D. Johnson among co-leaders at wind-swept Doral

By Will GrayMarch 7, 2014, 11:14 pm

With gusting winds and firm conditions, the WGC-Cadillac Championship turned into a test of survival Friday afternoon. Here's how things look after two rounds at blustery Trump National Doral, where Dustin Johnson shares the lead with Patrick Reed, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar heading into the weekend:

Leaderboard: Dustin Johnson (-1), Patrick Reed (-1), Hunter Mahan (-1), Matt Kuchar (-1), Graeme McDowell (Even), Francesco Molinari (Even), Rory McIlroy (Even), Jamie Donaldson (Even)

What it means: With the first round completed amid difficult conditions Friday morning, the only winner on the day was the Blue Monster course itself. Players were consistently baffled in Miami, with a field of just 68 players combining to put a whopping 113 balls into the water during the second round. Only four players have bettered par through two rounds, and a crowded leaderboard means that 10 players will start the third round within two shots of the lead.

Round of the day: On a day when no one broke 70, Jamie Donaldson put together the low round by carding only one bogey despite the windy conditions. The Welshman birdied two of his first six holes and then added another circle on the par-5 eighth, where he made birdie despite an errant drive forcing him to roll up his pants and play his second shot while standing in a lake. The 2-under 70 took Donaldson to even for the week and within two shots of the lead.

Best of the rest: McDowell has a U.S. Open title to his credit, so it's no surprise that he's again near the lead at an event where pars are at a premium. Like Donaldson, the Ulsterman made just one bogey Friday and countered it with two birdies en route to a 1-under 71 that got him back to even through 36 holes. McDowell didn't drop a shot until No. 6, his 15th hole of the round.

Biggest disappointment: Luke Donald opened with a solid 2-under 70 in the first round, but things fell apart for the Englishman in Round 2. Donald failed to make a single birdie, but he did card both a double bogey and a triple bogey; it all added up to a 10-over 82 for the former world No. 1, who slipped from the first page of the leaderboard into a tie for 50th.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: If winds die down as the forecast indicates, this tournament remains up for grabs. In addition to the logjam at the top, with eight players separated by just a single shot, two notable names - Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson - remain within striking distance, just six shots back in a tournament that both probably felt was lost at some point Friday afternoon.

Shot of the day: Not much went right Friday for Woods, who carded a 1-over 73 in the second round. A rare bright spot, though, came at the par-3 fourth hole, where Woods knocked in a 92-foot putt for birdie. It marks the longest made putt on Tour this year, and the seventh-longest since on Tour since 2003.

Quote of the day: "I've never played in a major before, but I hear they're set up really tough. I'm guessing that's what it's set up for." - Reed

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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.