More big names fall during U.S. Am's Round of 32

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2014, 6:36 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – His work done, finally, Ollie Schniederjans grabbed a towel from his golf bag.

“Oh my God,” the Georgia Tech senior groaned, burying his sunburned face.

The 6-and-5 blowout he enjoyed in the Round of 64? 

That won’t happen again at this U.S. Amateur.

With about 150 supporters following his every shot at Atlanta Athletic Club, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world was pushed to the limit Thursday in his Round of 32 match against Sam Burns. 

Three up with four to play, Schniederjans lost Nos. 15, 16 and 18 – all with unforced errors – then could only watch as Burns’ 10-footer to win on the first extra hole drifted left. 

“It was literally a nightmare,” Schniederjans said.

Burns’ tee shot on No. 2 – a 512-yard par 4 – sailed 50 yards left of the fairway, leading to a bogey. Schniederjans found the left side of the fairway, hit his approach to the back part of the green and two-putted from 30 feet for the win in 20 holes.

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“I’m just so thankful that I got through that round,” he said. “That would have been really, really hard for me to handle that.” 

That he even went to overtime was surprising enough.

Looking to close out the match on the par-3 15th, Schniederjans tried to get “too cute” with his bunker shot, leaving the ball in the sand. He lost the hole with double, then also dropped No. 17 after Burns stuck his tee shot to 6 feet.

Both players found the water on the par-5 finishing hole – Burns’ tee shot with a 3-wood turned too much and caught the edge of the pond, while Schniederjans let him off the hook when he thinned a pitching wedge from the fairway bunker, his ball rolling into the drink. Schniederjans wound up making double bogey, sending the match to extras.

The slate clean, Burns rued the 10-footer on the first playoff hole that would have scored the biggest upset of the week. 

“The door was open,” said the 2015 LSU commit, “and I should have come through.”

Instead, it was Schniederjans who was moving on, inching one step closer to keeping his No. 1 ranking. The top-ranked player at week’s end will receive the McCormack Medal, giving him a spot in both summer Opens next year.

A few of the other A-listers weren’t quite as fortunate.

World No. 2 Robby Shelton of Alabama lost a 1-up decision after a back-and-forth back nine with Houston’s Roman Robledo.

Needing a birdie on the last hole to possibly force a playoff, Shelton hit his hybrid heavy from the fairway bunker on the par-5 18th. Robledo safely found the center of the green with his third shot and two-putted for the narrow win. 

“You can live with that,” Shelton said. “I played a heck of a round, and he played great too. I can’t be mad at myself for that.”

More shell-shocked was Jonathan Garrick, who frittered away a 4-up lead on the back nine against Eli Cole. Including the usual concessions, the UCLA junior shot 4 over the back nine, the final blow a three-putt from 30 feet on 18 when he had a chance to force extras. 

“I never thought at any point that I’m going to lose the match,” Garrick said.

Neither did Schniederjans, until he almost did.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.