Sauers, Goydos share lead at Dick's

By Associated PressAugust 29, 2015, 12:34 am

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Before Gene Sauers entered the interview room at En-Joie Golf Club, he grinned as he looked at his round details.

''I've always loved this course,'' Sauers said. ''It's good for me.''

On Friday, it was very good for him. Sauers shot a 6-under 66 to tie Paul Goydos for the first-round lead in the Champions Tour's Dick's Sporting Goods Open. John Huston, the tournament winner four years ago, was a stroke back along with Ian Woosnam.

Peter Senior, a late addition to the field, was another shot back and tied for fifth with Bob Friend, Steve Jones, Rod Spittle, Jeff Maggert, and Willie Wood, who won here in 2012. Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 71.

John Cook was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. He made an 8 at No. 16 and signed for a 7.

Sauers had four birdies on the front nine and three on the back, his lone blemish on the day a bogey at the par-3 seventh when he drove into a greeenside bunker and couldn't get up and down. He hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation on the short and narrow tree-lined course. He rolled in a pair of 10-foot birdie putts that broke left to right at Nos. 13 and 17.

''I've always had trouble putting. Now, it's the best part of my game,'' he said.

The 53-year-old Sauers, winless on the Champions Tour, was the 54-hole leader at last year's U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National. But he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to fall into a playoff and lost to Colin Montgomerie. Still, he finished just inside the top 20 on the money list, his highest standing ever, compliments of three top-three finishes in his first five tournaments.

''I've been playing pretty well,'' Sauers said. ''I just haven't got the job done. I just have to keep fighting.''

With his short game in top form, Goydos had four birdies on the front nine and another at No. 10 as he converted three putts inside 6 feet and two others within 6 inches. A 25-foot birdie putt at No. 17 forged a tie for the lead.

''From tee to green, I played as well as I have all year,'' Goydos said. ''It was a nice start.''

Huston, who is vying to become the first repeat winner of the event, had eight birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. Despite hitting just 7 of 14 fairways, Huston moved into contention with his play on the firm greens. He needed just 26 putts.

Michael Allen had four birdies in a five-hole span on the front nine and tacked on two more birdies on the first three holes along the back side to reach 5 under. A three-putt bogey at the par-4 11th hole began a slide, and Allen followed with bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15 to fall back into a tie for 11th at 3 under with Kevin Sutherland and eight other players.

Sutherland, who became the first player in Champions Tour history to shoot a 59 when he accomplished the feat here a year ago in the second round, had an up-and-down day with five birdies and two bogeys in 69.

The round was played under ideal partly cloudy conditions, with temperatures in the 70s and just the hint of a breeze. Kenny Perry said the 6,974-yard course was as firm as he'd ever seen it and predicted a bunch of low scores.

They just weren't as low as expected. The first-round leader in each of the previous five Champions Tour tournaments at En-Joie shot 65.

Sauers wasn't complaining.

''There's always low rounds out there,'' Sauers said. ''You've just got to give yourself opportunities.''

Among those who failed to break par were Tom Purtzer (74), Mark Calcavecchia (75), and Woody Austin (77).

Austin, who entered the tournament ranked ninth in points and has six top 10 finishes in 2015, had five bogeys and a double-bogey 6 along with two birdies as he hit only seven fairways. A year ago, he finished tied for second here with Allen.

Montgomerie, the Schwab Cup points leader, is not playing for a second straight week because of commitments in Europe, giving Maggert and Langer a chance to take over the top spot. Montgomerie has 2,873 points, Maggert 2,707 and Langer 2,604 in what has become a three-way competition with only four more events until the Schwab Cup Championship in November.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.