Power Rankings: 2014 McGladrey Classic

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2014, 6:39 pm

The PGA Tour continues to kick off the 2014-15 season with the McGladrey Classic, the third event of the new season. A field of 144 players will tee it up at Sea Island, where players could be challenged by the nearby ocean breezes.

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Chris Kirk won this event a year ago by one shot over Tim Clark and Briny Baird. Here are 10 players to watch in Georgia:

1. Webb Simpson: Simpson may not be a part of the "Sea Island Mafia," but he certainly knows his way around the Seaside Course. In three appearances he has never finished worse than T-12, including a playoff loss in 2011, and he boasts a 67.2 stroke average in the event. Coming off a T-4 finish in defense of his title in Las Vegas, he is clearly in form and should have another strong week.

2. Bill Haas: Making his first start since the Tour Championship, having been edged out by Simpson for a spot on the Ryder Cup squad. Haas quietly capped a solid season last month, one in which he missed the weekend only once in 28 starts and had 17 top-25 finishes. He was a runner-up here in 2010, his lone prior start at Sea Island.

3. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is a Sea Island resident and tied for seventh a year ago after four straight rounds of 68 or better. After a taxing end to his season, he's had a week off following his T-21 showing at the Frys.com Open and should have some more gas in the tank - not to mention a few Yellow Jacket fans in his corner.

4. Scott Brown: He's gotten out of the gates quickly this season, with a T-12 in Napa followed by a T-10 in Las Vegas. Brown is an Augusta native so he knows a thing or two about golf in the Peach State, and the 31-year-old tied for fourth last year after finishing T-20 in his McGladrey debut in 2012.

5. Zach Johnson: Johnson is making his first start since the Ryder Cup, but like many in this week's field he has plenty of experience on the Seaside Course. Johnson tied for 16th a year ago, going 68-67 over the weekend, and last year showed a penchant for getting hot during the part of the calendar when many top players choose to sit it out.

6. Chris Kirk: The defending champ is teeing it up for the first time since the Tour Championship, but the momentum from his playoff run should still carry over. Kirk had top-five finishes in two of his last three starts last season, including a win at TPC Boston, and closed out 2013-14 with a 68.6 stroke average across his final three events. Now he returns to a course where he fired bookend 66s en route to victory a year ago.

7. Tony Finau: The long-driving rookie has been hot to start the season, with top-15 finishes at both the Frys.com Open (T-12) and Shriners (T-7). While he will be seeing this week's venue for the first time, Finau has had little trouble fitting into the big leagues so far this month and currently sits second on Tour in birdie average.

8. Hudson Swafford: While some fans may mistake him for his doppelganger and fellow Georgia Bulldog Harris English, Swafford has played well so far this season as he looks to build a name for himself on Tour. Swafford has carded 71 or better in each of his first eight competitive rounds in 2014-15, notching a pair of top-20 finishes in the process, and now plays what amounts to a home game at Sea Island.

9. Nick Watney: After a disappointing season, Watney showed signs of life in August and now has begun his new campaign with a T-16 finish in Las Vegas after four straight rounds in the 60s. While he is making his first start on the Seaside Course, Watney now has four top-25 finishes in his last six starts dating back to July and may soon return to the winner's circle.

10. Martin Laird: Laird cooled after an opening-round 64 at TPC Summerlin, but his T-18 result was still his fourth straight top-20 finish dating back to last season. The Scot now has 16 straight stroke-play rounds of 71 or better and has hit the green in regulation 77 percent of the time to begin the new season.

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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.

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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.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.