Four players tied after brutal day at Doral

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2014, 11:30 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The new Doral in raging wind looked a lot like an old U.S. Open on Friday.

Matt Kuchar played out of the rough to tap-in range for birdie on the 18th hole for a 2-over 74 that allowed him to join an exclusive group at the Cadillac Championship - one of only four survivors to par.

The Blue Monster gobbled up just about everyone else.

Dustin Johnson bogeyed three of his last six holes for a 74. Patrick Reed made only two birdies in his round of 75. Hunter Mahan atoned for a triple bogey with a short eagle putt for a round of 74. They joined Kuchar atop the leaderboard at 1-under 143.


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Only three players broke par in the second round. No one shot in the 60s. The average score was a fraction under 76.

''I don't think I've played in conditions this difficult in the U.S.,'' Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland said after a 71 that left him one shot behind. ''It's an Open Championship day. It's a real Friday afternoon at St. Andrews in 2010 before they called it. It was hard out there - really, really hard.''

Rory McIlroy (74), Francesco Molinari (75) and Jamie Donaldson of Wales (70) also were one behind at even-par 144.

Tiger Woods hit three balls in the water and scraped out a 73, thanks in part to a 90-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole. Phil Mickelson made back-to-back double bogeys, and then laid on his back along the bank of the fourth tee during a long wait. He got up, hit into the water and made another double bogey. Lefty shot 75.

Both were still in the mix, only six shots behind.

''It's a tough golf course as it is,'' Reed said. ''And with how hard the wind is blowing, it made it even tougher. Almost felt like we were playing at a major today.''

At times, it looked even worse.

Fist pumps were replaced by players stretching out their arm to take a penalty drop from the water - more than 100 balls in the water, which is everywhere on the course that Gil Hanse redesigned under the direction of new owner Donald Trump.

Trump described it as bold. It turned out to be brutal.

And just like a U.S. Open, there were plenty of complaints.

The greens were always going to be firm because the course was built in under a year. There was always going to be concern about the sharp edges of fairways and greens that sent balls down the bank and into the water. Throw in gusts that topped 30 mph, and any score was possible on any hole.

''The setup is horrendous,'' Webb Simpson said after a 78 that included a bunker shot that went onto and over the seventh green and into the water. ''Even if we had a 10 mph wind, it still would have been bad. I played terrible. I want to get that out there. But when you have conditions like this, and a setup like this, so much luck comes into play.''

Henrik Stenson prefaced his comments by saying, ''How do you say something you might regret the rest of your life?''

So he didn't.

Stenson, part of the Nos. 1-2-3 grouping from the world ranking, had a 76 and joined Woods at 5-over 149. Masters champion Adam Scott, the other member of that illustrious trio, had a 73 and was at 4-over 148. The group was a combined 14-over par for the tournament.

Stenson was walking off the 15th green Friday morning while finishing up the rain-delayed first round. Spotting a small group of reporters, he said, ''Are you having fun watching?'' And then as he walked away, he smiled and said, ''Because it's sure as hell not any fun to be playing.''

Johnson managed for the longest time. Even as everyone was succumbing to par, he was at 3 under with a birdie on No. 12. But he dropped a shot on the par-3 13th. His short iron into the 15th hit the green and rolled over the back and into the water. And on the 18th, his fairway bunker shot came out too strong and over the green, and he missed a 6-foot par putt that would have given him the outright lead.

The forecast is for less wind on the weekend, and surely a sigh of relief from the players.

And this World Golf Championship is wide open.

''We've all got a shot at it now,'' Woods said. ''No one is going anywhere.''

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.