Rodgers earns special temporary membership

By Will GrayJune 7, 2015, 6:54 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Patrick Rodgers officially unlocked PGA Tour membership Sunday at the Memorial, but he sure didn’t make it easy on himself.

A runner-up last month at the Wells Fargo Championship, Rodgers entered the week needing only nine FedEx Cup points – the equivalent of a top-60 finish – to secure special temporary membership. After rounds of 69 and 66, that appeared to be a foregone conclusion as he entered the weekend inside the top 10.

But a third-round 78 ended any chance of contention, and his final round proved even more tumultuous. Rodgers was 4 under after seven holes before playing Nos. 11-16 in 6 over, with a triple bogey on No. 16, to tumble precariously near the top-60 bubble. He rebounded with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to finish the tournament at 2 under and well inside the number.

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“Definitely made it interesting,” Rodgers said. “I hit a lot of good shots with just the wrong club, so it was frustrating. And then obviously made a mess of 15 and 16. But proud of the way I hung in there.”

With STM status secured, Rodgers now has access to unlimited sponsor exemptions through the end of the season – the same path that Jordan Spieth used to get onto the Tour in 2013. At No. 6 on the current Tour money list, Rodgers will have a card for next season one way or another, but he plans to spend the rest of the summer focusing on the PGA Tour.

“Even though this is temporary status, I still need to get sponsor exemptions to play out here,” he said. “So I’ve been fortunate to have plenty of opportunities so far, and I need more to reach my dream of playing out here next year.”

Rodgers is making his ninth PGA Tour start of the season this week, having earned a spot by winning the Nicklaus Award last year as the top golfer in NCAA Division I. While he originally planned to play in next week’s Tour event in Cleveland, Rodgers may now instead head down to Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which has yet to allocate its final sponsor exemption.

Rodgers is planning to play in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday in Columbus, and appears to be a prime candidate for a sponsor exemption in the Travelers Championship later this month.

“I have to sit down with my manager and my team and decide my schedule going forward,” he said.

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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.