International Crown teams starting to take shape

By Randall MellOctober 9, 2013, 2:06 pm

Though the clock is still ticking on nations trying to qualify for the LPGA’s new International Crown match-play competition, the eight spots available look settled for the Olympic-style team event scheduled to debut next summer.

The International Crown will feature teams from eight nations, each with four-woman rosters. The first biennial event is scheduled to be played July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. The countries who qualify will be determined after the final LPGA event this year, the CME Group Titleholders, Nov. 21-24.

While the countries will be set at season’s end, the rosters of the qualifying teams won’t be determined until the finish of the Kraft Nabisco Championship next spring. In other words, the United States may qualify for the competition at the end of this season, but the four Americans who qualify won’t be finalized until after next spring.

The eight countries will be selected based on the world rankings. The combined total ranking of the top four players from each nation is being used to gauge qualification. For example, South Korea leads qualifying today with No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 4 So Yeon Ryu, No. 6 Na Yeon Choi and No. 10 I.K. Kim. Their combined rankings total 21, the lowest of any nation in the world.

The world rankings will also be used next spring to set the rosters of qualifying nations.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan was asked this week if the tour would consider a women’s version of the Presidents Cup.

“I’ve never been a fan of a team called `Rest of the World,’” said Whan. “Not really sure what colors to wear, what anthem to sing, what flag to wave. I’ve said when you travel around the world as much as we have, you realize Korea doesn’t want to play with Japan, they want to play against Japan. And Australia doesn’t want to be on team Asia, they want to be team Australia.

“I think people will be surprised how much depth there is and how hard it is to get into the event. And the good news is that I don’t decide the four. There’s no sanctioning body who decides the countries. Players and countries get in by their own merit. And it can change every two years. If a country gets much stronger and kicks another country out because of the Rolex Rankings, so be it.”

Here are the top 10 in the current rankings totals:

1. South Korea, 21

2. United States, 41

3. Japan, 104

4. Spain, 252

5. Sweden, 299

6. Australia, 305

7. Thailand, 330

8. Taiwan, 337

9. England, 447

10. France, 495

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.