Hoffmann leads host of big names after API Round 1

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2015, 9:56 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Sunny skies and low winds made for ideal scoring conditions during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the field took full advantage. Here’s how things look after the first round at Bay Hill, where Morgan Hoffmann holds a one-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Morgan Hoffmann (-6), Jason Kokrak (-5), Kevin Na (-5), Ken Duke (-5), John Peterson (-5), Ian Poulter (-5), Henrik Stenson (-4), Adam Scott (-4), Keegan Bradley (-4), Brandt Snedeker (-4)

What it means: Kokrak moved to the top of the standings early in the morning wave, but after he posted a 67, Hoffmann eclipsed him by a shot. While still in search of his first win, Hoffmann qualified for the Tour Championship a year ago and now will look to hold off a list of contenders that includes several of the world’s best players.

Round of the day: Hoffmann’s highlight came at the par-5 sixth, where he holed out for eagle, and he nearly jarred his approach at No. 9, leading to a birdie on his final hole of the day. Following the death of his grandmother overnight, he was bogey-free and had four birdies to go along with the hole-out eagle.

Best of the rest: Kokrak finished fourth here a year ago and again put his name on the leaderboard after playing his first 14 holes in 6 under. The veteran converted a 5-foot eagle putt on No. 16 and added four more birdies, making his only bogey of the day at the par-3 seventh hole.

Biggest disappointment: Robert Streb has been one of the surprise stories of this season after his win at the McGladrey Classic, but Streb appears headed for just his second cut of the season after opening with a 7-over 79. Streb made only one birdie against a pair of bogeys and three double bogeys and sits tied for last after one round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: The key to the second round will be who from the star-studded pack at 4 under will make a move on the leader: Stenson, Scott, Bradley and Snedeker, not to mention Harris English, a player gaining momentum, or defending FedEx Cup champ Billy Horschel. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is four back after a 2-under 70.

Shot of the day: Snedeker took a bow after hitting one of the luckiest approach shots to No. 18, as his ball bounced twice off the rocks in front of the green before rolling to within five feet of the hole. He did not, however, convert the short birdie try.

Quote of the day: “It was in the leather.” – Hoffmann describing his approach to No. 9, which ended up eight inches from the hole.

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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.