Stanley collapses; Snedeker wins Farmers

By Doug FergusonJanuary 30, 2012, 1:03 am

SAN DIEGO – Brandt Snedeker won the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff not even he thought was possible.

Kyle Stanley led by seven shots early in the final round Sunday, and he still had a four-shot lead as he stood on the 18th tee at Torrey Pines. Just like that, he went from being anointed a rising star to a meltdown that ranks among the most shocking in golf.

Snedeker, in the group ahead of him, hit wedge to a foot for birdie and a 67, then drove up to the media tent for an interview as the runner-up. He arrived in time to watch Stanley spin a wedge into the water, then three-putt from 45 feet for a triple-bogey 8 and a 74.

Two playoff holes later, both were in shock.

Snedeker’s tee shot hopped over the green and would have gone into a canyon except that it bounced off a television tower. He chipped to about 5 feet and made the par. Stanley three-putted again from just outside 45 feet, his five-foot par putt catching the right lip.

“It’s just crazy,” Snedeker said. “To get my mind around what happened the last 30 minutes is pretty hard to do right now. My heart is out to Kyle. I feel bad for him to have to go through this.”

Stanley, whose power, poise and polish was on display all week, was reduced to tears. His eyes were glassy and his lip quivered as he tried to answer questions, a sad ending to an otherwise spectacular week along the Pacific bluffs.

“It’s not a hard golf hole,” Stanley said. “I could probably play it a thousand times and never make an 8.”

But he did Sunday, a painful lesson for the 24-year-old out of Clemson.

Snedeker is making a habit of these comebacks. In all three of his PGA Tour wins, he trailed by at least five shots going into the last round. At Hilton Head last year, he came from six shots back and wound up beating Luke Donald in a playoff.

This one was handed to him.

“This one I kind of backed into,” Snedeker said. “You never like winning a tournament that way. But you do like winning.”

Stanley birdied his first two holes – Snedeker was nine behind at that point – and led by six shots at the turn until he started dropping shots from the sand. Even so, he made three straight par putts, starting with a 12-footer on the 14th, to seemingly regain control.

The kid knows heartache. Last summer, he was two shots ahead at the John Deere Classic until he bogeyed the final hole from a bunker, and Steve Stricker closed with two straight birdies to win.

This loss, however, put him in the wrong kind of company.

It was reminiscent of Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the 1999 British Open and lost in a playoff; of Robert Garrigus, who made triple bogey on the last hole of the St. Jude Classic in 2010 and lost in a playoff; and even of Frank Lickliter at Torrey Pines, who three-putted from 12 feet on the 17th hole in 2001 to make triple bogey in the third playoff hole in losing to Phil Mickelson.

“I know I’ll be back,” Stanley said, pausing to allow the words to come out of his mouth. “It’s tough to swallow right now.”

Stanley stood over a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole with a four-shot lead, and it was matter of staying upright for the next 20 minutes to collect his first PGA Tour win.

If only it were that simple.

Snedeker made his tap-in birdie to finish at 16-under 272. Stanley hit a 300-yard drive and kept it simple by laying up.

Then, he fell apart.

His sand wedge had too much spin and did not get high enough on the green, spinning quickly down the slope and off the green, and it slowly tumbled down the bank and into the water. Stanley showed little emotion, took his drop in the first cut to eliminate some of the spin, and his fifth shot was safely on the back of the green, some 45 feet away.

With a putt down into the bowl of the green, he came up about 3 1/2 feet short, then missed it well to the left for a triple-bogey 8. He had to sign for a 74, without breaking the pencil, then head back to the 18th for a playoff.

Snedeker caught a minor break on the first extra hole when his second shot stopped directly in front of a loose divot. He managed to remove it without moving the ball, then hit sand wedge to 3 feet for birdie. Stanley went for the green in two this time. He went just over the green and chipped down to the same spot as Snedeker and matched his birdie.

It ended on the par-3 16th in a playoff, when again Snedeker looked to be in trouble and wound up a winner.

John Rollins had 235 yards to the green on the 18th hole, two shots behind Snedeker, two shots clear of fourth place. He elected to lay up and wound up with a par. It gave him a 71, and he finished alone in third at 14-under 274.

John Huh, the 21-year-old rookie out of Q-school, had a buried lie in a bunker, a duffed chip, a chip-in for birdie and an approach that nearly went over the cliff, all in the first four holes. He birdied the last for a 74, and while he was never a factor in the final group, he at least tied for sixth and earned a spot next week in the Phoenix Open.

But this was a two-man show at the end.

And for the longest time on a day filled with sunshine and hang gliders, it was a one-man show.

Staked to a five-shot lead, Stanley didn’t let anyone close to him until early on the back nine.

His opening tee shot showed some nerves, as the ball went well right and into a torrey pine, settling on the cart path. His approach was conservative, away from the bunker. From there, he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt down the hill, and Stanley was off and running. He holed a 7-foot birdie putt on the next hole, and when Rollins made bogey on No. 3, the lead was up to seven shots.

Only when Snedeker began to creep up the board did the lead finally get under six shots, and then Stanley made it hard on himself.

Starting with the par-3 eighth hole, he was in five bunkers on the next seven holes, and three of them led to bogeys. He hit a splendid shot from the sand on the par-3 11th, only to miss a three-foot par putt.

From a fairway bunker on the 14th, he came up well short of the green to protect from going long and into the hazard and chipped weakly to just outside 12 feet. He saved par, made a five-foot putt to save par from a bunker on the 15th and completed a long two-putt par on the 16th with an eight-footer. And when Snedeker made his only bogey ahead of him on the 17th, Stanley looked to be in the clear.

How quickly it all changed.

“He’s going to have a tough night,” Snedeker said. “But he’s going to be better for it.”

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one 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.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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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.”