Griggs' winning putt highlights Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals

By Rex HoggardApril 3, 2016, 6:40 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s the putt everyone grows up wanting to make. Well, almost.

Hovering over a 15-foot putt, Ty Griggs knew it was his last and only chance to win the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday at Augusta National.

There wasn’t a green jacket waiting on the other end at Augusta National’s 18th green, but for a 13-year-old who aspires to be a professional golfer, it was the next best thing.

Griggs’ putt, which needed to nestle to about a half foot to secure the Manteca, Calif., eighth grader the title in the 12-13 Boys division, dropped into the cup to complete what he called a dream come true.

“I was shaking, I was nervous, I was emotional,” said Griggs, who won the driving portion of the competition and finished runner-up in the chipping and putting portions to edge Skyler Fox by a point. “I thought I had to get [his final putt] to about a half foot, but that’s tough to do.”

Griggs was one of 80 participants who competed in Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, which featured four age groups for boys and girls, and while his might have been the most dramatic victory, it might rank second behind Stephen Robert Hernandez’s triumph in emotional output.

The 9-year-old from Houston rolled to a three-point victory in the 7-9 Boys division by winning the driving and chipping portion of the competition.

“It’s coming from mystical reasons. I don’t know what happened, this is a dream,” said Hernandez, who won his regional DC&P qualifier by eight points. “I play golf a lot, and I didn't know that I had a chance to go to the Masters [so] young.”

Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., also cruised to her title in the 10-11 Girls division, winning the long drive portion and finishing second and fourth in the chipping and putting competitions, respectively, for a seven-point victory.

Kayla Sam of Anaheim Hills, Calif., took the 12-13 Girls division, also winning the long drive competition, with 26 points; and Emerson Blair of West Point, Miss., edged Mary Miller by a half point in the 7-9 Girls division after winning the putting portion.

“Meeting all of these amazing golfers and celebrities, and winning the Drive, Chip & Putt, it was really shocking and unexpected,” Sam said.

Michael Thorbjornsen of Wellesley, Mass., edged Daniel Uranga by a point to claim the 14-15 Boys division; Alyssa Montgomery of Knoxville, Tenn., won the 14-15 Girls division; and Christian Kim of Vernon Hills, Ill., finished in the top 3 in each competition to win the 10-11 Boys division.

But even for those who didn’t win, the consolation prize was a day spent at a place that until Sunday seemed out of reach.

“I thought that I would never be [at Augusta National], because it's really one of those magical places that you've always seen on TV but you never end up, and here I am,” Griggs said.

Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals results

Boys 7-9: 1. Stephen Robert Hernandez (25 points); 2. Hugh Faulkner (22 points); 3. Colin Norton (19 points)

Boys 10-11: 1. Christian Kim (26 points); 2. Nolan Haynes (25 points); 3. NaShawn Tyson (21 points)

Boys 12-13: 1. Ty Griggs (28 points); 2. Skyler Fox (27 points); 3. Daniel Adkins (20)

Boys 14-15: 1. Michael Thorbjornsen (23 points); T-2. Daniel Uranga (22 points); T-2. Chase Venn (22 points); T-2. Marco Punzo (22 points)

Girls 7-9: 1. Emerson Blair (24 points); 2. Mary Miller (23.5 points); T-3. Kyla Layman (22 points); T-3. Avery Zweig (22 points)

Girls 10-11: 1. Alexa Pano (26 points); T-2. Mia Raines (19 points); T-2. Morgan Guepet (19 points)

Girls 12-13: 1. Kayla Sam (26 points); 2. Elle Fox (25 points); 3. Nicole Adam (20 points)

Girls 14-15: 1. Alyssa Montgomery (26.5 points); 2. Skylar Thompson (23 points); T-3. Kyra Cox (17.5 points); T-3. Anika Dy (17.5 points)

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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).

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.