Brown, Loupe share early Farmers lead; Phil 3 back

By Will GrayJanuary 28, 2016, 11:39 pm

Ideal conditions led to some low scores in the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open - even a few on the burly South Course. Here's how things look after the first round in San Diego, where Scott Brown and Andrew Loupe share the early lead:

Leaderboard: Scott Brown (-6), Andrew Loupe (-6), Billy Horschel (-5), Patton Kizzire (-5), Harold Varner III (-5), Rob Oppenheim (-5), Tom Hoge (-5)

What it means: Most of the leaders feasted on the easier North Course, but Brown was among the few players who went low on the track that hosted the 2008 U.S. Open. He and Loupe share the top spot, each in search of a breakthrough victory, while the chase pack includes the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson.

Round of the day: Brown recorded his lone PGA Tour win at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, but he is in contention for another trophy after a 6-under 66 on the South Course. Days after his wife gave birth to the couple's second child, Brown reeled off eight birdies over his final 11 holes, including four in a five-hole stretch to close it out on Nos. 5-9.

Best of the rest: Loupe made a big move thanks to bookend eagles on the North Course, playing the four par 5s in 5 under on his round. The former LSU standout also threw in a trio of other birdies against two bogeys as he looks to win on the PGA Tour for the first time.

Biggest disappointment: Rickie Fowler professed to be feeling no ill effects from jet lag, but days after his win in Abu Dhabi he struggled to a 1-over 73 on the easier North Course. Fowler played his first three holes in 3 over to dig an early hole, and now must put together a sub-par effort on the South Course simply to make the cut.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Brown has a great chance to distance from the pack as he heads to the North Course, but keep an eye on some of the big names a little further down the leaderboard. Reed continues his red-hot form in recent months, while Mickelson overcame an early double bogey to post a 69 on the South Course after birdies on four of his final six holes. And don't forget about Scott Stallings, who won here in 2014, lost in a playoff last year and opened with a 68.

Quote of the day: "I felt like it was good carryover from last week, even though there was a mistake here or there. I'm having a lot of fun." - Mickelson

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

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.  

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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).

“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.” 

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 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:

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.