Henderson stumbles late, still leads at Swinging Skirts

By Doug FergusonApril 26, 2015, 1:33 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Canadian teen Brooke Henderson lost some momentum Saturday afternoon. She at least kept the lead in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

Henderson led by as many as five shots early in the third round at tough, chilly Lake Merced Golf Club. It all changed on the final two holes when the 17-year-old made a pair of bogeys and had to settle for an even-par 72 and a one-shot lead over Morgan Pressel and Min Seo Kwak of South Korea.

''If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it,'' Henderson said.

Even so, two holes changed the dynamics of the final round.

Henderson had looked unflappable even in conditions so tough - cold air and soft turf - that Pressel (67) and Kwak (69) were the only players to break 70. She didn't miss a fairway until the par-5 14th, and she converted that into a birdie from a greenside bunker for a three-shot lead.

But she didn't recover from a tee shot into the rough on the 17th. She pulled her approach left of a bunker and didn't realize there was ''something really hard'' under her ball until the wedge bounced off the turf and sent her shot over the green. She had to get up-and-down to limit the damage to bogey.



Then, she pulled her wedge left of the green on the par-5 18th and failed to save par. She was at 9-under 207.

Pressel birdied four of her last six holes for a 67 on a day when the average score was 74.6.

Also very much in the mix is defending champion Lydia Ko, who turned 18 on Friday and now is chasing someone even younger. Ko took a bogey on the par-5 seventh and fell as many as six shots behind until a pair of birdies on the back nine brought her back to a 71. She was three shots behind.

Henderson, who won three times on the Canadian Women's Tour as an amateur, was denied a waiver to the LPGA Tour's minimum age requirement of 18. Commissioner Mike Whan has granted two exemptions to the age requirement - Ko and Lexi Thompson, both having already won on the LPGA.

Perhaps a victory by Henderson will change his mind, though she has a lot of work left.

She will be in the final group with Pressel, whom she refers to as her role model in women's golf. They met nine years ago in Ottawa, and Henderson says she still gets a little nervous around her. Sunday will be filled with plenty of pressure, though Henderson is used to that even at her age.

She has been a starlet of Canadian golf for several years now, a winner of the Canadian Women's Amateur, a finalist in the U.S. Women's Amateur and the medalist at the World Amateur Team Championship.

Pressel, who won an LPGA major when she was 18, has gone some seven years without a win and missed a playoff at the first major of the year by one shot earlier this month. She feels close, and thanks to Henderson, she is a lot closer to the lead than when she finished her round.

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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.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


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.