Rookies share lead, 54-hole scoring record at Sony

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2013, 5:46 am

HONOLULU – Scott Langley and Russell Henley joked around as if they were a couple of rookies fresh out of college.

They sure don't play like rookies.

After they set the Sony Open scoring record at 17-under 193 to share the lead, Henley walked into a news conference Saturday evening and realized Langley, who moments earlier had been sitting in the same chair, left behind his PGA Tour credentials and sunglasses.

Langley came back into the room - turns out he forgot his golf clubs, too - and Henley waved the credentials and called out to him, ''What a rookie.''

Put them on the golf course, though, and they look awfully tough to beat.

Langley relied on his stinger 3-wood on the fast fairways of Waialae and another solid round putting for a 5-under 65.

Henley took a suspect swing from the range and made it work on the course, turning a so-so round into a 67 by keeping bogeys off his card for the second straight day. He smashed a high draw on the par-5 18th over the bunker and just through the fairway, leading to a two-putt birdie that allowed him to catch Langley.

They had a three-shot lead over Tim Clark, who is finally feeling healthy again.

''I'm sure they won't be too intimidated,'' Clark said. ''That's going to be fun to see them play. There's all these young guys coming out these days, and they're ready to go right from the start. So it's going to be a fun battle.''

Langley and Henley started the Sony Open playing in the same group, not unusual because rookies are often put at the back end of the draw. They will play together Sunday for the fourth straight day, this time with a lot more at stake.

A chance to become the first rookie to win his PGA Tour debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson.

A two-year exemption on tour.

And the sweet reward of an invitation to The Masters, rare for a rookie.

''A month ago I was at orientation, and Scott just done with Q-school, and I gave him a ride to the airport,'' Henley said. ''We had lunch and I was telling him how awesome it was I was on the PGA Tour. This is kind like a dream. It's weird. It's like I'm not awake. Very weird.''

Perhaps reality will set in Sunday, though there has been no evidence of that for three days - not the way these guys putt.

''The Vegas odds on me winning were probably not very good,'' said Langley, not a betting man himself. ''I hope somebody bet on me and I make him a lot of money.''

Langley made seven birdies to offset a pair of bogeys. Henley has been steadier, and he carries a streak of 43 holes without a bogey into the final round.

Henley looked relaxed when he finished his round and still feels as though he's playing with house money.

''Win this tournament or not, it's already been a very successful week,'' said Henley, who won twice on the Web.com Tour last year to earn his card.

''Obviously, I've played great golf, and I feel like I can compete out here. And I think when I get confidence like that, I can compete. It lets me get out of my way a little bit. It's a long year. Whatever happens tomorrow, I'm going to learn from it.''

The rookies have ruled along the shores of Oahu, and if not for Clark, it would have been even more pronounced. Clark made a birdie on the last hole that put him into the final group.

Otherwise, that spot would have been occupied by Scott Gardiner of Australia, who had a 64 and was four shots behind.

Charles Howell III, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, had a 67 and also was four behind.

''We'll see what happens,'' Howell said. ''Those young kids are running away with it, but I'll just do my best tomorrow to have a nice week.''

Seven players were within five shots of the lead, which included Monday qualifier Danny Lee and Pat Perez, whose goal to have a more positive attitude was severely tested on the final hole when he missed a 40-inch birdie putt. Perez still had a 67 and was at 12-under 198.

Henley and Langley shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, and then became fast friends by flying together to Northern Ireland for the Palmer Cup. They were thrilled to be playing together for their rookie debut in the opening two rounds.

Neither had any idea they would still be together going into the final round. Nobody has been able to catch them.

''I never imagined that,'' Langley said. ''It's certainly odd. But you know, if there was a guy in the field that I would love to do it with, it would be Russell because we play pretty similar games, and we're kind of the same guy on the course. We play pretty quickly and pretty easy going, kind of feel our way around, not too technical. So there are a lot of guys that I enjoy playing with, but Russell is definitely one of them.''

Langley was two shots behind until a two-putt birdie on the ninth and a short birdie putt on the 10th to tie for the lead. He pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th, and after a three-putt bogey, regained the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th.

He kept in front with a 7-foot par save on the 17th, but took himself out of an easy birdie chance on the 18th when his ball settled just in front of a large tree root.

In another veteran move, he took a steep swing so that the club narrowly passed over the exposed root and struck the ball cleanly, though it still left him a wedge into the green.

Those expecting to see the rookies get stage fright in the final group on the weekend quickly learned that these aren't ordinary rookies - at least not on Saturday. Both played with remarkable poise and kept this Sony Open a two-man show.

Except for John Daly, of course, who always manages to keep it interesting. He pulled his tee shot into the hill on the sixth hole, hit a rock and hurt his shoulder.

He made triple bogey, took four shots from 20 feet on the next hole for double bogey, made another triple bogey on the eighth and then holed a 50-foot birdie for a 45 on the front nine. That gave him a 79.

A far more subtle meltdown belonged to Chris Kirk. He was two shots out of the lead when he hit a tee shot into the canal on the par-5 ninth, his next shot out of bounds and made a 20-foot putt to escape with a triple bogey. He played the other par 5 much differently, chipping in from 80 feet for eagle on the 18th to salvage a 68. He was five behind.

Henley started the third round with a two-shot lead and he didn't give it up until Langley holed a 12-foot birdie from just on the fringe at the 13th. They play different styles, with Langley hitting low shots with great control, but both of them can putt.

Henley showed that with a number of par saves early on, along with his 15-foot birdie on the second hole and another birdie from about 8 feet on No. 8.

He made nine straight pars after that until his birdie on the last hole.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.