Na takes 1-shot lead into final round at Colonial

By Associated PressMay 23, 2015, 7:30 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas - The last time Kevin Na took the lead into the final round of a tournament, he faltered badly.

For Ian Poulter, though he laughs about it, there is that anonymous survey of PGA Tour players done by Sports Illustrated where he and Rickie Fowler tied as the most overrated player on tour.

Na and Poulter both have a chance to change perceptions at Colonial.

With a birdie on the 17th hole Saturday, after the pair played from almost the same spot, Na regained the outright lead for a one-stroke advantage over Poulter going into the final round at a very damp Hogan's Alley.

"When it comes to crunch time, you've got to trust your stroke and just stay in the moment," Na said when asked about a chance for his second PGA Tour victory Sunday.

At The Players Championship three years ago, Na led after 54 holes before closing with a 76. He shared the second-round lead there this month before Fowler's victory that Poulter alluded to this week.

"Rickie went out there and obviously made amends," Poulter said, referring to the SI survey.

Na shot a 1-under 69 on Saturday, a round that included a couple of bogeys, to reach 11-under 199. Poulter had a 68.

Poulter made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 for a share of the lead at 10 under. He was still part of the lead after a sand save at No. 9, where he blasted to 6 feet from a bunker to save par.


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But he dropped out of the lead after starting the back nine with a four-putt double bogey from 16 feet at No. 10. A 3-footer on his third putt doing a U-turn around the cup without going in, though he got one of those strokes back with a 6-foot birdie putt at the 635-yard 11th.

Poulter got even again with a 32-foot birdie putt at No. 15, the same hole Na two-putted from 6 feet after his approach missed the green.

"Pleased with how I played, just a little mishap there on 10," Poulter said. "It didn't break, and then a few more putts it took to get in the hole."

With their golf balls close to each other on the 17th green, Poulter had a 15-foot birdie try that slid by the hole. But Na then made his 14-footer after watching no break in Poulter's putt.

"I trusted my read, a little outside right and it turned nicely into the hole," Na said. "It was nice because I was under par going into the last hole."

With the leaders teeing off at 9:10 a.m., and playing in threesomes instead of the normal weekend twosomes, play was completed about 2 p.m. Saturday. That was about 3 1/2 hours earlier than usual for a weekend round for Colonial leaders.

PGA Tour officials moved up play because of the threat of severe afternoon storms. There were overcast and muggy conditions, with some light rain but no delays. Heavy rain was forecast overnight and into Sunday, with plans again for threesomes and early tee times off both Nos. 1 and 10 for the final round.

Charley Hoffman has third at 9 under after a 66. Chris Kirk, a two-time PGA Tour winner last season, had a 65 for the best round of the day and was tied for fourth at 8 under with Brandt Snedeker (66).

Defending champion Adam Scott carded his second consecutive 66 since an opening 72. He was tied for 10th at 6 under in a group that included Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Masters champion from Dallas playing the first of consecutive weeks at home in North Texas.

Spieth, the first-round co-leader after a 64, followed his second-round 73 with a 67.

George McNeill got off to a fast start, with four birdies on the first six holes, matching Na at 10 under after the second-round leader had already given back the stroke he earned with his 16-foot birdie putt at No. 3.

Na had a bogey at No. 5, the par 4 along the Trinity River that is the hardest hole on the course. Na hit a tee shot into the hazard and had to take a penalty drop.

McNeill, playing in the group directly ahead of Na, rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at No. 5 and an 11-footer at No. 6 to get to 10 under. But McNeill hit his drive at No. 12 into the rough and wound up with the first of three bogeys in five holes. He was 7 under after a 69.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.