Muirfield Village's 16th hole

By Jason SobelJune 2, 2011, 7:55 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Muirfield Village is one of the most venerable venues on the annual PGA Tour schedule, a favorite among players who have often likened it to Augusta National in both design and feel. 

Like the host site of The Masters, though, this course isn’t exempt from criticism and already much of it has been leveled at the newly redesigned 16th hole – a 201-yard par-3 that has been shortened, but rendered much more difficult due to the implementation of a large pond guarding the front left section of the rebuilt putting surface.

“I took the green and [lined it up] with the prevailing wind,” said course designer and tournament host Jack Nicklaus. “With the prevailing wind, you have the ability to feed the ball back into the green so you don't have to worry about having to stop the ball as easily if you play a smart shot. And if the wind turns the other way, if there's no wind, then stopping the ball on the green is not an issue.

“I think you're going to find a lot more birdies. I think you'll find a lot of fairly conservative 3s, and I think you'll also find a few double-bogeys that will come in there, which an errant shot will not be rewarded and a good shot will be rewarded, which is what a good hole should be anyway.” 

Of the 59 players in Thursday’s morning wave, only three – Josh Teater, Matt Kuchar and Brett Quigley – birdied the 16th hole. Behind closed doors and off the record, some players have been grumbling about the lack of a bailout area and the bounciness of the new green, but publicly reviews were mostly positive after Thursday’s opening round.

Here’s a smattering of examples: 

Justin Rose: “I've been liking it. I think right now we're a little uncertain in terms of when you're standing on the tee whether the green is firm or whether it isn't firm, just because we don't know because it's a new surface. But from a design perspective, it gives you everything you want, you got to stand up there and hit a committed shot.”

Chris Riley: “I liked it. It's a good-looking hole. It'll be exciting coming down Sunday to see how that hole is on TV.” 

Josh Teater: “I don't have a lot of experience on the old design. But the green, I think, is a little firmer. … That front part of the green, you think you can get it up-and-down from a little short and right in that fairway cut, but you've just got to pick a number there and try to play to it.”

Rickie Fowler: “It's definitely a tough hole. Right now the green is different than the other ones condition-wise. It's a bit firmer, rolls a little bit differently, so you have to play, I guess, a little bit of a different shot than you normally would if the green was similar to the others. With it being firmer you have to bring the ball in a little bit higher to stop it. It's a great hole. It's tough. If that was the plan, to make the closing stretch a bit tougher, 16 is a good hole.”

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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.