Featured groups: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2013, 1:26 pm

The PGA Tour heads to Las Vegas this week for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin. Here are a few early-round groups to watch:

10:23 a.m. ET: Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, Davis Love III (No. 10)

Johnson is one of the hottest players in golf – no finish outside the top 30 since June, seven top-10s in his last eight starts, including a victory at the BMW Championship. He is making just his second career start at TPC Summerlin (T-10, 2008). Moore is the defending champion here; in 2012, he shot all four rounds of 68 or better and won by a stroke at 24-under 260. As for Love, he kicked off his 2013-14 campaign at the Frys.com Open, where a final-round 74 dropped him to a T-62. He has seven top-10s in 20 career starts here, though none since 2008.

10:33 a.m. ET: Jimmy Walker, Nick Watney, Angel Cabrera (No. 10)

Walker, last week’s winner, returns to the venue where he tied for 10th in 2012. He missed the cut in his other two starts. Watney, who resides in Las Vegas, has a strong history at TPC Summerlin, with top-10s each of the past three years, and he seems to be turning the corner with new swing coach Todd Anderson, racking up three top-15s in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

2:58 p.m. ET: Harris English, John Merrick, Graham DeLaet (No. 1)

DeLaet is making his first start of the new season, after an encouraging 2013 campaign in which he recorded seven top-10s, including back-to-back top-threes in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and was one of the standouts on the International Presidents Cup team. His only start in Vegas was back in 2010, when he tied for 18th. English and Merrick are also making their first starts of 2013-14, as they look to return to form after their breakthrough victories. English, who was 60th here last year, hasn’t finished better than 14th since his win in Memphis, while Merrick has just one top 10 post-Riviera. In six tries, he has finished no better than 36th at TPC Summerlin.

3:08 p.m. ET: Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, David Toms (No. 1)

Simpson begins his new campaign after a 2013 season in which he posted five top-10s, including a solo fourth at the Tour Championship. He continues to search for his first win since the 2012 U.S. Open. He is making his first start here since 2010, when he tied for fourth and shot all four rounds in the 60s. Reed was a surprise winner at the Wyndham Championship in August, but he has struggled since, with two missed cuts (including last week, at the Frys) and two finishes outside the top 50. Toms doesn’t have a great history at this event. In six starts, he has failed to finish better than 19th with two missed cuts. He had just one top-10 in 16 starts in 2013. 

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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.