Former LPGA Member Grabs Lead In Season Opener
But that twitch in her gut also could have been a reminder that the last time the Korean had visited Cleveland Heights Golf Course in the fall of 2004, she had breezed through the Duramed FUTURES Tour's Qualifying Tournament en route to LPGA Final Q-School where she earned her exempt 2005 status. Son left Cleveland Heights and never looked back until she once again stood on the first tee today.
And today, the now-seasoned professional posted the morning number that everybody chased all day, carding a bogey-free, six-under-par score of 66.
'I feel great now, but I was just a little bit nervous today,' said Son, 22, of Seoul, Korea. 'I have had three years on the LPGA Tour and I improved my course management and putting. But I still need a lot of experience.
Now a resident of Orlando, Fla., Son produced a well-balanced round with three birdies on the front and three birdies on the back nine and rolled in 26 putts.
Finishing two shots back at 68 (-4) in the first round was fourth-year player Jessica Shepley, who also played in the morning rounds and started on the back nine of the par-72, 6,258-yard course with four birdies. The Canadian finished her day birdie-bogey on the front nine, rolling in a 12-footer on No. 8, but stumbling with three putts from 30 feet on the difficult par-three ninth green - the course's toughest-playing hole today.
'I didn't hit my irons particularly well, but I got away with it,' said Shepley, 24, of Oakville, Ontario. 'I wanted to get off to a good start and get comfortable out there.'
Today's season-opening first round was a crucial test for Shepley, a former All-SEC player at the University of Tennessee, who, by her own admission, has fallen short of lofty expectations as she has transitioned from collegiate to the professional ranks. Fed up with poor 2007 season results, the Canadian left the Tour before the end of the season last year and went home to Ontario to regroup.
'I've refocused on every aspect of my life and golf game and re-evaluated my goals,' she said. 'Now I know that it's not always about doing what I want to do, but about doing what I need to do.'
Returning players Annie Young and Yeon Joo Lee were the first to jump onto the leaderboard this morning, both posting rounds of three-under-par 69. Lee's low round marked a return from an injury-shortened season last year in which she struggled with an injured disk in her back. Young's start was a continuation of her pre-season tune-up, in which she won a Phoenix-based mini-tour event three weeks ago.
'I've thought a lot about Emily Bastel and Allison Fouch, who finished No. 1 and 2 [on the Tour's money list] out here last year, and it wasn't always great for them, but they stuck it out and finally got what they wanted,' said Young of Highland, Utah, a third-year pro and former All-American at Oklahoma State University. 'I've probably put too much pressure on myself to get to the next level, rather than enjoying where I am. My attitude this year has to be that this is a great stepping stone and that I just have to give myself opportunities.'
A total of eight players are tied at three-under-par 69, including 2005 Lakeland tournament winner Jin Young Pak of Kang Leung, South Korea, Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., Alissa Kuczka of Phoenix, Song Yi Choi of Seoul, Korea, Leah Wigger of Louisville, Ky., and former two-time Tour champion Stephanie George of Myerstown, Pa.
In spite of an afternoon rain that set in and dampened opening day for the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour, at least one player in the afternoon rounds seemed unfazed by the drizzle and happy to finally be competing again since the season ended last September.
'It feels good to come out here and shoot a 69 because it was pretty cold being at home in Louisville [Ky.] this winter, hitting shots in a heated area,' said Wigger, playing in her first full season.
The tournament's defending champion Lori Atsedes of Ithaca, N.Y., carded a one-under-par score of 71, while heralded rookie Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., made her professional debut with a plus-one score of 73.
'I wasn't really nervous,' said Hurst, 17, this week's cover-girl feature in Golfweek magazine. 'The greens just weren't good to me.'
Saturday's second round will begin at 8:30 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:39 p.m.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Partly cloudy turning to mostly cloudy with afternoon rain. Temperatures dropping from mid-70s to mid-60s with wind around 7 mph.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
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.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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.”
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.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
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.
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.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
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:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
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.