Perez among quartet of early Valspar leaders

By Will GrayMarch 13, 2014, 11:16 pm

With unusually chilly conditions and strong winds, low scores were hard to come by Thursday at Innisbrook. Here's how things look after the first round of the Valspar Championship, where Pat Perez is among four players tied for the lead:

Leaderboard: Pat Perez (-3), Matt Every (-3), Danny Lee (-3), Greg Chalmers (-3), Bill Haas (-2), Nicolas Colsaerts (-2), Robert Garrigus (-2), Michael Putnam (-2), James Hahn (-2), Tommy Gainey (-2), Matteo Manassero (-2)

What it means: With no one breaking away from the pack, a myriad of players still remain in the hunt after one round on the Copperhead Course. A total of 25 players are currently within two shots of the lead, and 11 players shot either a 68 or 69 during the first round. The four players tied at the top are hardly used to that position, as Perez is the only PGA Tour winner among the quartet. None of the four co-leaders are in the field for the Masters.

Round of the day: Perez opened with a bogey but quickly rebounded, notching birdies on each of the next two holes and three of the next seven. A runner-up earlier this year at Torrey Pines, Perez bookended his inward half with birdies and failed to drop a shot after No. 15, his sixth hole of the day. Still with three rounds to go, he's currently in position to add to his lone win on Tour at the 2009 Humana Challenge.

Best of the rest: Every started slowly, playing his first six holes in 1 over, but he caught fire on his second nine. Starting his round on No. 10, the former Florida Gator closed with birdies on three of his final four holes and had five total birdies during his round of 3-under 68. Like many on the early leaderboard, Every is still in search of his first PGA Tour win - and first trip to Augusta National.

Biggest disappointment of the day: Graham DeLaet is one of the Tour’s top ball-strikers, but the Canadian struggled Thursday. DeLaet carded only a single birdie en route to a 4-over 75, playing Nos. 13-16 in 4 over. DeLaet now sits seven shots off the pace, and with a crowded leaderboard he will need a solid round Friday simply to make it past the 36-hole cut.

Main storyline heading into Friday: It remains to be seen who will emerge from a crowded leaderboard, but plenty of players will be in contention with a Masters berth on the line. Of the 10 players currently at 2 under or better, only two (Haas and Manassero) already have reservations for Augusta next month, while six of the top 10 have yet to win on Tour. A number of notable names are among the group tied three shots back at even-par 71, including Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth and Jim Furyk.

Quote of the day: "I've played enough to know the first round doesn't matter much." - Every

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.