Thomas claims CIMB Classic for first Tour win

By Jason CrookNovember 1, 2015, 7:49 am

It appears the youth movement shaking up the PGA Tour is here to stay. After a season in which we saw Jordan Spieth win two majors and the Player of the Year Award, his good friend Justin Thomas beat out Adam Scott by a single shot in Malaysia on Sunday to claim his first PGA Tour victory. Here's how it all went down at the CIMB Classic:

Leaderboard: Thomas (-26), Scott (-25), Kevin Na (-24),Brendan Steele (-24) Hideki Matsuyama (-22), James Hahn (-21), Brian Harman (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: After seven top-10s and 15 top-25s in 2014–15, Thomas looked primed to break through in his sophomore season and wasted no time picking up his first victory. The 22-year-old University of Alabama product showed how good he can be when everything is clicking, scaring a 59 in Round 2 and then closing out the weekend with rounds of 67 and 66 to pick up the (very early) FedEx Cup points lead, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and an invitation to the Masters.

Round of the day: While it wasn’t the lowest number on the board Sunday, Thomas’ closing 66 earns him this honor. He rolled in a 55-foot bomb for birdie on No. 8, followed that up with a 28-footer for eagle on 10 and seemingly had the tournament in hand down the stretch. Then, after bringing everyone back into it with an ugly double bogey on 14, he showed he has what it takes to win on Tour by responding with three straight birdies on Nos. 15-17, and a longer-than-he-would’ve-liked 5-footer for par on the 72nd hole to seal the deal.

Best of the rest: Scott and his new short putter nearly ended the 35-year-old former No. 1’s PGA Tour winless drought with a scorching 63 in the final round. The Aussie, who hasn’t won since May 2014, poured in seven birdies and a long eagle putt on the par-5 third, and largely looked nothing like the guy who has recently been struggling with the switch to a non-anchored putter. He even briefly held the clubhouse lead at 25 under before Thomas caught fire on the last few holes.

Biggest disappointment: At least he’s consistent? For the third straight week, Kevin Na came up short on a Sunday afternoon on the PGA Tour. After trading the top spot on the leaderboard with Thomas for much of the day, Na just couldn’t keep up on the back nine. Despite giving himself several looks at birdie, he finished with eight straight pars and settled for a final-round 67, good enough for a share of third place.

Shot of the day: Thomas coughed up the lead and nearly the tournament after finding the water and making double bogey on the 14th hole. He easily could’ve packed it in and settled for a top-5 finish. He didn’t. Instead, the 22-year-old showed his ability to bounce back by stepping up to the par-3 15th and nearly holing his tee shot for an ace. His ball rolled about 5 feet past the pin and he calmly sank the birdie putt. The rest, as they say, is history.

Quote of the day: “I just kept telling myself that it’s tough to win … we’re in a sport where the winning percentage isn’t in your favor, and I put myself there a bunch and I just need to keep doing so and moments like this can happen.”  – Thomas, on his breakthrough win.

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.