Punch shot: Best Day 1 fourball pairing

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2014, 5:51 pm

Thursday at the opening ceremony, captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley announced their pairings for Friday morning's fourball matches. Below, members of the GolfChannel.com team on site in Gleneagles, Scotland, weigh in on which dynamic duo they like best:


All week European captain Paul McGinley has touted the Continent’s “template,” the secret formula that is passed from Ryder Cup captain to Ryder Cup captain.

On Thursday at Gleneagles, that blueprint provided an inspired change of pace for Europe’s Day 1 fourball lineup when McGinley sent Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia out in the morning’s last match.

While the world No. 1 and No. 3 have been playing phenomenal golf in recent months, they have never been paired together in Ryder Cup play, and prior to this week many considered McIlroy and Graeme McDowell a virtual lock to play together.

But in what may turn out to be the savviest of moves, McGinley sat McDowell for the morning session and may have delivered the most formidable pairing since the late Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal earned the nickname “Spanish Armada.”

McGinley also seemed to guess correctly that Watson would be sending out Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, arguably America’s best pairing after the duo went undefeated two years ago at Medinah, in the morning’s final game.

The Europeans understandably expect a victory from McIlroy and Garcia, and as an added bonus they can deliver a healthy amount of momentum from the anchor match.


Maybe it says something about the state of parity within golf’s upper echelon today, but I think the best pairing will turn out to be a guy who’s never won a Ryder Cup match and another who’s never even played in one.

Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.

Call it an educated hunch, but this apparent odd couple – Fowler is flashy and fiery; Walker is cool and calm – is really going to feed off one another over the next two days.

Fowler has a history of playing exceptional golf both in high-pressure situations and on this side of the Atlantic, which should bode well for his chances this week. Walker, meanwhile, is a hypercompetitive player who doesn’t seem the least bit overwhelmed by the situation.

Other pairings have more experience or a higher combined ranking or bigger star power, but Fowler and Walker will be the twosome to win the most points in the four opening sessions.


If by best pairing, you mean the most combined talent, it’s Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, hands down.

If you mean the best melding of talent and intangibles, it's Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher.

Poulter is Mr. Ryder Cup, the heart and soul of the European team, all fight and gumption even if his form hasn’t been the sharpest this year. Gallacher is the hometown boy, the Scot who will have his fellow countrymen raucously behind him, the local who knows Gleneagles better than anyone, who loves playing in the winds forecast Friday. It’s a smart pairing by European captain Paul McGinley, who gives Gallacher his first Euro start with a veteran who will devour the energy all these Scots will offer up against American rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

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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.