Scott takes three-shot lead into Bay Hill finale

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2014, 10:02 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Adam Scott began the day with a seven-shot lead, but that cushion was quickly eroded Saturday at Bay Hill. Here’s how things stand heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Scott leads by three:

Leaderboard: Adam Scott (-15), Keegan Bradley (-12), Matt Every (-11), Jason Kokrak (-11), Chesson Hadley (-10), Francesco Molinari (-10)

What it means: Scott’s lead was trimmed to two after only an hour of play Saturday, and at one point the Aussie led by just a single shot over the hard-charging Hadley on the front nine. Scott added a quartet of back-nine birdies to again extend his advantage, but now will still be within the reach of Bradley – and perhaps others – when the final round begins.

Round of the day: Hoping to end a winless drought that is approaching two years, Bradley fired a 6-under 66 to play his way into the final pairing on Sunday. The former PGA champion birdied six holes on the back nine, including three straight from Nos. 16-18 to close out his round.

Best of the rest: A lifelong Florida resident, Every matched Bradley’s 66 to move up the leaderboard Saturday afternoon. Every made it around Bay Hill without dropping a shot, adding four circles to his scorecard on the back nine to grab a share of third place through 54 holes.

Biggest disappointment: J.B. Holmes began the day in a tie for second, but the veteran lost ground after carding an even-par 72. Holmes had an eventful inward half that included a double bogey on No. 12 and an eagle on No. 16. He was the only player currently in the top 14 who failed to break par Saturday, and as a result fell eight shots off the pace.

Main storyline heading into Sunday: This still appears to be Scott’s event, but the gap between him and the field has certainly narrowed. Bradley will look to chase him down in a duel of major champions, but a total of six players will begin the day within five shots of the lead. If Saturday’s scoring is any indication, a low number could be out there for the contenders looking to prevent the Aussie from going wire-to-wire.

Shot of the day: Playing his approach to the dangerous 18th from 166 yards, Bradley took dead aim with a 9-iron and landed his ball within five feet of the hole. The resulting birdie, his eighth of the day, got him within three shots of the lead and earned him a Sunday pairing with Scott.

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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.