Watson stumbles in Rd. 3, shares Masters lead

By Jay CoffinApril 13, 2014, 12:30 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bubba Watson played poorly Saturday at the Masters, but he still has a chance to collect his second green jacket.

The 2012 Masters champion shot 74 and is tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth at 5 under par. There are seven other players within three shots.

“If somebody told me on Monday I’d have 74 and still be tied for the lead, I’d have taken it all day long,” Watson said.

Watson, 35, admitted earlier in the week that he wanted to be “the man” again. Last year he dealt with so many media obligations as the tournament’s defending champion that he wasn’t quite able to clear his mind enough to play good golf.

This year, the whole week has been about defending champion Adam Scott, which has allowed Watson to sit back and enjoy the week, yet still thirst for another opportunity to jump up and capture the spotlight.

Watson began the third round with a three-shot lead but was 2 over par after the first seven holes, and that included an eagle on the par-5 second hole. With the two famous par 5s remaining, Watson did not panic, knowing there were plenty of birdie opportunities available.

On the par-5 13th hole, Watson hit 9-iron to the green from more than 180 yards but three-putted for par. He had another 9-iron into the green on the par-5 15th, but it flew the green and he made another par.

Watson scrambled to make par on 18 when he blew his approach well left of the green for the second consecutive day. But he got up and down, making a 6-foot par putt to guarantee a spot in Sunday’s final pairing with Spieth.

Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

“The emotions were there,” Watson said. “I knew that I was hitting the ball good. I know I was hitting my driver well. I know the key was just making some putts down the stretch, and luckily I did that on the last two holes to get in the final group.”

Watson knows he’ll have his hands full looking for another Masters title. Aside from Spieth, Matt Kuchar is a shot behind, Rickie Fowler is two shots behind and Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk are in a group only three shots behind.

But the focus will be on Watson and Spieth. Even though the Masters champion has come out of Sunday’s final pairing on 19 of the last 23 years, it has not come from the group in each of the past three years.

“That’s where you want to be,” Watson said of the final group. “You want to have a chance. You want to know what everybody is doing. When I come down 18 tomorrow, even if I’m playing really good, I’ll know what all the scores are.

“It’s a lot better making that putt to win when you’re in the last group than having to wait.”

Getty Images

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.  

Getty Images

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.” 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.