After Further Review: McIlroy emerges

By Will GrayJune 5, 2016, 11:11 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds. 

On McIlroy's maintained momentum ...

With the world’s top three players all entering this week off a win, the one best able to maintain that momentum in Ohio was, somewhat surprisingly, Rory McIlroy.

Jordan Spieth was the one who had the best record at Muirfield Village entering the week, and Jason Day managed to contend heading into the final round. But over 72 holes it was McIlroy who played the best, spinning a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for fourth. What’s more, McIlroy bested nearly the entire field in both strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained putting.

McIlroy came up two shots short because of some iffy play around the greens. But both the results and stat line should bolster McIlroy as he heads to Oakmont to begin his formal U.S. Open preparation. The biggest takeaway should be on the greens, where McIlroy switched back to a conventional grip to begin the week and still managed to hole putt after putt, essentially validating the decision to move away from his brief experimentation with a cross-handed grip.

According to many sports books, Day, Spieth and McIlroy are essentially co-favorites for the season’s second major. After a strong performance at the Memorial, though, McIlroy may have just inched to the front of the pack. - Will Gray

On Donald Trump and the PGA Tour leaving Doral ...

Whatever your thoughts on presidential politics and Donald Trump, the PGA Tour’s move away from Doral is a setback for professional golf.

Doral was traditionally the start of the Tour season before the resurgence of the West Coast swing, anchored the Florida swing and fit seamlessly into the geographical flow of the schedule.

Now, that history – the event was first played at Doral in 1962 – is gone, not to mention the flow of the Sunshine state schedule, which will likely impact all the events that were played around Doral.

Finding a sponsor willing to share the spotlight with Trump, an issue mentioned by Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, was undoubtedly difficult; but considering all of the unintended consequences it would have been worth the effort. - Rex Hoggard

On Olympic concerns about the Zika virus ...

This past week, cyclist Tejay van Garderen became the first American athlete to withdraw his name from Olympic team consideration.

With his wife pregnant, van Garderen didn’t want to put her or his unborn child at risk if he contracted the Zika virus, no matter how small that risk may actually be. Also last week, a group of 150 health experts called for the Olympic Games to be moved from Brazil, or postponed, because of the threat of the mosquito-borne illness.

Even with assurances from Olympic officials that the rate of infection will be “very near zero” with the Rio Games being played in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, Zika is sure to be a hot topic of conversation with the world’s best female golfers gathering in suburban Seattle for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week. For Olympic women golfers, who will be spending so much time outdoors practicing and playing in Rio, van Garderen’s decision has to give them pause. - Randall Mell

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

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).

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

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 phoned 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:

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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.