Day stays ahead in wet conditions at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 19, 2016, 8:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jason Day survived bursts of rain and a few bogeys for a 2-under 70 to keep his two-shot lead Saturday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The starting times were moved forward to avoid a forecast of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Players still had to cope with occasionally heavy rain, though Bay Hill held up nicely and so did the 28-year-old Australian.

He was at 15-under 201 and had a two-shot lead over Henrik Stenson (70), Troy Merritt (67) and Kevin Chappell (67).

''I felt like I couldn't get any momentum, especially with the umbrella up and down, the rain gear on and off,'' Day said. ''All that said, I feel like I stayed patient to ground out a 2-under par.''

It was a grind for everyone.

Stenson wasted little time cutting into the deficit when he two-putted for birdie on the par-5 fourth, hit wedge to 6 feet for birdie on the next hole and then took the lead with a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


But the next hole was the start of some frustrations. Stenson found a plugged lie in the bunker, didn't try anything fancy and accepted a bogey. He caught two other buried lies in the sand, one that cost him momentum. His tee shot narrowly missed clearing the bunker on the par-5 12th and plugged under the lip. Stenson could only hit wedge to get out and made bogey. That cost him a share of the lead, and Stenson never caught up.

''It's definitely a case of staying out of the sand,'' Stenson said.

Day made bogey from the bunker on the second hole, and he dropped another shot on the 11th when his approached bounced down the slope just short of the green and into the water. But he made up for it with three birdies on par 5s and chipping in for birdie on No. 8.

Day will be in the final group with Merritt, who won for the first time on the PGA Tour last year at the Quicken Loans National by three shots over Rickie Fowler. Stenson will be in the penultimate group with Chappell, who is playing his 150th PGA Tour event and still trying to win.

Chappell got sick on Thursday and still hasn't quite recovered, which in a way might have helped. With limited energy, he's been trying to keep it simple, and so far it has worked out nicely. Chappell was two shots behind going into the final round at Riviera, which he knew well from his days at UCLA, and he closed with a 76. He played in the final group at Sea Island last year, three shots behind, and was runner-up to Kevin Kisner.

Day, however, presents a strong challenge for everyone chasing him.

Justin Rose (71) and Derek Fathauer (69) were four shots behind and still capable of a rally. No one else was closer than five.

Adam Scott, coming off back-to-back victories on the Florida swing, was trying to at least give himself a chance when he was 9 under playing the 18th. He went into the water with his second shot and made triple bogey, posting a 70 to fall nine shots behind.

Rory McIlroy doesn't have much at stake, either. Whatever momentum he was trying to find ended with an approach into the water on the 18th (his ninth hole), and he made two more double bogeys on his way to a 75. He was 16 shots behind.

Day hasn't won in six months. Then again, this is only his fifth tournament since then. Even though he has experience with the lead - six shots at the BMW Championship, two shots at the PGA Championship - it felt good to feel the nerves of trying to protect a lead in the final round.

''It's good to be back in contention,'' Day said. ''I love the feeling of being in the lead. Now I have to push forward until Sunday is done.''

Day would love to get back to No. 1 in the world. A victory on Sunday would at least get him within range of Jordan Spieth with the Masters approaching.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.  

Getty Images

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.”