Recovering from flu, Popov an unlikely leader

By Randall MellMarch 20, 2015, 2:14 am

PHOENIX – Even Sophia Popov didn’t expect to see herself atop the leaderboard Thursday at the weather-suspended first round of the JTBC Founders Cup.

That’s because she spent seven days in a hospital last week fighting a “Type A flu” and infection.

Popov, 22, a rookie from Germany who also has U.S. citizenship, is a most improbable first-round co-leader.

Popov is a rookie making just her second start this season after shooting an 80 and a 76 and missing the cut at the Women’s Australian Open. She was the last player to get into the Founders Cup field, getting her chance after Azahara Munoz withdrew to undergo surgery to remove a tumor on her left hand. Popov was lying in a hospital bed in Naples, Fla., last Friday when she got the news she was in for Phoenix.


Founders Cup: Articles, videos and photos


“I was lying there with an IV, stuck,” Popov said. “I more or less wanted to cut it off and leave.”

Popov said hospital staff practically forbid her to play when she first got the news on that Friday.

“I was kind of feeling better, and the doctor said, `You’re not going anywhere,’” Popov said. “Tough luck, pretty much. He’s pretty mean.”

Popov said she felt well enough by late Sunday that she was released from the hospital. She arrived in Phoenix Tuesday and played just nine practice holes. She did not play Wednesday. She’s still not feeling at full strength.

“I'm just kind of waiting for the rest of the antibiotics to kick in, but they are doing their job, I think,” Popov said. “I'm definitely feeling a lot better than I did even two days ago.”

Popov believes she contracted an infection while back in Germany, where she visited after missing the cut in Australia.

“I got sick, more or less, two weeks ago,” Popov said. “I was in the hospital probably seven days, around six nights. I didn't actually touch a golf club for almost 10 days, maybe even a little more.”

A USC graduate, Popov, 22, helped the Trojans win the NCAA Championship last year. She earned her LPGA membership tying for 11th at Q-School in December. She was born in the United States. Her mother’s American, her father’s German. She moved to Germany when she was 5 and remained there until coming back to the United States when she was 17. She won a school-record five titles while at USC.

“I consider myself German,” she said.

Getty Images

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.  

<
Getty Images

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.” 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.