Power Rankings: 2015 PGA Championship

By Will GrayAugust 12, 2015, 2:01 am

The 42nd event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to Wisconsin for the PGA Championship. A field of 156 will tackle Whistling Straits Golf Club, which last hosted the season's final major in 2010.

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Rory McIlroy won this event a year ago over Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Here are 10 players to watch in Sheboygan:

1. Bubba Watson: Don't sleep on the world No. 3. Watson enters off back-to-back runner-up finishes, including last week at Firestone, and he leads the Tour this season in total strokes gained. Watson lost in a playoff here in 2010 and should again find Whistling Straits to his liking.

2. Justin Rose: After a near-miss at Bridgestone, the Englishman offered a rare bit of bold self-assessment when he said he was currently the best player in the world, tee to green. Should the putter cooperate this week, he might be able to remove that distinction. Rose enters with four top-six finishes in his last five starts.

3. Jordan Spieth: Spieth has been the best player this year, but his PGA Championship credentials are lacking: missed cuts in both 2013 and 2014. He'll likely make the weekend this time, especially after five straight top-10 finishes and a Sunday 66 at Firestone.

4. Jason Day: The Aussie couldn't get past the 16th hole at Firestone, but he still contended deep into the final round. Day was surprisingly in the mix at Whistling Straits back in 2010 and has now compiled four straight top-12 finishes, including a win in Canada. 

5. Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 returns from injury in his first start since the U.S. Open. McIlroy will likely face some rust in the early rounds, but he missed a playoff by only one shot here in 2010 and has feasted on the season's final major ever since. 

6. Brooks Koepka: Koepka cooled off after his breakthrough win in Phoenix, but he is clearly back on track after five straight top-20 finishes that included four straight rounds in the 60s at Firestone. Koepka's length off the tee will be a huge asset, especially if conditions remain soft.

7. Dustin Johnson: Johnson returns to the scene of the crime, fresh off another major heartbreak earlier this summer. As we saw at Chambers Bay and St. Andrews, he has the game to grab the lead at majors. His closing efforts at both the Old Course and Firestone, though, raise a red flag.

8. Zach Johnson: The most recent major winner returns to a course where he, like McIlroy, fell one shot short in 2010. Johnson doesn't seem to fit the mold of a contender at Whistling Straits, but he has seven top-20 finishes in his last nine starts. Plus, players seem to be winning majors in pairs as of late.

9. Robert Streb: He isn't flashy, but he sure is effective. Streb finished fifth at Firestone and now has eight top-10 finishes this season, including a win and a playoff loss. Now up to fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, Streb has seven top-20 finishes in his last eight starts and has shown an ability to contend on a variety of venues.

10. Rickie Fowler: Fowler chased his runner-up in Virginia with a T-10 finish in Akron, and once again carries momentum into a major. Fowler made his PGA Championship debut here in 2010 and after contending on the big stages a year ago, he could be poised for another breakthrough.   

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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.