Stock Watch: Sergio beginning a major rise?

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 7, 2017, 2:35 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Hideki (+9%): Rare is the PGA Tour player who can win without a hot putting week. Matsuyama’s ball-striking has carried him to five victories in his last nine worldwide starts – and you can bet there will be plenty more.

Sergio (+7%): Might this finally be the year that Garcia lands that elusive major? A happy Sergio makes anything seem possible.   

Webb Simpson (+4%):  There is life post-anchoring, after all, for the former U.S. Open champion. It might not always look pretty, but his 65-64 weekend was nearly enough to steal the title.

New rules (+2%): The highly anticipated unveiling of the new-and-improved Rules of Golf – supposedly modernized and simplified – is set for next month. Hopefully it’s as smart as advertised.

Braden Thornberry (+1%): He doesn’t play for a traditional golf powerhouse, but the Ole Miss sophomore has been lights out this season – winning three college events, leading the nation in scoring average and, now, landing on the Walker Cup radar after a dominant performance at the prestigious Jones Cup.


FALLING

JT (-1%): Thomas’ red-hot start to the season cooled a bit with a surprising missed cut in Scottsdale, allowing Hideki to reassume the unofficial title of Hottest Player in Golf.

Ben An (-3%): How hard is it to win on Tour? Watch a replay of An’s back-nine 40, what with the poor swings, bad decisions and shaky putting.

2020 Olympic Course (-4%): Kasumigaseki Country Club, which is slated to host the 2020 Games, postponed a decision that would allow women to be full members and to play on Sundays. Worse, the head of the board of directors called the equality issue a “nuisance.” Um, if that’s the board’s official stance, let the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee move the event elsewhere.

Tiger (-5%): It’s sadness, not surprise, that accompanies Woods’ latest setback. How much more can he endure? 

Sunday finish (-10%): Let’s stop making golf fans choose what to watch on Super Bowl Sunday – end the Phoenix Open on Saturday, when the crowds are the biggest and most boisterous. And besides, starting on Wednesday might actually boost the already insane attendance numbers – the pro-am had 20,000 more fans than the final round.

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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.