Owen, Gomez share lead in Memphis; Koepka 1 back

By Will GrayJune 13, 2015, 10:10 pm

With steamy temperatures and firm greens, scoring proved difficult Saturday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Here's how things look after three rounds at TPC Southwind, where two co-leaders both eye a breakthrough win:

Leaderboard: Greg Owen (-9), Fabian Gomez (-9), Scott Brown (-8), Brooks Koepka (-8), Austin Cook (-6), Matt Jones (-6), Ryan Palmer (-5), David Toms (-5), Camilo Villegas (-5)

What it means: Owen shared the lead after the first round, and despite falling back in Round 2, he now shares the lead with Gomez heading into Sunday's finale after both carded rounds of 67. Brown had his third straight sub-par round to move to 8 under, while overnight leader Koepka got to within a shot of the lead with a closing birdie.

Round of the day: There weren't many low scores Saturday, but New Zealand's Tim Wilkinson made a big move with a 5-under 65. Wilkinson had six birdies, including four across his first four holes, to jump from nine shots back into a tie for seventh at 5 under.

Best of the rest: Villegas is a perennial contender in Memphis, and he is again in the mix after a 4-under 66. Villegas birdied each of his first three holes, then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch on Nos. 12-16. Despite a double bogey on No. 17, Villegas is in position for his fifth top-15 finish in the last six years at this event. 

Biggest disappointment: Koepka appeared to have a leg up on the field at the halfway point, but he gave back that advantage with a lackluster 1-over 71 in the third round. Koepka's eagle on No. 3 was his only par-breaker of the day until a lengthy birdie on No. 18. He must now play catch-up with Owen and Gomez during the final round. 

Main storyline heading into Sunday: There will be plenty of nerves among the leaders, but the player to watch might be Owen, who at age 43 is still in search of his first win after a number of close calls. Koepka will likely make a move as he eyes a second win, as could Jones, who could earn a spot in the U.S. Open with a top-two finish.

Shot of the day: Cook gave the fans reason to cheer on the par-3 eighth when he holed a lengthy bunker shot for birdie. It was a rare highlight for Cook during a 2-over 72. He remains three shots back, playing on a sponsor invite. 

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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.