Guthrie takes Honda lead with bogey-free 63

By Will GrayMarch 1, 2013, 11:04 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Luke Guthrie surged to the top of the leaderboard at the Honda Classic with a 7-under 63 Friday, giving him a one-shot lead heading into the weekend. His story is largely overshadowed, though, by another player who failed to even finish his second round – world No. 1 Rory McIlroy. Here's the low-down heading into Saturday's third round at PGA National:

The leaderboard: Luke Guthrie (-9), Michael Thompson (-8), Graham DeLaet (-7), Boo Weekley (-7), Lee Westwood (-6), Justin Rose (-6), Geoff Ogilvy (-6), Charles Howell III (-6)

What it means: With the cut falling at even-par 140, everyone still in the field will begin the third round within nine shots of the lead. Considering the crowded leaderboard and difficult golf course facing players, the tournament remains very much up for grabs with several big names just a few shots behind the overnight leader.

Round of the day: A recent graduate of the Tour, Guthrie played like a savvy veteran Friday, carding seven birdies without dropping a shot. Beginning on the 10th hole, the Illinois grad notched birdies on holes 12, 13 and 15 before adding four more on the second nine, needing only 26 putts to complete his second round.

Best of the rest: Playing in the first group off Friday morning, Michael Thompson fired a 5-under 65 that will earn him a spot in the last group off Saturday afternoon. Thompson carded six birdies against just one bogey, including a stretch of five straight 3s from holes 13-17, and is only one shot off the pace after 36 holes.

Biggest disappointment: McIlroy, by a country mile. The decision by the reigning PGA champion to withdraw in the middle of his round because of wisdom tooth pain – after playing his first eight holes in 7 over – sent shockwaves through the event Friday morning. The defending Honda champion will not be around this weekend, and questions now will only increase as the world No. 1 continues to struggle in 2013.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: Who will emerge from a crowded leaderboard? With several top-ranked players in the mix – and even those who barely made the cut, like Tiger Woods at even par, still within striking distance – making a move in the right direction Saturday will be important for anyone looking to contend.

Shot of the day: Heading to the par-3 seventh hole, Robert Allenby was 3 over and in need of a spark. The Aussie got it when he struck a 5-iron from 193 yards that found the hole for an ace, the only one of the week thus far at PGA National. Allenby made only one birdie the rest of the way, though, and at 2-over 142 will not play the weekend despite the hole-in-one.

Quote of the day: “I'm a great fan of Rory's, but I don't think that was the right thing to do.' – Ernie Els, who played with McIlroy during the first two rounds, on the Ulsterman's decision to withdraw after eight holes Friday.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

Getty Images

Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.