Thompson, Miyazato tied at ANA; Ko, Pettersen 1 back

By Associated PressApril 2, 2016, 1:35 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Lexi Thompson powered her way to the top of the ANA Inspiration leaderboard Friday, using length and strength to counter the thick rough.

''If you're going to hit it crooked out here, you might as well hit it far and crooked, so you have a shorter shot in,'' Thompson said. ''But it's very thick. I had some really nasty lies out there.''

Trying to win the major championship for the second time in three years, Thompson birdied the final hole for a 4-under 68 and a share of the second-round lead with Ai Miyazato at 7 under.

Miyazato, tied for the first-round lead with Azahara Munoz, followed her opening 67 with a 70. The 30-year-old Japanese player also finished with a birdie, hitting to 2 feet on the par-5 ninth.

Short off the tee and in stature at 5-foot-2, Miyazato is far more conservative than Thompson at tree-lined Mission Hills.

''I don't really want to be too aggressive on this golf course,'' Miyazato said. ''You need to be really patient and you need to be smart for the course management.''

Top-ranked Lydia Ko (68) was a stroke back along with Suzann Pettersen (67), In Gee Chun (69), Lizette Salas (67), Sung Hyun Park (67) and Lee-Anne Pace (70). Michelle Wie (69) topped the group at 5 under, and 2011 winner Stacy Lewis (68) was another shot behind.

The Kia Classic winner Sunday in Carlsbad, the 18-year-old Ko fought allergies that affected her vision.

''I'm currently one-eye blind,'' Ko said. ''I don't have very good eyesight, especially my left side is the worst, so it was really irritating me. Hopefully, it will be OK by tomorrow.''

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Thompson finished her morning round with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to reach 7 under. She had five birdies - three in a row on Nos. 12-14 - and one bogey.

''I definitely could have shot a few shots lower out there, but I hit some bad shots out there, too, that I got away with it,'' Thompson said. ''I recovered really well. That's what you have to do in majors. If you hit a bad shot, you have to pick yourself up and go to the next one.''

That was evident after she drove into the right-side trees on the narrow par-4 16th. She escaped with a mighty hooked pitching wedge under the trees, leaving a 15-foot putt that she nearly holed for birdie.

The winner in Thailand in February for her seventh tour title, she's using a new big-headed putter and has scrapped her eyes-closed routine and narrowed her stance.

''It's a dramatic change,'' Thompson said. ''Just changing to the Cure putter and a little bit different stance over the putts has given me a lot of confidence. I'm rolling it a lot better, and having my caddie, Benji (Thompson, no relation), line me up has helped me out a lot, too.''

Miyazato rebounded from a bogey on the par-3 eighth with the birdie on No. 9 to set up a Saturday pairing with the long-hitting Thompson.

''I played with her many times and I really like to play with her,'' Miyazato said. ''It just doesn't matter this golf course if you hit long or not. You need to be really staying with your game.''

Miyazato was third in the Kia Classic for her first top-10 finish since April 2013. Ranked No. 1 in the world for 11 weeks in 2010, the nine-time LPGA winner is 90th now after climbing 67 spots Monday.

Chun is returning from a back injury that sidelined her for a month. The U.S. Women's Open champion was hurt when she was struck by a hard-case suitcase that rival player Ha Na Jang's father dropped down an escalator at the Singapore airport.

''During the time I had injury treatments back in Korea, I was so depressed and I lost my appetite and motivation,'' Chun said. ''Once I got here, I began to get my motivation back.''

Jang was 5 under after a 70. She bogeyed her final hole after a poor drive.''It was a really big miss off the tee,'' said Jang, a two-time winner this year.

Wie holed out from 132 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th, her third hole of the day.

''That was fun,'' Wie said. ''I definitely felt like I could have made a lot more. I just felt like a blind person out there. I hit a lot of good putts. I just misread them slightly.''

DIVOTS: Defending champion Brittany Lincicome, paired with Thompson, was 3 under after a 69. Last year, Lincicome eagled the final hole of regulation and beat Lewis on the third hole of a playoff. Lincicome also won the event in 2009. ... Munoz had a 78 to drop into a tie for 48th at 1 over. ... Amateurs Hannah O'Sullivan and Albane Valenzuela each shot 73 to make the cut. O'Sullivan, the U.S. Women's Amateur champion, was 1 over, and Valenzuela 2 over. The 18-year-old O'Sullivan is a high school senior in Chandler, Arizona. Valenzuela, also 18, is from Switzerland.

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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.”

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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.