Fore Things: SB2K16 bros hit the Birds Nest

By Jason CrookFebruary 5, 2017, 11:25 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Waste Management Phoenix Open has come to a close and Hideki Matsuyama is your back-to-back champ. Here are Fore Things of note that caught our eye from the final round of the biggest party on the PGA Tour.

The SB2K16 bros hit up the Birds Nest last night. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman enjoyed a night out at the Birds Nest on Saturday. The buddies went to the popular concert venue within walking distance of TPC Scottsdale for a Steve Aoki and Blink 182 show. While it would be easy to criticize Spieth and Fowler for not properly “preparing” the night before the final round of a PGA Tour event (Thomas and Kaufman missed the cut), let’s all take a deep breath. The concert was over by 10:30 p.m. and Fowler shot 65 while Spieth shot 67 on Sunday. Both finished inside the top 10. Let them live.

Caddie races at 16 are still a thing … kinda. Despite the PGA Tour banning caddie races at TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole three years ago, the crowd continues to chant “caddie race! caddie race!” at most of the groups as they make their way from the tee box to the green. Some caddies still partake, some even sprinting solo, giving the crowd one more reason to make a lot of noise.

Sunday at TPC Scottsdale is way less crowded than Saturday. This is rather obvious, but Saturday’s record crowd of nearly 205,000 people at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was a zoo. As great as it is that so many people come out to support the tournament, it’s tough to take a single step without bumping into someone. Sunday, by comparison, is like a stroll in the park. While 58,654 people making their way around TPC Scottsdale is still a lot of people, it is definitely easier to see the action without spilling your drink. And let's be honest - that's really the point of all of this, isn't it?

Phil Mickelson was almost right about Sunday. After his third round, Mickelson gave his thoughts on what it would take to get it done in the final round at TPC Scottsdale.

“It’s going to take a low one, but this course, somebody will shoot low tomorrow,” said Phil. “There will be four or five scores of 63, 64, 65 around there. I just hope I’m one of them."

Well, Webb Simpson shot 64 but lost in a playoff. Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen both shot 65 and nearly made the playoff. Mickelson shot 71 and finished seven shots back.

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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.