Strange Day in New Mexico
First-round leader, Russy Gulyanamitta of Rayong, Thailand, who held a two-shot lead on the fifth hole, was the player who unexpectedly moved out. The player fended off back spasms from the start of her round and was forced to withdraw due to injury.
'She got up to hit her approach shot on the fifth hole and just buckled and fell to the ground,' said playing partner, Kristin Dufour of Austin, Texas. 'Then her knees buckled again on the green while she was trying to putt and she went down.'
That was it for Gulyanamitta, who was carried away in a flat-bed golf service cart from the fifth green to the clubhouse. Treated by an on-site chiropractor, the tournament leader rested on a motor home bed with tears streaming down her cheeks.
'I cant play anymore because I cant stand up,' she said. 'I was leading the tournament. I was playing well. I am very disappointed, for sure.'
With Gulyanamittas departure from the field, and the relentless Friday winds now only a puff from the past, jockeying for position hit full stride at the 6,470-yard Isleta Eagle Golf Course. On Friday, there were only four at par or better. By this afternoon, with calm skies in the morning and 25 mph winds in the afternoon, a sense of normalcy had returned to the high desert. Seventeen players finished Saturdays second round at par or better.
Erika Wicoff of Hartford City, Ind., who began the day two shots behind Gulayanamitta, clung to a share of the lead in spite of a 74 (+2) and a 34-putt struggle that included two three putts and one four-putt green at the seventh hole. Dufour, who was tied for second with Wicoff at 1-under 71 after 18 holes, slid into a tie for 13th with a 78 today.
'It was a strange day with a lot of distractions, but I finally told myself to just focus on my round,' said Wicoff, a non-exempt LPGA Tour player, who also played with Gulayanamitta. 'Im where I want to be going into Sunday.'
But managing one of the days biggest moves was former LPGA Tour player Carmen Hajjar of Ballina, Australia, who charged from a tie for 12th into a tie for the lead. Hajjar posted a 1-under score of 71 to tie Wicoff at 145 and a chance to win the Tours largest purse of the season. She recorded four birdies and three bogeys to climb into a tie heading into Sundays final round.
'I havent been in this position to win on either the LPGA or Futures Tour,' said Hajjar, who played the LPGA Tour with various levels of status from 1999 to 2002. 'But Ive been playing tournament golf since 1998, and maybe its all finally starting to sink in.'
Catherine Cartwright of Bonita Springs, Fla., Courtney Swaim of Duluth, Ga., and Young Jo of Suwon, Korea, all moved into a tie at 146, one shot behind the leaders. Candy Hannemann of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, rebounded from her wind-whipped 80 on Friday to post the days low round of 68, moving from a tie for 77th to ninth place.
Cheryl Musser of Sand Canyon, Calif., moved some money into her bank account when she scored her first hole-in-one on the Futures Tour today. She used a 7-iron to ace the 129-yard fourth hole. It was her third ace in competition and career fourth hole-in-one. Musser won $500 for the ace in the Donald T. Ostop Weekly Hole-in-One Challenge.
Seventy players made the 36-hole cut at 155 (+11).
Tee times for Sundays final round will begin at 8 AM, with the leaders going off at 11:50 AM.
Full coverage of the Isleta Casino & Resort Futures Golf Classic
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.