Stricker takes lead in Barclays title defense

By Associated PressAugust 22, 2008, 4:00 pm
the Barclays Logo 2007PARAMUS, N.J. ' Steve Stricker is right at home at Ridgewood Country Club ' and the top of The Barclays leaderboard.
 
A year after winning across the Hudson at Westchester Country Club, the Wisconsin player shot a 7-under 64 in perfect morning conditions Friday to take a three-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan in the FedExCup playoff opener.
 
This reminds me of home to tell you the truth, Stricker said. This looks like a course that could be very easily in the Midwest somewhere. It reminds me of Medinah a lot. The grasses are the same. We putt on poa annua greens a lot where Im from. Its bentgrass fairways, bluegrass rough and everything reminds me of home.
 
The 41-year-old Stricker, 21st in the FedExCup standings, had a 10-under 132 total on the tree-lined A.W. Tillinghast layout, the tournament site for the first time after 41 seasons at Westchester. He hasnt made a bogey since dropping strokes on the first two holes Thursday, playing his last 23 holes in 11 under.
 
I think the course is in such good shape, thats why the scoring is good, Stricker said. I think as we get further along, the scoring could get a little bit better just because guys will find a way to play it, understand it a little bit more and feel a little bit more comfortable with what they are doing out there.
 
Mahan, 31st in the FedExCup standings, followed his opening 62 with a 73.
 
I probably hit it better than I did yesterday, but nothing went in, Mahan said.
 
Kenny Perry, effectively the FedExCup leader with top-ranked Tiger Woods sidelined by a knee injury, shot a 67 to join Angel Cabrera (67) and Dudley Hart (69) at 6 under.
 
Im ecstatic, Perry said. Im in a good position.
 
Anthony Kim (67), Sergio Garcia (67), Kevin Streelman (70), Charley Hoffman (70) and Paul Casey (71) were 5 under.
 
I definitely played a lot better, Kim said. Its a lot more fun when youre not hitting out of the trees and chipping out sideways.
 
Phil Mickelson was eight strokes back at 2 under after a 70.
 
A lot of birdies and a lot of bogeys, Mickelson said. I need to go out (Saturday) and have a good day and shoot 6 or 7 under.
 
Padraig Harrington had rounds of 72 and 73 to miss the cut by two strokes.
 
Im tired, the British Open and PGA winner said. I tried hard, but struggled to focus this afternoon. It really is a knockdown after the last couple of weeks.
 
Stricker eagled the par-5 third hole, hitting a 60-degree wedge shot from about 70 yards that spun back into the hole, and was 4 under after five holes. He hit a 5-iron to 20 feet on the par-4 11th to set up a birdie, and made a 6-footer on the par-5 13th to tie Mahan for the lead at 9 under. The four-time tour winner pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th and closed with three pars.
 
The PGA TOUR's comeback player of the year the last two seasons, Stricker hit nine of 14 fairways, 14 greens in regulation and needed only 25 putts on the small greens.
 
They were perfect and they rolled great, Stricker said. They were smooth. They still held fairly well, but you could tell that they are going to get firm.
 
After finishing ninth in the points race for the eight automatic positions on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Stricker is trying to earn a spot at Valhalla next month as one of Paul Azingers four captains picks.
 
Ive got two tournaments going on within one. Thats basically what I feel like, Stricker said. Im trying like heck to keep it out of my mind, but its nearly impossible. I feel a little more pressure.
 
Garcia has thrived on old-school courses, twice winning at Westchester and claiming titles at Colonial and Congressional.
 
Its a wonderful golf course, Garcia said. Youve got to drive the ball well and shape it both ways and make sure that your short game is in shape, because its quite difficult around the greens.
 
Hart birdied the 18th, fading a 3-iron around the trees lining the right side of the fairway and holing a tricky 6-footer from the top of a ridge.
 
I had to hit every bit of a 3-iron in there, Hart said. This is a great golf course. This is one of the best courses weve played all year for sure.
 
DIVOTS
 
Canadian star Mike Weir is growing a playoff beard. I was on vacation last week down at a lake and let it grow and got back and I thought, Hey, its playoff time, maybe Ill just keep it, said Weir, 3 under after a 67. Its a hockey thing. In hockey, guys grow the beards, so I thought I would give it a shot and see if it works. Eric Axley followed his opening 78 with a 65 to make the cut by a shot. Ernie Els missed the cut by a stroke with rounds of 71 and 73. Stricker last held a 36-hole lead in the 2006 U.S. Open. He tied for sixth. The top 120 in FedExCup standings will qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship next week in Norton, Mass. The field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship in St. Louis and to 30 for the TOUR Championship in Atlanta.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    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.  

    <
    Getty Images

    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.” 

    Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.