Defending champ Matsuyama shares lead at Memorial

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2015, 12:13 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Hideki Matsuyama was bracing for a rough day at the Memorial and wound up with a share of the lead Thursday.

Tiger Woods still doesn't know what to expect.

Matsuyama made a bold start in his bid to join Woods as the only repeat winners at Muirfield Village by running off four straight birdies on the back nine and one strong par save on his way to an 8-under 64 that tied the Japanese star with Bo Van Pelt.

''To be honest with you, up until yesterday I was not hitting the ball very well, I was not chipping very well, I was not putting very well,'' Matsuyama said through a translator. ''And I don't know what happened overnight. We just caught magic.''

It was a dream start for Van Pelt for other reasons. He grew up across the state line in Indiana and used to play hooky from school to attend the Memorial from the time he was 10 until he got out of high school. Muirfield Village is where he first dreamed about playing the PGA Tour. In calm conditions under an overcast sky, Van Pelt made a career-best 10 birdies for his best score in 41 rounds at the course Jack Nicklaus built.


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''Other than the Masters, this tournament means more to me than any one I've ever played,'' Van Pelt said. ''So it's always good to play well around a place that means a lot to you.''

Woods, a five-time winner of the Memorial, wasn't sure what he was going to get. He hooked his tee shot and started with a bogey for the eighth time in his last nine starts on the PGA Tour. He went so far right off the tee at the 18th that it went out-of-bounds (the next tee shot wasn't much better) and made double bogey to go out in 40. He hooked his 3-wood on the first hole. It was looking like another big number.

Instead, Woods battled to save pars and convert birdies, and he salvaged a 73 that left him nine shots behind.

''Physically, I feel good. Mentally, I feel beat up,'' Woods said. ''To turn that round around like I did today ... that was hard.''

He was determined to stick with the changes he is making to his swing under a fourth coach as a pro, no matter how long it takes. Considering he hasn't had a top 10 in his last 13 events dating to the end of 2013, this could take time.

''I was just trying to stay committed to what we're working on, to what we're doing,'' he said. ''I hit it awful, yeah. So what? I was going to go through this phase and stick with it, keep sticking with it. And some of the shots I hit were really, really good. But then I also had some really bad shots, too. And we need to work on that.''

Matsuyama won the Memorial last year in a playoff. It was his first win in America and validated him as one of the many rising stars in golf.

He said every course on the PGA Tour feels difficult to him, and even when he made a pair of 15-foot birdie putts on his way to a 32 on the front nine while playing with Phil Mickelson (72) and Rickie Fowler (72), he wasn't comfortable.

''I was just trying to hang on,'' he said.

So was Jason Dufner, the former PGA champion, whose tied for eighth last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson ended a stretch of 17 events on American soil without a top 10. He was tied for the lead after making a 60-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole and was still poised to join Matsuyama and Van Pelt at 64 until he pulled his tee shot into the water on the 18th and closed with a double bogey.

That put him at 66, along with Russell Knox, who fed his putts off the ridges beautifully in making seven birdies.

Harris English and Kevin Kisner were among those at 67. Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who saved the start of his round with a world-class short game, was cruising along until one mistake turned a birdie into a bogey on the par-5 seventh late in his round. He had to settle for a 68.

English (No. 70 in the world) and Kisner (No. 61) each have a chance to do well enough at the Memorial to avoid U.S. Open qualifying next week. Another important start belonged to Patrick Rodgers, who has his last chance to gain special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

Woods grabbed the most attention for two reasons. He's Tiger Woods, still enough to attract the biggest gallery. And there remains a mystery about the game of a 79-time PGA Tour winner who has plunged to No. 172 in the world.

Most intriguing about his assessment of Thursday's round was a stubbornness to see the changes to a conclusion, no matter how long that takes. Previous changes have taken as long as 18 months for Woods to figure it out. Time is no longer on his side, however, not at his age and with five surgeries behind him.

''I've gone through phases like this, rounds like this, where yeah, it's easy to revert back and go ahead and hit some old pattern,'' he said. ''But it doesn't do you any good going forward. And I've done it. Sometimes it's taken me about a year and then it kicked in and I did pretty good after that. ... If you believe in it, do it. And eventually it will start turning.

''And when it turns, I've had periods where I've played good for four or five years, where I've won close to 20 tournaments in that stretch.''

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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.