Power Rankings: 2014 U.S. Women's Open

By Will GrayJune 18, 2014, 2:35 pm

While the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship (our Power Rankings for that event can be found here), the women tee it up at Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Women's Open. One week after Martin Kaymer lapped the field, the best players from the LPGA Tour take their crack at its rough-less layout and turtleback greens.

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Inbee Park returns to defend the title he won a year ago at Sebonack over I.K. Kim. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Pinehurst:

1. Inbee Park: The defending champ and former world No. 1 enters with momentum after firing a final-round 61 to win in her most recent start. In addition to her win last year at Sebonack, Park captured the title in 2008 at Interlachen and has six top-10 finishes in this event since 2007.

2. Stacy Lewis: The new No. 1 enters with a ton of confidence, having won twice on the LPGA Tour in the past six weeks. While she doesn't have the record in this event of many of her counterparts, she is perhaps playing the best golf of anyone in the field heading into Pinehurst.

3. Cristie Kerr: Kerr was a runner-up to Inbee Park at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in her last start, and she has had no lack of success in this event. A winner in 2007 at nearby Pine Needles, she has finished no worse than 20th since, a streak that includes a pair of third-place finishes in 2009 and 2011.

4. Lydia Ko: She may only be 17 years old, but Ko has already shown that she can compete with the best players in the women's game. A winner earlier this year in California, the Kiwi has top-40 finishes in each of her two prior U.S. Women's Open appearances as an amateur and should improve on those results this week at Pinehurst.

5. Paula Creamer: Creamer ended a winless drought earlier this year in Thailand, and she appears to save her best golf for this event. A winner in 2010 at Oakmont, Creamer has finished T-19 or better at the U.S. Women's Open every year since 2004, and has been T-7 or better five of the last six years.

6. Suzann Pettersen: Last year's missed cut at Sebonack broke a streak of five straight top-15 finishes in this event for Pettersen, one that includes a tie for second in 2010. After missing the season's first major with a back injury, the Norwegian is back to full strength and eager to add to her major title haul.

7. So Yeon Ryu: A surprise winner in 2011, Ryu backed up that result with a T-14 finish in 2012 and was third last year at Sebonack. She has six top-10 finishes this year and is currently 10th on the LPGA Tour in GIR percentage.

8. Lexi Thompson: Thompson broke through to win the first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and has built upon that momentum, with three more top-10 finishes including a runner-up showing at Kingsmill. On a lengthy course like Pinehurst, her advantage off the tee will be even more pronounced this week.

9. Karrie Webb: In an era where the best female players are younger and younger, Webb just keeps cruising right along. Webb won earlier this year at the JTBC Founders Cup and also kicked off her season with a win in Australia. Her Open record is a solid one, with three top-20 finishes in the last four years.

10. Michelle Wie: Wie is having a career year in 2014, with a win in her native Hawaii highlighting a season that also includes eight top-10 finishes. While her record in the Open hasn't been great in recent years, she did contend as an amateur in both 2005 and 2006, and if she gets her unorthodox putting style working on the greens, she could be on the leaderboard once again.


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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.