Watson remains in front, leads Travelers by 2

By Will GrayJune 26, 2015, 10:09 pm

With a leaderboard painted in red figures, a familiar name remains atop the standings at the Travelers Championship. Here's how things look at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands, where Bubba Watson leads by two:

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-11), Brian Harman (-9), Brian Stuard (-9), Carl Pettersson (-9), Scott Brown (-8), Chris Stroud (-8), Jason Gore (-8), Keegan Bradley (-7)

What it means: Watson took an early lead with an opening-round 62, and he maintained that two-shot advantage with a bogey-free 67 in the second round. He'll head into the weekend looking for his second Travelers win, and second win this season, while Pettersson, a five-time winner on Tour, headlines the chase pack.

Round of the day: Nick Watney played his way from the cut line into contention with a 6-under 64 in the second round. Watney carded three birdies on each side, including three in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 11-15, and completed his round without dropping a shot. At 7 under, he trails Watson by four shots entering the third round.

Best of the rest: Harman earned his first victory at last year's John Deere Classic, and he is again in contention after a 5-under 65. Harman made the turn in 1 under before carding four back-nine birdies, including circles on Nos. 16 and 17, to play his way into Saturday's final group.

Biggest disappointment: Several big names will miss the weekend, including a pair of contenders from last week's U.S. Open. Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut after consecutive rounds of 71, while fellow South African Branden Grace followed an opening-round 67 with a sloppy 77 that included a triple-bogey 8 on the 13th hole.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: The spotlight remains on Watson, who continues to look comfortable on a course where he has had great success in the past. Watson nearly won this event in both 2012 and 2013, and he now holds the pole position once more after dropping only one shot across his first 36 holes.

Shot of the day: Brown holed a 24-foot putt for birdie on No. 11, sparking a run of six straight birdies that rocketed him up the leaderboard despite a 3-over 38 on his front nine. 

Quote of the day: "When I hit a bad shot or a shot that went just off the fairway, I played smart." - Watson

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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.