Stenson takes 2-shot lead at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2015, 10:09 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Henrik Stenson of Sweden finished with another flourish at Bay Hill on Saturday and seized control of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It was the second straight day that Stenson played the final four holes in 4 under par. Two shots behind, he made a 12-foot birdie on the 15th hole, a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th and finished with a pitching wedge that plopped down 2 feet from the 18th hole for a 6-under 66.

That gave Stenson a two-shot lead over Morgan Hoffmann, who stumbled on the front nine, recovered with three birdies in four holes and then stalled at the end for a 71.

Stenson, the No. 3 player in the world, was at 16-under 200.

"It's a new day tomorrow, so whatever has happened these first three days has put me in a nice position," Stenson said. "But it's got to be done all over tomorrow."


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Six players are separated by three shots going into Sunday's final round, a group that includes defending champion Matt Every.

Rory McIlroy looked as though he would be among them. The world's No. 1 player pulled to within one shot of the lead with his fourth birdie of the round on the 13th hole. But he ran off three straight bogeys, missing a par putt from just inside 3 feet on No. 15 and chopping up the par-5 16th hole. McIlroy effectively gave up two shots to the field on the 16th, where only one other player failed to make par or better.

McIlroy missed the cut in the Honda Classic and finished eight shots behind at Doral. Asked if Bay Hill counted as being in contention, he replied, "Not anymore."

"I guess if I can get off to the fast start tomorrow ... maybe I will have a chance," he said. "It would have been nicer to be a little closer to the lead going into tomorrow."

A two-shot lead can disappear quickly, especially on the back nine. Even so, Stenson has been steady during his three stops on the Florida swing. He tied for fourth at Doral, and missed the three-man playoff at Innisbrook by one shot last week.

Hoffmann regained the lead with back-to-back birdies early on the back nine, but his tee shot rolled up to the lip of a bunker on par-5 16th and he was one of only two players in the third round who had to lay up short of the creek. Hoffmann had to settle for pars, though he was still in the final group with Stenson.

Every had a 69 and was in the group at 13-under 203 that included Jason Kokrak (65), Matt Jones (67) and Las Vegas winner Ben Martin (68). Jones birdied his last four holes, including a 75-foot putt across the green at the par-3 17th.

Hoffmann had a chance to limit the number of contenders if he had posted a better score. The scoring average was low again because of slow, receptive greens this week. But he kept getting funny lies in the fairway, mud on his ball and a few breaks that didn't go his way.

But he still has a chance, as do so many others, especially considering the most recent trend on the PGA Tour. In the last eight tournaments (including the Puerto Rico Open), the winner came from behind in the final round.

Sean O'Hair, who was in the playoff at Innisbrook last week, had a 68 and was five shots behind. The group six shots back included Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who matched the low score of the third round with a 65. Harris English, No. 52 in the world as he tries to get into the Masters, hit two balls in the water on the front nine and battled back with four birdies over his last four holes for a 72.

Daniel Berger made the first albatross at Bay Hill, hitting 4-iron from 237 yards into the hole for a 2 on the par-5 sixth hole.

And still on the fringe of contention was Sam Saunders, the 27-year-old grandson of Palmer, who shot 67 to join the group at 8-under 208.

DIVOTS: Ernie Els made seven birdies in his round of 72. The Big Easy also had four bogeys and a triple-bogey 8 on the sixth hole. ... Stenson is among four players who have shot in the 60s each round this week. ... Only three players are over par for the tournament going into the final round. That includes Davis Love III and Vijay Singh, both over 50.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.