My 2016 moment: Mallon makes hall of fame

By Al TaysDecember 27, 2016, 1:00 pm

As journalists, we're not supposed to root for one player over another. But we're also human, so we often do. We just keep it to ourselves.

I have always rooted for Meg Mallon, and so when the news broke in October that she had been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, I couldn't have been happier. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person - because there is no nicer person than Meg Mallon.

Meg's upbeat, friendly personality is one of two reasons I root for Meg. The other is a geographical accident. We both come from the suburbs of Boston. Oh, Meg identifies more with being from Michigan, where she grew up after her family moved there when she wasn't even a year old. But she still has family in the Bay State, many of whom were on hand in 2004 when she won her second U.S. Women's Open at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass.

Both of us were long gone from New England when I first met Mallon sometime around 2000 at Delray Beach (Fla.) Golf Club, where she and Beth Daniel were participating in the annual Beth Daniel and Friends Golf Clinic. Mallon and Daniel were longtime residents of south Florida, and I covered local golf for the Palm Beach Post. Daniel had a New England connection, too. She was a friend of former Red Sox star Jim Rice - they had the same agent.

Although Mallon grew up in Michigan, when it came time to pick a college she chose THE Ohio State University, which for her is a source of great pride and for me is the source of my favorite Meg Mallon story.

I was covering an LPGA tournament at Reunion Resort west of Orlando. My previous assignment had been an auto race, and I was wearing a hat with Chevrolet's bow-tie logo that had been given to me by a friend who was the public relations representative for one of the Chevy teams. I saw Mallon on the range, but as she approached me, her ever-present smile faded. It was as close to frowing as I've ever seen with her. "What's with the hat?" she said. For a few seconds I was tongue-tied, as I didn't know what she was getting at. Suddenly it came to me: Mallon's father had worked for years as an executive at the Ford Motor Company. As I fumbled to try to explain I hadn't meant the hat as a slight, her smile reappeared, this time with an impish tinge, and she assured me she was just messing with me.

That night, I went looking for a Ford hat. Couldn't find one, but I did find the next best thing: an Ohio State hat. When I got to Reunion the next morning, Meg was already on the course. As I walked out to catch her group, the hat started attracting comments from people passing by: "Hey, Ohio State." "Go Buckeyes." A player I didnt recognize walked past me, her caddie in tow. Looking at my hat, he said, "Now there is a true Buckeye." I smiled back at him, grimacing internally.

I caught up with Mallon after her round. She thought the hat story was hilarious. "Keep wearing it," she said.

Alas, I've long since lost track of that Ohio State hat. But if I'm fortunate enough to be in New York next September for the WGHOF induction ceremony, I'll be wearing another one just like it.

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.