Mehra on Top at Frye Classic

By Futures Tour MediaApril 24, 2004, 4:00 pm
Futures TourWICHITA, Kan. -- It was 5:30 this morning, and Smriti Mehra was poking around Willowbend Golf Club, looking for other Futures Golf Tour sleepwalkers. She was only two swings into her first round after Fridays rain delays and she knew there were 35 holes to play in the day ahead. But while other players hoping to hang onto a share of the lead were just starting their second round today after 7 p.m., the tired native of Calcutta, India, was happy her early-morning rounds had made at least one dream come true.
 
I dont know how I was playing because I was so tired I couldnt think straight, said Mehra, who completed a first round of 69, then added a 6-under-par 66 to take the clubhouse lead of the $70,000 Frye Classic at 135 (-9). Im a good tough-conditions player. And Im definitely motivated.
 
Motivated to win. And motivated to regain her full exempt LPGA Tour status. That combination of mettle and Mehras raw strength gave the seven-year LPGA veteran the goods to take the 36-hole lead. That lead was as solid as the knot in her gut on a day when 30-plus holes was typical and lunch consisted of pizza gobbled down between the last hole of the first round and the first hole of the second round. More than one wind-blown player teed it up hoping only to beat the sunset.
 
By days end, 71 players completed the second round with 68 returning at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to finish 36 holes. A tournament cut will be made after completion of two rounds and players will be re-paired, going off the first and 10th tees.
 
Known as a long hitter on the LPGA Tour, Mehra capitalized on the calmer winds in the morning and even drove the 287-yard, par-4 18th green, lipping out her eagle putt. She carded eight birdies and two bogeys for her 66 on the par-72, 6,405-yard course.
 
And while Mehra charged ahead after 36 holes, one co-leader from the first round began to back up as the day wore on. Caryn Wilson of Rancho Mirage, Calif., fired an opening-round 66 for a share of the lead by midday today, but a second-round 77 bumped her into a tie for third with Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea at 143. Young Jo of Suwon, Korea moved into second place at 141.
 
My mistakes werent necessarily wind-related, said Wilson, who had one birdie, two bogeys and two double-bogeys in her second round. Im just lucky to be finished.
 
Friday's pacesetter Kim Adams of Tide Head, New Brunswick struggled with club selections today and after nine holes, recorded three bogeys and one birdie. Two poor club choices cost her two shots.
 
Mental toughness is going to win, said Adams, who carded a 69 Friday as one of only nine players who completed her first round. I have 27 holes left and anything can happen.
 
Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, who completed her first round mid-morning with a 66, shared the lead with Wilson by midday. She will return Sunday morning to finish 16 holes.
 
And as the endurance test of the fourth annual Frye Classic moves into another early start on Sunday, its certain that a few weary players will wake up and make a final charge for the title.
 
Notes: Erin Kerr of Phoenix holed out for an eagle-2 on the par-4, 287-yard 18th hole when she hit a lob wedge from a greenside bunker. The 15-yard bunker blast rolled into the cup for eagle Earlier in the day, Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., scored the Tours first hole-in-one of the season with a 9-iron from 139 yards on the eighth hole.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.