Ryu is on pace to snap the tournament record of 18 under set by Suzann Petterson in 2009 and is within range of the LPGA Tour record of 26 under, which belongs to Annika Sorenstam.

''I think my lowest record is 29 under when I was 16 at the Asian Games,'' Ryu said. ''If I have the chance I want to break my career record, and also if I can I want to break another LPGA record.''

Determined to focus on her own game, the South Korean said she didn't look at the leaderboard Saturday. But Ryu already set a goal of making seven birdies in the final round.

Ryu, Munoz and Choi, who shot a 6-under 66, tee off as the final group at 11:45 a.m. Sunday.

Behind them on the leaderboard are LPGA Championship winner Inbee Park at 14 under, Swede Anna Nordqvist at 13 under and Americans Brittany Lincicome and Danielle Kang at 12 under.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ontario, shot a 1-under 71 to get to 4 under as the lowest Canadian left.

Choi set the tone for the low-scoring weekend with an 8-under 64 Thursday morning. After seeing that, Park wondered if it would take 20 under to win the tournament.

Given the way Ryu has been driving, chipping and putting, that turned out to be a conservative estimate.

''It's going to be over 20, that's for sure,'' Park said. ''I don't know how So Yeon is going to play tomorrow, but if she goes really low tomorrow, 25-under par's definitely possible.''

Choi was plenty confident about her chances given the course conditions.

''Someone can shoot 9 under, 8 under,'' she said. ''Even I could shoot like 8, 9 under tomorrow.''

Munoz showed that was possible Saturday, even with more difficult pin placements for the 87 players who made the cut.

Her only real glance at the leaderboard was Thursday when she saw Choi's 64 before she even teed off, but that didn't make her task feel any more daunting.

''It's actually good because you have that number in mind, you know it's possible,'' Munoz said. ''So at least you go out there thinking you can make lots of birdies.''

Ryu hasn't been saving her best for the second-to-last hole, and Park knows that her friend is so locked in that rivals will have to shoot very low to beat her.

Ryu hasn't won since the 2012 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, but won two of the three previous times she held the 54-hole lead.

''I definitely think she's due,'' Park said. ''I think she was due a long time ago, but she probably threw her opportunities away. If I can't do it this time, hopefully she does it. I'm really rooting for her.''

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”