Tseng (64) leads Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic

By Associated PressAugust 29, 2015, 1:46 am

PRATTVILLE, Ala. - Yani Tseng closed with an eagle and a birdie for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead Friday in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.

Tseng hit a 6-iron to 4 feet to set up the eagle on the par-5 eighth hole just before play was delayed for about 90 minutes because of lightning and rain, then took the outright lead on the par-4 ninth with her sixth birdie of the day.

''I can't wait to come out tomorrow,'' Tseng said. ''It will be a brand new day, but we'll keep the same strategy and make as many birdies as I can.''

Ranked No. 1 in the world for 109 weeks, the 26-year-old Taiwanese player has slipped to 75th and is winless in 85 events since the 2012 Kia Classic. The 15-time tour winner tied for second in March in the LPGA Thailand for her only top-10 finish of the year.

''I've been working on my game forever, like every day,'' Tseng said. ''It's just exciting. I really want to win a tournament for sure. We only have probably seven, eight tournaments left, but it's never too late. Just very happy my game's really coming back. ... It doesn't matter if it's this week or next week or next year, just try to be patient as much as I can and stay positive.''

Third-ranked Stacy Lewis, the 2012 winner, played alongside Tseng.

''You can see she's confident,'' Lewis said, ''She's firing at pins that are tucked and hidden. She hits it so far and hits the irons so high that they have a lot of spin, so she's able to kind of attack pins that nobody else is. ... It's fun to see her playing the way she should be.''

Tseng reached 10-under 134 on the links-style Senator Course with her lowest round since a 63 in the 2013 LPGA Thailand.

''It just feels like this course suits my game,'' Tseng said. ''I feel very comfortable and confident out there. I'm just kind of getting back to enjoy playing golf again and it was so much fun to play with Stacy. She made a bunch of birdies and we kind of kept that momentum keep going. ... Stacy's amazing. I don't know how to describe the feeling because we are good friends, but at the same time we're competitors, too.''

Austin Ernst was second after a 65, and playing partner Lexi Thompson, the 2011 winner at age 16, was third at 8 under after a 67.

Sydnee Michaels and Julieta Granada were still on the course at 7 under when play was suspended for the day because of more rain and darkness. Michaels had four holes left, and Granada two.

Lewis topped the group at 6 under after a 68. Second last year in Prattville, the Texan is coming off a playoff loss to Lydia Ko on Sunday in British Columbia in the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

''I still haven't put it all together,'' Lewis said. ''A bit of a frustrating round. I had a good front nine, had it going, played 10 really good holes and then just kind of stalled the last eight.''

Ernst also eagled the eighth hole and had eight birdies and three bogeys. The 23-year-old former LSU player won the Portland Classic last year for her lone LPGA title.

''I've been playing well. It's really just a matter of getting some putts to fall,'' Ernst said. ''I hit it really well today. I had a few holes that where I kind of hit some loose shots, but kind of just took my bogey and kind of went on with it. And then I had probably three wedge shots that I hit up within a foot and I just went up and tapped them in. I think I hit two more where I had about 3 feet.''

Canadian teen Brooke Henderson was 3 under after a 70. The 17-year-old Henderson won her first LPGA title two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon.

''I would have liked a little more today, but overall it was a pretty solid round and I gave myself quite a few opportunities,'' Henderson said.

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

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 a trip to Augusta.

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).

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.

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.