Sei Young Kim leads Park, Webb at Women's PGA

By Associated PressJune 12, 2015, 11:36 pm

HARRISON, N.Y. - Sei Young Kim of South Korea has already won twice in her rookie LPGA season.

Now the 22-year-old is taking aim at a major title, making an eagle on the 15th hole for a 5-under 68 Friday and a one-shot lead after the second round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Kim overtook Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who birdied the 18th for a 71. Kim, who turned pro in 2010 and played on the LPGA of Korea Tour, shot bogey-free golf to finish at 8-under 138 at the Westchester Country Club.

''My goal for this year is to become top five,'' Kim said through an interpreter, ''and if I win a major, I could be one step closer.''

Two-time defending champion Inbee Park (68) joined Webb a stroke back.

Suzann Pettersen rallied with seven birdies for the best round of the day at 66 and tied Canadian teenager Brooke Henderson (73) at 6 under. Overnight leader Jenny Shin (75) and third-ranked Stacy Lewis (71) were three shots behind the leader.

Pettersen improved her score from the opening round by eight shots, making seven birdies from No. 5 to No. 15. Coached by Butch Harmon, Pettersen was coming off a win in Canada.

''I felt my speed of the greens was a little bit off yesterday. But stuck to the game plan,'' she said. ''I didn't practice much after. I'm right where I want to be.''


KPMG Women’s PGA: Articles, videos and photos


Top-ranked Lydia Ko (76) missed the cut, which was 2 over, ending her streak of 53 consecutive made cuts. She had a double bogey on No. 2 and finished with four bogeys and three birdies.

''I just made a double and just couldn't get anything turned around,'' said the 18-year-old from New Zealand. ''I missed a lot of 9-footers. I made two good putts the last two holes; it was already kind of too late.''

Kim won LPGA events in the Bahamas and Hawaii this year. She said she likes the West Course, and watched a talented male pro play on the longtime home of the PGA Tour event now called The Barclays.

''I was inspired by Tiger Woods, how he was able to make shots and shot-making,'' Kim said.

The 40-year-old Webb had three birdies and a bogey on the par-3 16th on another steamy day with temperatures in the 80s, which helped dry the greens. She hit her pitch shot within 5 feet on the par-5, 525-yard final hole.

''Nice to finish with a birdie on the last,'' Webb said. ''It was a little bit more difficult today. I think the greens really dried out a little bit. It was still quite challenging to get the ball close to the hole.''

The 17-year-old Henderson had five birdies and five bogeys in an up-and-down round with her father Dave as caddie. After three-putting on her final hole Thursday to finish a shot behind Shin, she bogeyed two of the first five holes on Friday.

She hit her approach shot at No. 17 within 8 feet for a possible birdie putt and a tie for the lead, but it ran past on the right.

''I didn't have my A-game,'' said Henderson, playing in her fourth major. ''I hit a lot of shots just really close to being really good but would just roll off the back because the greens were a little bit firmer. Just one of those days you have to learn from and move on.''

Henderson, who turned pro in December, is playing on a sponsor exemption because she is below the LPGA's age requirement of 18.

''It's really exciting seeing my name up there with Stacy Lewis and Karrie Webb and all the big names,'' she said. ''It's awesome. I think I just have to stay patient, stay consistent and keep working on my game and I think good things will happen.''

After shooting a bogey-free, 7-under 66 Thursday for a one-stroke lead after the opening round, Shin needed nine more shots on Friday. The 22-year-old Shin, who is seeking her first major, started on No. 10 and eagled the par-5, 525 yard 18th hole. But she had bogeys on Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8, with a birdie on No. 7, to finish the front nine at 39.

''I wanted to shoot under par and try to get away from everybody as much as possible and do the Jordan Spieth and win by like 10 shots,'' Shin said. ''But I was so frustrated, and I think that's one of the reasons why I made so many bogeys.''

Lewis recovered from a double bogey on No. 2 with consecutive birdies on the sixth and seventh holes and capped her round with a tap-in birdie at the 18th.

''I think the officials didn't quite like the 7 under they saw yesterday, so the golf course was set up a lot tougher,'' said Lewis, a two-time major winner. ''It played more like a major, which I like.''

Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, and British teenager Charley Hull were in a group at 4 under. Hull, tied for the lead at 8 under at the 12th, bogeyed four of the last six holes to finish at 74.

Michelle Wie, bothered by ankle and hip injuries, birdied the 18th for a 72 to make the cut.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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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.