Gallacher grabs Dubai lead behind sizzling 63

By Will GrayFebruary 1, 2014, 12:42 pm

Apparently Stephen Gallacher isn't quite ready to relinquish the trophy at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Here's how things look after three rounds at Emirates GC, where the defending champ is again atop the leaderboard after a magical back nine:

Leaderboard: Stephen Gallacher (-16), Rory McIlroy (-14), Brooks Koepka (-12), Thorbjorn Olesen (-12), Edoardo Molinari (-11), Robert Rock (-11)

What it means: Gallacher entered the day four shots off the pace, but he rocketed to the top spot with a 63 Saturday that tied McIlroy for the low round of the week. After playing with the Ulsterman in each of the first two rounds, Gallacher will now play once more alongside McIlroy on Sunday - this time in the final pairing, with the trophy on the line.

Round of the day: Improbably, Gallacher stood on the ninth tee 1 over for the day and seemingly out of contention before putting together one of the best stretches of play in years. Over the next 10 holes, the Scot carded eight birdies, an eagle on the par-5 13th and just a single par. Gallacher closed with four straight birdies to card a 9-under 28 on the back nine and grab the lead from McIlroy, who was atop the standings after each of the first two days.

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Best of the rest: Compared to Gallacher's effort, Steve Webster's 7-under 30 on the inward half seems downright mediocre. The Englishman carded an 8-under 64 to move into a tie for fifth, including eight birdies and an eagle across his final 13 holes, and as a result will tee it up in the final round just five shots off of Gallacher's blistering pace.

Biggest disappointment: Reigning Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup champ Henrik Stenson appeared poised to contend this weekend after a 5-under 67 in the second round put him just four shots behind McIlroy - and even with Gallacher. While the Scot went low, Stenson stumbled to a 3-over 75 Saturday to fall into a tie for 47th, well out of contention. The Swede began the day with two birdies in his first three holes but things fell apart from there, as Stenson played his final five holes in 4 over.

Main storyline heading into Sunday: While Olesen and Koepka remain very much within striking distance, it may turn into a shootout Sunday between the 2009 Dubai champ (McIlroy) and the man who hoisted the trophy a year ago. Gallacher knows what it takes to win at Emirates and is familiar with the spotlight after 36 holes with McIlroy and world No. 1 Tiger Woods earlier this week. The Ulsterman, meanwhile, is looking to continue the momentum created by his late-season win last year in Australia and hopes to make up for a bitter runner-up finish two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.

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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.