Fact Pack: Hyundai TOC

By Will GrayJanuary 2, 2013, 7:12 pm

The start of the 2013 golf season is now upon us. Thirty men that hoisted trophies in 2012 will begin the new FedEx Cup season in Kapalua, site of big greens and even bigger fairways. The 7,411-yard Plantation Course is the only par-73 layout that Tour players will see this year, and should allow for low scores despite its length and expansive, undulating targets. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:

• Outside of defending champion Steve Stricker, perhaps the best recent record at Kapalua belongs to Matt Kuchar, who has a pair of top-6 finishes here in his last two starts. His steady play was on display in 2010, when he was T-2 in the field in both fairways hit and greens in regulation en route to a third-place finish, which he followed with a T-6 result in 2011. Last year Kuchar finished fifth on Tour in scoring average and seventh in scrambling.

• This week's event will see no shortage of long balls off the tee, both with the length and elevation changes of the Plantation Course and the bombers in the field. Five players in this week's 30-man field averaged over 300 yards per drive on Tour last year, including Scott Stallings, Keegan Bradley, Scott Piercy, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, who led the Tour last season while averaging over 315 yards per drive.

• Of the eight golfers in Group 1, only one player will be making his first career appearance in this event: Jason Dufner. Having won for the first time in his career at last year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Dufner may face a learning curve on Kapalua's expansive greens. Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley will all be making their second career starts on the Plantation Course this week.

• Two players from Group 3 have previously recorded top-10 finishes in this event: Ian Poulter, who ended up T-6 in his lone prior appearance in Kapalua in 2011, and Johnson Wagner, who has cracked the top 10 in each of two career starts. Wagner finished 10th in 2009 and recorded a T-9 finish here last year, one week before winning at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

• With five par-5 holes on the Plantation Course's par-73 layout, capitalizing on the longest holes each day will be of great importance, as each of the last four winners have played the par-5s in 10-under or better for the week. This bodes well for Keegan Bradley and Zach Johnson, who both finished the year tied for eighth on Tour in par-5 performance in 2012.

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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.