Wie (66) three back of Yang at Sime Darby LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 27, 2016, 7:35 am

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Amy Yang took the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia lead, and Michelle Wie had her best score in more than a year. Lydia Ko had to fight to get back to even par in her first event since firing her caddie.

Yang shot an 8-under 63 – one off her own course record – in hot and humid conditions Thursday for a two-stroke lead over American Marina Alex. The 27-year-old South Korean player birdied all four par-3 holes at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

''Simple, just keep it simple,'' Yang said. ''And try to get as much shade as I can.''

Wie opened with a 66, breaking 70 for only the fourth time in 68 rounds this year. Winless in 57 tournaments since the 2014 U.S. Women's Open, she's coming off a season-best 10th-place tie last week in China in the Blue Bay LPGA.

''I just had fun out there today,'' said Wie, paired with Alex. ''I love playing with Marina. She's a really good friend of mine and she was playing great today, and just kind of feeding off each other's energy.''


Full-field scores from the Sime Darby LPGA


The top-ranked Ko birdied the par-5 18th for a 71. She had a double bogey on the par-4 second.

''Really clumsy double,'' Ko said. ''I hit a great drive and then I just leaked a shot in the water. The rest of the day I was just trying to fight back and put myself in position under par. And I got back into good position and I hit it in the water again. So, that wasn't good. But obviously to finish up the round with a birdie on 18 was good. To bring it back to even, I think it could have been much worse.''

The 19-year-old New Zealander fired Jason Hamilton, the Australian who caddied for her since late 2014, and is using Malaysia's Sargunan Suntharaj this week. Hamilton shifted to Ha Na Jang and helped the South Korean player open with a 69.

China's Shanshan Feng, the 2014 winner, was at 66 along with Wie, Norway's Suzann Pettersen, American Mo Martin, Spain's Azahara Munoz and South Korea's Jenny Shin.

Feng had 10 birdies, watery double bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15 and a bogey. The women are playing TPC Kuala Lumpur's East Course, a week after Justin Thomas successfully defended his title on the West Course in the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic.

Yang birdied Nos. 15-17 and nearly made it four in a row on the par-4 18th, only to have her 5-footer graze the right edge. That left her a stroke short of the course record she set in 2013.

On the par 3s, she hit to a foot on the fifth, 20 feet on the seventh, and 7 feet on 15 and 17. She had 22 putts.

''My putting was good,'' Yang said. ''Just happy to shoot a bogey-free round.''

She has five top three-finishes this season. Both of her LPGA victories have come in Asia, the first in 2013 in South Korea and the second last year in Thailand.

''I do enjoy Southeast Asia,'' Yang said. ''I'd rather play in this weather than cold weather.''

Wie returned to play last week at Blue Bay after a four-week break.

''Just really just kept my body right,'' Wie said. ''Just really took time off and really tried to get healthy again. I did a lot of rehab and just practiced and tried to play a lot.''

She also opened with a 66 last year. The American struggled after that a year ago, closing with a 76 to tie for 42nd.

Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn, grouped with Ko and fifth-ranked Brooke Henderson, had a 68. The 20-year-old Thai star has a tour-high five victories and leads the money list and the Race to CME Globe and player of the year standings. She was third Sunday in China.

Stacy Lewis shot a 70 in her first event since mid-September. Winless in 60 starts since June 2014, the 11-time tour champion had a triple bogey on the par-4 11th. She has 11 runner-up finishes during the drought.

Henderson also had a 70. The 19-year-old Canadian is playing for the fifth straight week in Asia and plans to make it six in a row next week in Japan in the Asia finale.

Defending champion Jessica Korda shot 71. She was second in China.

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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.

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.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.