Birdies are in the Air in Oregon

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
ALOHA, Ore. (AP) -- Fuzzy Zoeller and Jim Ahern used similar performances to reach the top of the leaderboard at the JELD-WEN Tradition.
 
The opening-round co-leaders both put together three-hole birdie runs on the back nine Thursday in 6-under 66s at the year's final major on the Champions Tour.
 
Zoeller got his run earlier in his round than Ahern, who was among one of the last groups to finish play first round in the senior event.
 
Ahern finished his round with a flourish, with birdies on the final three holes.
 
Ahern said he knew that Zoeller had finished at 6 under well ahead of him, but he was just ``taking it shot by shot'' as he found the right rhythm for the final three holes on the 7,200-yard Reserve Vineyards Golf Club.
 
He landed a perfect 8-iron just 15 feet from the cup on the difficult approach to the 17th green, tucked behind trees along a creek that cost many other players penalty strokes. And on the final hole, he crushed a 5-wood 245 yards on his approach to reach the back fringe of the green and narrowly missed an eagle putt.
 
He said he has been pushing himself to finish in the top 30 on the Champions Tour money list this year after winning the Music City Championship in June, only the third win in his pro career.
 
``It's a goal of mine,'' said Ahern, who has slipped from 24th to 35th over the past two months. ``But I'm trying not to get ahead of myself.''
 
Zoeller barely broke par on the front nine after bogeying the par-3 2nd, but he started the back nine with three straight birdies before adding two more on 15 and 16, both par-5s.
 
``Some people push the red button when they bogey one of the first couple of holes,'' Zoeller said. ``But heck, I was just getting started.''
 
Hale Irwin and Graham Marsh both finished with 67s, while six players - Wayne Levi, Tom Kite, Tom Watson, Bruce Fleisher, David Eger and Morris Hatalsky - were another stroke back at 68.
 
Irwin had his own string of three birdies, beginning on 15, but said he was unhappy with his overall play.
 
``I hit some very, very poor shots out there, but fortunately I got away with them,'' said Irwin, whose back problems have limited his play.
 
Irwin, the winningest senior with 37 tour victories, said his back bothered him again Thursday despite steady improvement in his score through a round that did not include a bogey.
 
``I hit enough nice putts to salvage a very good round,'' Irwin said. ``On paper it looked very good.''
 
Marsh, only one of two players to birdie the slippery green on No. 2, also had three straight birdies on the second nine, beginning at 14.
 
``Everything went right for me,'' Marsh said. ``Even when I missed a green, I missed it in the right place.''
 
Defending champion Jim Thorpe led most of the round, topping the leaderboard at 3 under after the front nine, including an eagle 2 on the 337-yard 5th after he lofted a wedge right at the pin.
 
Thorpe had gone to 6 under by No. 15 before dropping back with a bogey and double-bogey after finding the water on both 16 and 17.
 
Thorpe's ball splashed into the water after he just nicked the stone wall rising from the pond guarding the green at No. 16, but he had to drop about 170 yards back to approach again. On the following hole, his tee shot found one of the long creeks that run through the center of the course and he took another penalty stroke.
 
Jack Nicklaus, a four-time winner of the final major on the Champions Tour, finished at even-par 72.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.