Bae helps Internationals cut deficit to 1

By Doug FergusonOctober 9, 2015, 7:37 am

INCHEON, South Korea - Sangmoon Bae never felt the kind of pressure that weighed on him Friday at the Presidents Cup.

He only made news in South Korea this year during a failed bid to extend his waiver for mandatory military service. He wasn't sure what kind of reception he would receive at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. And as Bae stood over a 12-foot putt that was critical to the International team's rally, half his teammates were on the edge of the green and thousands of Koreans were watching in the gallery.

''I'm pretty sure he was nervous. I was nervous watching him,'' Danny Lee said. ''So he had to stand up and man up, and hit that golf ball.''

The celebration when the putt dropped was raw emotion, a defining moment for Bae and the International team in its bid to finally give the Americans a worthy fight.

Bae teamed with Lee for a 1-up fourballs victory over Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, and the Internationals won their first team session in four years to pull within a point of the Americans. Next up is a double session Saturday of eight matches that will shape the final round.

''That putt Sangmoon made on No. 18 today was probably the highlight of the last two days for us,'' International captain Nick Price said.

Price had other reasons to cheer.

Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace made three big putts around the turn and sailed to a 4-and-3 win over Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, while Charl Schwartzel and Thongchai Jaidee had little trouble against an American team of Chris Kirk and Bill Haas that went 13 holes of nothing better than par.

The Americans, up 4-1 after the opening session, had their lead cut to 5 1/2 to 4 1/2.

''I think the U.S. team after yesterday, they probably thought it was going to be a walk-off,'' Grace said. ''We put our chests out and we went full heart. We're in a good position now. We're just one point back, and you know, a lot can happen.''

The U.S. lead might have been slightly larger if Phil Mickelson had known the rules.

A penalty that baffled even the captains - the match went from all square to 2 up in one hole - began when Mickelson was not aware of the one-ball rule.

Players must stick with the same model of golf ball for the entire match in fourballs and singles. That didn't cross Mickelson's mind until after he switched to a firmer golf ball on the par-5 seventh to help him reach the green in two. Only when he saw U.S. captain Jay Haas did he ask him to make sure it was OK.

It wasn't.

''It's my responsibility to know that,'' Mickelson said. ''I should have at least asked about it before I teed off.''

The penalty in this format is known as a one-hole adjustment - one hole is awarded to the other team. The rules committee made it worse by mistakenly telling Mickelson that he was out of the hole, and so Mickelson picked up his ball. Only later did the committee realize that Mickelson should have been allowed to finish the hole because the penalty already had been assessed.

Jason Day made birdie to win the hole, and the International team got credit for another hole because of the penalty on Mickelson. It made a difference in the end when Day made an 8-foot birdie putt to halve the match. Based on scores for each hole, the Americans would have won.

''I didn't realize you could lose two holes on one hole,'' said Adam Scott, who played with Day.

The ruling overshadowed Mickelson's great rally - a birdie on the 11th, holing a 142-yard bunker shot for eagle on the 12th - to get his team back in the match. And while it likely cost the Americans a half-point, Mickelson didn't seem too bothered.

''I feel like we spotted the International's best team two holes, and they still couldn't beat us,'' Mickelson said. ''Just saying.''

Day didn't bite on Mickelson's barb. The International team was happy to be back in the match. Price said he spoke to his team Thursday night about trying to relax, and he saw enough of that to give him hope going into the weekend.

The lone American victory came from J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, the big-hitting duo who has not lost this week.

The biggest blow for the International side came from Oosthuizen, when he rolled in a 70-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole to square the match. Grace followed with a pair of birdies for a 2-up lead, and the Spieth-Johnson tandem didn't put up much of a fight. They made only two birdies, none over the final eight holes.

''We both played very poor rounds of golf and we didn't have many chances,'' Spieth said. ''So it was 'Merry Christmas' to the other guys.''

It sure felt like it to Bae, who made his debut in the Presidents Cup one to remember.

''The first time for me to play in The Presidents Cup, and I have already very good memories,'' Bae said. ''And I'm very happy about that.''

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.