Matsuyama feeds off pro-Fowler crowd to win 2nd title

By Ryan Reiterman February 8, 2016, 2:27 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Hideki Matsuyama knew everyone was rooting for Rickie Fowler to win Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he still decided to crash the biggest party in golf.

"I'd say probably 99 percent of the gallery were cheering hard for Rickie," said Matsuyama through his translator. "But that gave me the motivation to go out and do it and win."

The 23-year-old Japanese star finished with two birdies in regulation to force a playoff, and then he closed out the No. 4 player in the world on the fourth extra hole to join Jordan Spieth as the only players under 25 with mulitple PGA Tour victories.

"I struggled all week with my game, but it really came around today and I was really pleased that it did," said Matsuyama, who is expected to move to No. 12 in the world after his second career win.

Fowler led Matsuyama and Harris English by two with two holes left, but he blasted a driver on the 317-yard, par-4 17th that hit off a downslope and rolled all the way through the green and into the water. Fowler bogeyed, Matsuyama birdied and they went to the 18th tee all tied up.

"Rickie opened the door for me, and I was able to walk through it," Matsuyama said.

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Both players had great looks at birdie on 18, and Matsuyama was first to strike. He let out a huge fist pump when his 17-foot birdie putt dropped, sending a huge buzzkill through the pro-Fowler crowd around the 18th green.

"The putt I made there was probably the best putt I have ever made in my life," he said.

The two young stars battled to a draw through three playoff holes until they returned to the 17th tee and Fowler found the water again, this time with a 3-wood.

"Surprised and sad that Rickie finished that way, but all I can do is my best, and I was lucky to come out on top," Matsuyama said.

With his goal of winning again already complete, Matsuyama said he will have to reevaluate his goals for the year. He doesn't have the pedigree yet to join fellow 20-somethings Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Fowler at the top of the rankings, but they are giving him plenty of motivation.

"Those four have set the bar so high, and that's what motivates me to practice harder and practice more, to be able to keep up with them," he said.

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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.