Georgia on Their Minds

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 1, 2002, 5:00 pm
Georgia is on the minds of everyone. But before they play that little invitational in Augusta, theres a PGA Tour pit stop right outside of Atlanta.
The BellSouth Classic will serve as the primer to the years first major, the Masters Tournament. Played at the Greg Norman-designed TPC at Sugarloaf, $3.8 million is up for grabs, with $684,000 going to the winner.
Scott McCarron is the defending champion. Hes had an impressive start to the 2002 campaign, though hes yet to re-enter the winners circle.
Sundays have been McCarrons Achilles heel. He shot 71 in the final round of the Nissan Open to finish tied for second. He lost in the finals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship to Kevin Sutherland. And in contention at the Bay Hill Invitational, he shot a final-round 81 to drop into a tie for 40th.
Ironically, Sunday at the 2001 BellSouth Classic was McCarrons defining day. He survived 36 wind-gusted holes.
Rain delayed the event, leaving players with a full two rounds to complete Sunday. With winds gusting up to 38 mph, McCarron shot 72-73 to win by three shots over Mike Weir. Only four players managed to shoot at least one round in the 60s on the final day. 2000 champion Phil Mickelson shot 73-75; Ernie Els shot 81-73.
The victory was McCarrons third on tour, and his first since capturing the same event in 1997.
Its so good to be back in the winners circle after four years, McCarron said after his win. Everybody kept telling me, Youre due. I felt that way, too.
Once again, a strong international field is in Duluth. Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington, Jesper Parnevik and Lee Westwood are present. Mickelson, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Chris DiMarco, John Daly and Charles Howell III are among the top-name American participants.
Vijay Singh is also in the field. Singh snapped a near two-year winless drought last week by capturing the Shell Houston Open.
Full field and tee times
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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.