Furyk takes Bridgestone lead with 63; Woods 7 back

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2012, 10:32 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Jim Furyk made a detour to Florida to sit on his back porch and hang out with his kids as he tried to figure out why decent golf was producing ordinary scores. The short break appeared to do him a world of good Thursday in the Bridgestone Invitational.

With seven birdies and a 30-foot eagle putt, Furyk had a 7-under 63 for his best score ever at Firestone and a two-shot lead over Lee Slattery of England.

The conditions could not have been more ideal with sunshine, heat and very little wind, along with carpet for fairways and smooth greens. It showed in some of the tee shots on the South Course - 58 drives of at least 350 yards, and a 427-yarder b Branden Grace of South Africa – and mostly in the scoring.

Luke Donald, the world's No. 1 player, and Masters champion Bubba Watson were among those at 66. Thirty players in the 78-man field at this World Golf Championship managed to break par.

Tiger Woods was not among them. He was 3 under after back-to-back birdies to start the back nine, but had to lay up with his third shot on the par-5 16th after driving into the trees and ended his round with a three-putt bogey from 25 feet for a 70. It was his second-worst start at Firestone, a course where he has won seven times. The other was a 74 in 2010, his last week without a swing coach.

''I think I averaged about four putts per hole, so it was a great day on the greens,'' said Woods, who lost his touch on the greens but at least kept his sarcasm.

Since missing out on a chance to win the U.S. Open, Furyk has tied for 34th in two tournaments and missed two cuts, including last week in Canada. For a guy who is 15th in the Ryder Cup standings - even a win this week would not make him eligible for the U.S. team - this was no time to be stuck in neutral.

So when he had another weekend off after rounds of 70-70 at the Canadian Open, he flew home for three days.

''I think more than anything I needed a little time to clear my head,'' Furyk said. ''It wasn't anything that was going wrong, (but) why I wasn't playing better. I just felt like I needed to come in here and quit concentrating on trying to be so mechanically sound and just go play some golf and try to score and get the ball in the hole a little bit. It worked today. I did a lot better job of scoring.

''It's been a while since I made seven birdies and an eagle in a round,'' he said. ''So it was a lot of fun.''

The average score was 70.33, which is on the low side for Firestone.

Defending champion Adam Scott, in his first tournament since making four straight bogeys to lose the British Open, had a four-putt from just inside 10 feet early in his round and shot 71. So did Phil Mickelson, while British Open champion Ernie Els had a 73.

This is a course where players can smash it off the tee, and most of them did. Watson said he hit driver on all but three of the long holes. When he was asked how many fairways he missed, Watson replied, ''I don't know. I shot 4 under. That's all I know.''

That ultimately was all that mattered.

Grace, who along with Woods is the only player with three wins this year, crushed a tee shot into the speed slot on the 656-yard 16th hole that left him only 222 yards to the hole. One problem.

''It was a reasonable opportunity,'' Grace said. ''But I was right between clubs. I could either thump a 3-iron or hit my rescue, and going just over the back of that green and chipping back is not the best.''

So he laid up with a gap wedge, and then hit another gap wedge just over the back of the green, the very place where he feared his hybrid might go. He settled for par.

''Tiger and I were talking about it going up the 17th,'' Grace said. ''It's a pity you hit a great drive and go gap wedge, gap wedge. It doesn't make sense.''

Grace had one of three drives that traveled over 400 yards, and there were 58 drives of at least 350 yards. Firestone always allows for extra distance when it's dry and the fairways are running fast. But it reached the point that when Furyk was told he hit seven drives over 300 yards, he said, ''That's it?''

''I never crack the top 150 in driving distance on tour,'' Furyk said. ''If all of a sudden, out of all the guys that played today, I was 30th in today's field, I would say I was a lot longer than normal. But if I end up being - was there 80 guys in the field, 78? If I was 63rd today, I really wouldn't worry about it.''

He was 59th.

''It was hot,'' Furyk said. ''The ball is going pretty far and the ground is quite firm. Statistically, it'll probably look pretty good.''

What looked superb was the 63 on his card, on a course he loves and has twice come within a shot of either winning or getting into a playoff. Furyk is No. 15 in the Ryder Cup standings, and he has played on every team - Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup - since 1997.

Even if doesn't earn one of the eight spots after the PGA Championship next week, he would have three weeks to audition as a captain's pick. One of the knocks against Furyk is that he doesn't make a lot of birdies. His strength is staying in every hole and fighting for every shot, as he showed against Donald in the last Ryder Cup in Wales.

''Eventually in my career, I'm going to miss playing on those teams, and I'm hoping it's not this year,'' Furyk said. ''I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind. But I'm also wise enough to know that it's there in the back parts of my mind right now. And I know the only way to take care of business is to really focus on golf and the next shot and the next round, and forget about it and just try to play as well as I can and let those things work themselves out.''

Woods, meanwhile, said he would head to the practice green to work on his pace.

He missed nine putts from around 15 feet or closer, including a couple of them inside 5 feet for par. The rest of his game was reasonable, and starting out seven shots behind is no cause for him to panic.

''I was 3-under par. I mean, that's not that bad,'' Woods said. ''At the time I was three back of the lead and hadn't made a thing. I thought that was a good sign. Unfortunately, finished awful and here we are.''

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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.