Kaymer leads Players after record-tying 63 in Rd. 1

By Will GrayMay 8, 2014, 11:30 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Martin Kaymer hasn’t won in the U.S. since the 2010 PGA Championship, but the former world No. 1 took a big step toward ending that drought Thursday at The Players Championship. Here’s how things look after the first round at TPC Sawgrass, where Kaymer leads by two after tying the course record:

Leaderboard: Martin Kaymer (-9), Russell Henley (-7), Sang-Moon Bae (-6), Jordan Spieth (-5), Lee Westwood (-5), Sergio Garcia (-5), Justin Rose (-5), Brian Stuard (-5), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (-5), Gary Woodland (-5), Scott Stallings (-5), 

What it means: Most of the low rounds came from the early wave at the Stadium Course, as players took advantage of calm conditions and receptive greens. Kaymer shot to the top during the afternoon, though, with a 9-under 63 that put him two shots clear of Henley and four shots clear of the rest of this week’s elite field.

Round of the day: Kaymer made the cut in each of his first five Players appearances, a streak that will likely continue after the German tied the course record originally set by Greg Norman and tied last year by Roberto Castro. Kaymer teed off No. 10 and went out in 34 before a 7-under 29 on the front side, the first time anyone has shot sub-30 for nine holes on the Stadium Course in this event. He closed with four straight birdies and five over his final six holes.

Best of the rest: Henley held the top spot for much of the day, carding a 7-under 65 despite a double bogey on the seventh hole. A winner earlier this year at the Honda Classic, Henley shot a 6-under 30 on the back nine and notched six birdies across eight holes from Nos. 10-17.

Biggest disappointment: Phil Mickelson appeared to have a lock on this (dis)honor after an opening 75, but Adam Scott trumped him with a 5-over 77 after watery doubles on both Nos. 17 and 18. Scott had a chance to move to No. 1 in the world with a high finish this week, but after as many birdies (3) as double bogeys, he appears headed for an early exit.

Main storyline heading into Friday: With a 7:47 a.m. ET tee time Friday, Kaymer will likely enjoy calm conditions and could put some serious distance between himself and much of the field before the afternoon players begin their second round. A number of top names are lurking among the large group at 5 under, though, including Players rookie Spieth and Garcia, who is eager to atone for his close call last year on the Stadium Course.

Shot of the day: Justin Leonard began his round in style, holing an 8-iron from 147 yards on the first hole for a slam-dunk eagle. The shot actually damaged the front of the cup, and tournament officials had to re-cut the cup in order to repair the effect of Leonard’s accurate approach.

Quote of the day: “I just trust myself a lot more, and I stopped my thinking. I think the bottom line is I think less.” – Kaymer

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.