Lahiri begins quest to earn Tour card in Houston

By Will GrayApril 1, 2015, 3:59 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – His bags are packed, his passport is ready. Anirban Lahiri is excited to embark on a torrid summer of golf, one that he hopes will net him a PGA Tour card.

Lahiri is set to make his first Masters appearance, and he is in the field this week at the Shell Houston Open to prepare on a variety of fronts: learning a course with a similar setup to Augusta National, getting used to playing on rye grass, and shaking off the 10-hour jet lag that accompanies a flight from his native India.

After a pair of wins this year on the European Tour, Lahiri is ranked No. 33 in the world and his rapid ascent through the rankings has begun to sink in – even if he hasn’t actually gotten his hands on his Masters invitation that was mailed earlier this week.

“I saw a photograph, a picture of it, and it’s really nice,” Lahiri said. “It’s one of those feelings  that tells you, ‘OK, it’s happening.’”

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Lahiri is playing this week on a sponsor invite, and his position inside the OWGR top 50 will allow him a number of high-profile starts in the coming weeks as he chases full-time status on the PGA Tour. The 27-year-old will play the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters, followed by likely spots in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Players Championship next month.

“Just in the immediate future, it’s a great schedule,” he said. “It will kind of give me a better idea of where I need to go.”

Lahiri remains a European Tour member, and he will head back to Europe in May for a handful of starts. With spots lined up in each of the four majors plus the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, he left India last week knowing he wouldn’t return for five months.

“It’s going to be a lot of hotels, a lot of looking at the same suitcase every day for a long time,” Lahiri said.

Lahiri is making just his third start in the U.S. this week, and the previous two haven’t been successful: he missed the cut at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and finished T-71 out of 73 players last month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Based on what he’s seen from early practice at the Golf Club of Houston, he feels those results will turn around this week.

“I’m not saying this course isn’t hard, but it’s definitely a lot fairer than the other two I’ve played,” he said. “What you see is what you get. I really like that in a golf course.”

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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.