Day builds two-shot lead over Stenson at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 18, 2016, 10:33 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jason Day felt like he was bearing down on each shot. He made it look much easier Friday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Day made a pair of long birdie putts and otherwise put on a clinic at Bay Hill for a 7-under 65 that gave him a five-shot lead among the early starters and set a daunting target for everyone else going into the weekend.

''It was great,'' he said. ''I felt like I couldn't do anything wrong out there.''

Day was at 13-under 131 and was five shots ahead of Jamie Lovemark, who had another 68. Paul Casey had a 69 and was six shots behind.

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose were among those playing in the afternoon who tried to catch Day, or at least keep it close. But the PGA champion was driving it long and straight, hitting his irons well and making big putts. It's a great combination for anyone, particularly a player who reached No. 1 in the world last year by winning four out of six tournaments, including his first major.

Rory McIlroy was able to watch the whole show.

McIlroy, who opened with a 75, was in the group behind Day and saw the Australian start to pull away from the field. McIlroy had his own issues on Friday, starting with a chance to play for two more days. He handled that with ease, making four birdies on the back nine to get above the cut line and posting a 67.


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But he was all but ready to concede that the tournament was out of his reach.

''I was looking at Jason in front of me and I was thinking if I could maybe get within six going into the weekend,'' McIlroy said. ''And now it's 11. ... Even playing well, I'm not sure that's quite going to be enough that far behind Jason. At the same time I can get confidence from that and bring it on to the next week and ultimately into the Masters.''

Stanford junior Maverick McNealy, chosen to play by his colleagues at the Palmer Cup, had a 71 and was at 4-under 140. It's the second straight week that an amateur has made the cut; Georgia senior Lee McCoy finished fourth last week in the Valspar Championship.

U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau was playing in the afternoon.

Day, however, appeared to be in his own world on the immaculate Bay Hill course.

A pair of two-putt birdies on the par 5s on the back nine helped him extend his lead, and he added a 35-foot birdie putt on the 17th. It was after Day had to scramble for par on the par-5 fourth hole, making a 10-foot putt, that he took off. He rolled in a 10-foot birdie on the next hole, got up-and-down from a bunker for birdie on the par-5 sixth and finished his round with a 35-foot birdie on the ninth hole.

''The total that he's on now, 13 under, I thought that was going to have a great chance at the end of the week,'' McIlroy said. ''I thought something around 12 under was going to be right there. For him to do that after two days is pretty spectacular. I think everyone has got their work cut out to try and catch him.''

The timing is good for Day, who had a sluggish start to the year after taking three months off at the end of 2015. He has only Bay Hill and the Dell Match Play next week before the Masters, and he thought it would be helpful to at least feel the pressure of contention before Augusta National.

The way this was shaping up, the question was whether anyone could put serious pressure on him.

Big leads are never easy. Adam Scott found that out two years ago when he lost a seven-shot lead on the week. Day, however, has recent experience. He opened with a 61 in the BMW Championship, stretched his lead to five shots and then six shots going into the final round and won by seven.

''At the BMW, I showed a lot of patience,'' he said. ''I shot 18 under the first two days and shot 4 under the next two days, which is very boring golf. But I won, which was great. I'm not saying that I'm going to do what I did the last two days at BMW. I've got to think my way around this golf course. I've got to make sure that I'm trying to be smarter than everyone else. My game plan has to be on point.

''I have to make sure that I'm out there not to try and get soaked up in much of his and go to single focus,'' he said. ''The ultimate goal is to win the tournament.''

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”