McIlroy, Mickelson chasing trio in Abu Dhabi

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2014, 1:12 pm

With ideal weather conditions in the United Arab Emirates, play got underway without issue Thursday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Here's how things stand after one round, where three players have separated themselves from a logjam at the top:

Leaderboard: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-5), Romain Wattel (-5), Matthew Baldwin (-5), Marc Warren (-4), Paul McGinley (-4), Joost Luiten (-4), Dawie Van der Walt (-4)

What it means: The leaderboard remains a crowded after Day 1 in the desert, as 20 players will begin the second round within two shots of the lead. Among that group is McGinley, the current European Tour Ryder Cup captain who turned back the clock with a 68, while Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer headline the group of players at 2 under through 18 holes.

Round of the day: While three players were able to get around Abu Dhabi GC in 5 under, only Wattel was able to do so without dropping a shot. The Frenchman, who has notched top-five finishes in each of his last two worldwide starts, recorded three birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 4-8 before adding two more circles to his scorecard on the back nine, including the home hole. As a result, he'll hold a share of the lead heading into Friday's second round as he seeks his first career European Tour win.

Mickelson: No birdies; lots of missed fairways in Round 1

McIlroy pleased with bogey-free, opening 70

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Best of the rest: A winner in nearby Dubai two years ago, Cabrera-Bello bogeyed his opening hole Thursday but then bounced back in style. The Spaniard recorded six birdies from there, including three across his final five holes, to match Wattel and Baldwin with a 67. After struggling down the stretch in 2013, Cabrera-Bello has positioned himself well early to capture what would be just his second worldwide top-10 finish since July.

Biggest disappointment: Typically, a stop in Abu Dhabi means a healthy payday for Sergio Garcia, but the Spaniard is off to a rough start this time around. Garcia, who has never finished outside the top 20 in five career starts in this event, struggled to a 4-over 76 in the opening round and also battled a shoulder injury. The 34-year-old had just a single birdie on his card and suffered three straight bogeys from Nos. 13-15.

Main storyline heading into Friday: No disrespect to the trio atop the leaderboard, but the main focus remains on some of the bigger names in the chase pack. McIlroy and Kaymer, each with stellar records in Abu Dhabi, got off to solid starts, while Phil Mickelson has some work to do after a 1-over 71 and world No. 3 Henrik Stenson is one shot further back. Mickelson had 17 consecutive pars to start the day and one bogey to finish.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).

Jason Dufner in the third round of the 2018 Honda Classic. Getty Images

Dufner wears "BOSS" hat while playing with Tiger

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:20 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jason Dufner doesn’t have a hat sponsor this year, freeing him up to wear whatever lid he wants.

That’s why he’s already worn caps with camouflage, American flags and The Notorious B.I.G.’s face.

He saved his most audacious look for Saturday at the Honda Classic – a blue cap with “BOSS” and five gold stars on the front.

“Perfect time,” Dufner said with a smile, “playing with Tiger (Woods).”

And where did he find the cap, which generated plenty of buzz on social media?

At Rickie Fowler’s house, of course.

“There’s not much behind it,” Dufner said. “I don’t have a sponsorship this year, so I’m doing whatever I want to do. This one was laying in Rickie’s house last night, so I grabbed it.”