Tiger Singh Share Lead in Charlotte

By Associated PressMay 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Wachovia ChampionshipCHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tiger Woods hit his stride early with three birdies through five holes and a collection of par saves that kept his round going. Vijay Singh came to life late with an eagle-birdie flurry to rescue an otherwise shaky round.
 
It left them atop the leaderboard on a chilly Friday at the Wachovia Championship, setting up the possibility of a showdown so desperately missing at the majors, at a tournament that has all the trappings of a major.
 
Woods missed birdie putts of 3 feet and 6 feet, and he finally dropped a shot on the final hole by hitting into the pine trees left of ninth fairway and settled for a 4-under 68. Playing in the group behind, Singh played his final three holes in 3 under for a 71.
 
They were at 6-under 138 and tied for the lead among early starters at Quail Hollow, happy to be in the clubhouse as rain threatened.
 
'I've got to go fix a few things,' said Woods, who hit only five fairways and twice swatted his bag with the handle of his driver after watching tee shots sail into the trees. 'I'm very pleased with my score. I felt I pretty much have maximized my rounds.'
 
First-round leader Padraig Harrington took three quick bogeys at the start of his round and was spiraling down the leaderboard in the afternoon, while Jason Bohn, Carl Petterson and Ted Purdy took turns trying to join Woods and Singh at the top.
 
Ken Duke, the Nationwide Tour player of the year in 2006, had a second straight 70 and was at 140.
 
Phil Mickelson hit only one fairway on his front nine and traded birdies with bogeys on his way to a 71, which left him in the group at 141 along with Stewart Cink (71) and Anthony Kim (69). Jeff Maggert challenged for the lead until he found the water twice on the final two holes, taking double bogey on the 17th and bogey on the 18th. He shot 74 and was at 2-under 142.
 
In only its fifth year, the Wachovia Championship already is considered one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour because of the demanding test at Quail Hollow, which has tight, tree-lined fairways of a U.S. Open and severely sloped greens that cause players to aim away from some flags, as they would at the Masters.
 
Michael Jordan played Woods in the pro-am earlier this week, adding some sizzle to a steamy day. Now, the thought of Woods and Singh dueling on the weekend is equally enticing.
 
They haven't been in contention at the same tournament on the weekend since the Deutsche Bank Championship last September outside Boston, where Woods overcame a three-shot deficit with an 8-under 63 in the final round to win by two.
 
But they were only halfway through the tournament, and Woods hardly looked invincible.
 
Even with temperatures in the 50s, Woods stayed on the practice range with swing coach Hank Haney for nearly two hours, trying to sort out a swing that made him rely too much on the putter.
 
'Today was part of a pretty good balance,' Woods said. 'I missed a couple of short ones, but also got away with a couple of bad drives and made a pretty good up-and-down after a terrible iron shot. All in all, pretty balanced.'
 
He quickly moved up the leaderboard with a chip to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 10th, a 20-foot putt on the 12th and a sand wedge into 8 feet on the short but tricky 14th.
 
What saved his round was par, none bigger than the par-5 15th. After getting stuck behind a bush and hitting out into the rough, Woods had 5-wood up the hill for his third shot and came up short. He pitched to 8 feet and escaped with par. He also made par on the 16th with a chip to a foot from short of the green, and on the 18th when he carved an iron around the trees to just short of the green.
 
The other big save came at No. 3, when Woods badly pulled an iron left of the green. He was some 50 feet away, but bumped a 7-iron up the slope and barely on the green, watching it roll to within 8 feet.
 
He was poised to extend his lead with a flop shot to 3 feet on the par-5 fifth, but missed badly to the left and had to make a 4-footer just to get his par. Three holes later, he hit sand wedge 6 feet below the hole and missed that one.
 
Woods was four shots clear of Singh walking toward the eighth green, but a loud cheer behind them indicated that would change. Singh hit 3-iron over the water to the par-5 seventh, catching the ridge just right so the ball rolled 3 feet from the cup for eagle. He followed that with a sand wedge to inside a foot for a birdie on the eighth.
 
That allowed him to overcome a miserable finish to his back nine, when he made bogey from the bunker on the 16th, again bailed out right on the par-3 17th and failed to save par, and three-putted from 10 feet for bogey on the 18th.
 
'I couldn't get the greens this morning,' Singh said. 'Maybe the temperature change must have done something to my hands. Finishing eagle-birdie, that was very comfortable.'
 
DIVOTS
John Daly made four double bogeys and a quadruple bogey on his way to an 87, his highest score on the PGA Tour since he shot 87 in the final round of the Bay Hill Invitational, when he had an 18 on one hole. It was the 50th time that Daly has shot 80 or higher on the PGA Tour. ... Woods' playing partners, Paul Stankowski and Craig Perks, finished at combined 26 over par.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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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.