McIlroy shoots 65 to lead WGC-HSBC Champions

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 31, 2013, 8:03 am

Maybe Tiger Woods was right. Rory McIlroy shot 7-under 65 Thursday to grab the opening-round lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

After falling to McIlroy in a China exhibition match earlier in the week, Woods said he thought McIlroy might win before the end of 2013. The Northern Irishman is off to a promising start.

Leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-7), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (-5), Jamie Donaldson (-5), Jordan Spieth (-4), Bubba Watson (-4), Justin Rose (-4), Tommy Fleetwood (-4)

What it means:  McIlroy has turned the calendar. It might still be 2013, but McIlroy is putting behind him a dismal campaign and embracing the start to the 2013-14 schedule.

Round of the day: McIlroy’s 65. Starting at the par-4 10th, he was 6 under through 11 holes. He stalled a bit in the middle of his round, but birdied the par-5 eighth, his 17th, to move two clear of the field. It tied his second-lowest score of the year (64 in Round 3 of the Deutsche Bank Championship).

Best of the rest: Fresh off a win last week at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, Fernandez-Castano, who started on the back nine, birdied Nos. 5-8 to finish with a 67.

Biggest disappointment:  Phil Mickelson. Lefty was at 6 under, one shot off the lead, with two holes to play. He then hit two shots in the water on the par-5 eighth en route to a quadruple bogey-9 and another shot into the drink on the ninth for a bogey. He finished at 1-under 71.

Main storyline heading into Day 2: Can McIlroy continue his resurgence? He hasn’t won on Tour since the 2012 BMW Championship and has shot back-to-back rounds in the 60s only once this year, on the PGA and European tours combined.

Shot of the day: Jason Dufner holed a wedge from 110 yards on his first hole of the tournament, the par-4 10th.

Quote of the day: “I feel good. I’m controlling my ball much better. … It’s getting there, but it’s only one round. It’s a great start.” – Rory McIlroy

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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.