Matsuyama (65) leads Hero by seven shots

By Nick MentaDecember 3, 2016, 9:12 pm

Thanks to a round of 7-under 65, the hottest player in the golf world, Hideki Matsuyama, will take a seven-shot lead into the final round of the Hero World Challenge. Here’s where things stand heading into Sunday in Albany:

Leaderboard: Matsuyama (-19), Henrik Stenson (-12), Dustin Johnson (-12), Brandt Snedeker (-12), Matt Kuchar (-11)

What it means: Matusyama is 18 holes from picking up his fifth worldwide win of 2016 and his fourth victory in his last five starts. The sixth-ranked player in the world was first at the Japan Open, second at the CIMB Classic, first at the WGC-HSBC Champions and first at the Taiheiyo Masters. He is a combined 90 under par in his last 19 rounds of individual stroke play.

Round of the day: Matsuyama made seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. The eagle-2 came at the par-4 seventh when he holed out from 86 yards with this one-hopper.

Best of the rest: The last two major winners of the year, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker, posted 6-under 66. Stenson sits 12 under par and will play with Matusyama in the final pairing on Sunday.

Biggest disappointment: The 36-hole co-leader, Dustin Johnson lost seven shots to Matsuyama with an even-par 72. The reigning PGA Tour player of the year was 2 under through 17 holes, but a sloppy bogey at the home hole knocked him out of Sunday's final pairing.

Shot of the day: As a follow-up to his 7-under 65 Friday, Tiger Woods got off to a red-hot start Saturday at the Hero World Challenge.

Woods birdied each of his first three holes and added a fourth circle to his card at the par-4 fifth, this one from a greenside bunker.

The tournament host made the turn at 4 under for the day and 10 under for the week before two back-nine birdies and bogeys and his second double of the week at the 18th hole resulted in a 2-under 70 and dropped him back to 8 under par.

Quote of the day: “For three straight days, I’ve been off to great starts. Two of three days, I didn’t continue it. But overall I’m so happy to be back out here.” - Woods

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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.