Bae leads, hopes for better finish at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2014, 2:09 am

LOS ANGELES – Sang-Moon Bae is off to another great start at the Northern Trust Open. The next step is a better finish.

Bae played bogey-free Friday on another gorgeous day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus going into the weekend.

Baddeley, who hasn't won since Riviera three years ago, birdied his last four holes for a 65. Garrigus played in the afternoon, when it's a little more difficult to make putts, and managed just fine with a 67.

Bae was at 9-under 133.

The 27-year-old South Korean was tied for the lead going into the weekend at Riviera last year. Bae struggled to a 76 in the third round and never got back into contention.

''It was really, really good experience, and I learned a lot,'' Bae said. ''I improved a lot from last year.''


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He wound up winning the Byron Nelson Championship a few months later for his first PGA Tour victory.

Patience surely will be required at some point over the weekend on what has shaped up as one of the best weeks of weather at Riviera - an abundance of sunshine and only a trace of wind. Despite what would appear to be pristine scoring conditions, no one has reached double digits under par this week, a testament to one of the best golf courses on the PGA Tour.

''It's a strong course, especially when it's dry and firm like it is,'' Baddeley said. ''If you miss it out of position, it's really hard to get the ball up and down. Today was good, because I made a couple good saves but coming in, I had some good looks and made them.''

And while Bae is in the lead, the tournament remains wide open, with 22 players separated by only five shots.

One of them is Dustin Johnson, who led after the first round and opened with two quick birdies. Johnson never made any more progress, however. He dropped shots on the 12th and 15th holes to negate a few more birdies, and missed several good looks inside 12 feet. He had to settle for a 70 and was three behind at 6-under 136.

''I played pretty solid today, just hit a couple of bad drivers on the back. But that's going to happen,'' Johnson said. ''But I still had a lot of really good looks at birdie and just couldn't capitalize on any of them.''

Also three shots out of the lead was Jim Furyk, who had a 68.

Among those missing the cut was Matt Kuchar, who failed to qualify for the weekend for the first time since the 2012 PGA Championship. His streak of 30 straight cuts was the longest active on Tour, though still far behind the record 142 by Tiger Woods.

Baddeley was in the middle of the pack until he hit his approach on the 15th hole to about 8 feet. He followed with a short birdie putt on the par-3 16th, rolled in a birdie putt from 15 feet on the par-5 17th and finished it off with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th.

Garrigus has made the cut only once in four previous trips to the Northern Trust Open. He decided to bring a new attitude, and it seems to be working.

''I have pretty good willpower, so as soon as I stepped on the first hole this week, I'm like, 'I absolutely love this place.' ... And I'm really starting to like it,'' Garrigus said.

He also figured it would be one last chance to get into the Match Play Championship next week, though someone will have to break the news to him that the Match Play field is closed. Garrigus won't be playing even if he wins.

Jordan Spieth managed to get in the mix, especially after he was on the cusp of leaving early.

The 20-year-old Texan had tough par putts on four straight holes at the start of his round. When he finally missed one on the fourth hole for his first bogey, he took off. Spieth birdied four of his last five holes for a 66, leaving him in the large group that was at 4-under 138 along with Keegan Bradley and Jimmy Walker, still in the hunt for his fourth win this season.

''I putted great today, a lot of par saves on the front,'' Spieth said. ''I could have been 4 or 5 over at the turn, and instead I was at even, so very happy with the finish. Back in contention.''

Not so fortunate was Fred Couples, who had a tiny cut on the tip of his left thumb that opened up to the size of a dime, making it difficult for him to hang on to the club. Couples has gone his entire Hall of Fame career without wearing a glove.

Asked if it bothered him, he said, ''Yeah. I couldn't hit the ball.'' Couples made his 32nd appearance in this tournament, but at 2-over 144 was certain to miss the cut.

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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.