McIlroy grabs share of lead before storms halt play

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2012, 11:45 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Tiger Woods watched the flight of his tee shot until he could see it drifting too far right, and he hung his head slightly as the ball tumbled off the green. Already with three bogeys in seven holes, it looked as though nothing was going right for him in the PGA Championship.

Dark clouds seem to have followed Woods on the weekend at majors this year. On Saturday at Kiawah Island, they might have saved him.

Facing a 7-foot putt to avoid another bogey, the darkening sky crackled with thunder and play was suspended with 26 players having to return for a marathon finish Sunday. That might be good news for Woods, not so much for Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy raced to the top of the leaderboard, and not even a tee shot that lodged into a tree on the third hole could slow him. Once he finally found it stuck in a rotted section of a thick limb, he took a penalty drop and drilled his wedge to 6 feet to save par.

He went out in 32 after a bogey on the ninth hole and was at 6-under par, tied with Vijay Singh, who was on the par-3 eighth hole.

''It's nice going into the final day - hopefully, if we get it finished - in a great position,'' McIlroy said. ''And it being 27 holes, I definitely don't mind. I don't mind if it takes a while to get done.''

Singh started and finished his short day with birdies - an 18-foot putt on the first, and a 25-foot putt on the par-5 seventh.

Right behind was Adam Scott, showing more magic than hangover from his British Open collapse last month. Scott was three shots out of the lead when the third round began and cruising along with pars until four birdies on the last five holes of the front nine. That stretch began with a shot he holed from a sandy area on the par-3 fifth, and it ended with a 45-foot birdie putt across the green on the ninth.

''Right now I am in good position,'' Scott said. ''Unfortunate not to continue because I was on a little bit of a run. But hopefully, I'll come back out and play 27 good ones tomorrow.''

About the only players disappointed to see the windswept third round end were the players who had already finished - Bo Van Pelt (67) at 3-under 213, Steve Stricker (67) at 2-under 214, Padraig Harrington (69) another shot behind.

And Woods.

''I got off to a rough start today and couldn't get anything going,'' Woods said through a spokesman. ''I'll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.''

He failed to birdie the par-5 second hole when he tugged his approach into the back bunker and only blasted out to 20 feet. The real damage came on the third hole, the one that saved McIlroy. Woods hit a wedge into 4 feet, and his birdie putt raced by the edge of the cup.

It unraveled after that. He hit a spectator with his tee shot at No. 4, signing a glove for the fan, went over the green and muffed a difficult chip. Woods had to make a 4-foot bogey putt, and then hit another low hook that led to bogey on the fifth.

He started the third round tied for the lead with Singh and Carl Pettersson at 4-under 140. Seven holes into the third round, Woods already was five shots behind. It was starting to look familiar to Woods, who has yet to break par on the weekend at a major this year. This was the second time this year Woods had a share of the 36-hole lead going into weekend at the majors. He is 13-over par in his six weekend rounds at majors, including a 75-73 finish at Olympic Club to go from a tie for the lead to a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open.

The 26 players who didn't finish the round will return Sunday morning. The final round was to be played in threesomes of both tees, rare for a major championship.

Singh, the 49-year-old who has not been in contention at a major in six years, opened with a 15-foot birdie putt and made a strong recovery from trouble on the par-5 seventh by making a 25-foot putt to join McIlroy atop the leaderboard.

Pettersson was at 4 under through eight holes.

Stopping play might be the best thing that happened to Woods - and a tough break for those who finished.

''You never know what the weather will be like when they go back out,'' said Van Pelt, the clubhouse leader. ''So they might get the good end of it or the bad end of it. To me, just glad to be done. I did what I could do, and I'm sure before I go to bed tonight I'll know kind of where I stand going into tomorrow.''

Not really.

It's the first time since 2008 that the PGA Championship didn't complete three rounds on Saturday. Some players had to go 36 holes on the final day that year, and Padraig Harrington wound up winning his second straight major.

''Unfortunately, the weather gods turned against us today,'' said Kerry Haigh, the PGA's managing director of championships.

Harrington might be in the picture again, depending on how the rest of the field fares Sunday morning. He was 4 under on his round until a double bogey on the 10th hole, though that was his only big mistakes and he wound up with a 69. Harrington was at 1-under 215.

''I would rather it just stayed the way it was,'' Harrington said about the weather. ''Who knows what's going to happen now? ... It could be a good break, but it could be a bad break. We'll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. But would have settled for the guys to play the same conditions we played and have them play the back nine in the wind, because the back nine was a lot tougher than the front nine.''

McIlroy opened with a 15-foot birdie putt, followed with a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, and then the adventure began. His tee shot dropped out of the sky and into a crevice in the thick limb that appeared to be dying.

''I know the line of the ball was right on the tree,'' McIlroy said. ''We'd been looking for it for maybe about three minutes and then one of the guys that was working for TV came over and said, 'You know, it's actually stuck in the tree.' I'm like, 'How can it be stuck in this thing? There's no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree.

''I was just happy to get it up-and-down for 4 and move on to the next,'' McIlroy said.

The next hole was just as good, though not as dramatic, when he holed a 15-foot putt for par, and then he hit his tee shot to about 5 feet on the par-3 fifth hole.

Stricker, trying to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup team, brought a chance at his first major championship into the picture when he ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn before missing a short putt on the 13th for his lone bogey. He finished with a birdie.

Trevor Immelman was 3 under through 10 holes, while Graeme McDowell remains poised to contend in a third straight major. He was at 2 under through 11 holes, and then ducked into the clubhouse to avoid the pounding rain. Players checked the weather on their phones, and saw nothing but bad weather.

''Disappointing,'' McDowell said. ''We've done well this week to avoid the storms that are pretty inevitable in this part of the country this time of the year.''

And it was slightly disappointing to have to stop, especially for those chasing.

''It was a great test of golf out there this afternoon, a nice 50 mph breeze to keep everyone honest,'' he said. ''We'll see how conditions are in the morning.''

Getty Images

Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

Getty Images

Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.''