As Tiger struggles, C. Woods fires career-best 63

By Randall MellJune 4, 2015, 7:47 pm

Nobody’s asking Tiger Woods what it’s like to play in the shadow of his niece today.

Still, Cheyenne Woods was a towering presence Thursday at the Manulife LPGA Classic.

With a 9-under-par 63, Cheyenne moved to the top of the leaderboard in the first round at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. The effort looked like it was going to hold up through the afternoon to give her the first lead she has ever had in an LPGA event until Cristie Kerr and P.K. Kongkraphan matched Woods late in the day. The trio is one shot ahead of Germany’s Sandra Gal and Israel’s Laetitia Beck, and two ahead of Anna Nordqvist, Sei Young Kim and Brittany Lang.

Woods tied the course record with her best round on tour as an LPGA rookie.

With so much attention on her Uncle Tiger playing at the same time at the Memorial, where he struggled to hit fairways and greens shooting 73, Cheyenne put on a ball-striking clinic. She hit all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. 

“I had one bogey, which was a stupid three-putt, but overall I played solid,” Cheyenne said in her post-round meeting with the media.

Woods, 24, broke through to win her first Ladies European Tour title last year, taking the Australian Ladies Masters. Now, she’s looking to mount a run at her first LPGA title. Woods won LPGA membership in December making it through Q-School in her third try. Her rookie season, though, has been a school-of-hard-knocks learning experience. She has missed the cut in her last five starts.

At 113th on the LPGA money list, Woods could use a nice boost of good play to set her summer off right with a re-shuffle of the tour’s priority ranking in three weeks.

“It’s great to be in this position,” Woods said when asked how she will feel playing with a lead. “I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm just going to go out there – it's a new day – and go into it with the same mindset and just go play golf.”

Woods beat Australian Minjee Lee in a Sunday duel winning the Australian Ladies Masters last year. Lee won her first LPGA title at Kingsmill a couple weeks ago.

Woods got herself off to a strong start Thursday playing the first round alongside Jaye Marie Green and Brittany Henderson. Woods and Green went with fellow pro Sadena Parks to see rapper Drake in a concert in Toronto Tuesday night. Woods said it set the tone for a fun week.

“Jaye Marie and I were talking the whole day,” Woods said. “It was very relaxed.

“I think the biggest thing, we were just having fun out there. Sometimes that’s when I play my best, and it worked out.”

Woods caught fire in the middle of Thursday’s round. She holed a 50-foot eagle putt at the ninth hole and then birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. She grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at the 16th and took sole possession of the lead with a birdie at the 17th.

“Last week I didn't play well, but I putted better, so I carried that into this week,” Woods said. “I'm putting better this week also. I think that gives me more confidence from the fairway, too, for my approach shots. I think that was a big change for me that helped me.”

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.