Z. Johnson holds three-shot lead in Maui

By Will GrayJanuary 5, 2014, 12:10 am

On another day where low scores were the name of the game in Hawaii, no one went lower than the Johnsons. Here's how things shape up heading into the third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where Zach holds a three-shot lead over, among others, Dustin:

Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-13), Dustin Johnson (-10), Matt Kuchar (-10), Jordan Spieth (-10), Michael Thompson (-9), Webb Simpson (-9)

What it means: While the Plantation Course at Kapalua has often been seen as a long hitter's ballpark, the shorter-hitting Johnson has had no troubles through 36 holes and as a result finds his name atop the leaderboard at an event where his prior track record hasn't been the best. He'll still need to fend off a series of potent challengers, though, including the younger Johnson, the event's defending champion, and first-round co-leader Spieth.

Round of the day: A winner last year at the BMW Championship, Zach Johnson carded a bogey-free 66 Saturday to grab sole possession of the lead. The former Masters champ was able to make the most of the middle part of his round, carding seven birdies across an 11-hole stretch from Nos. 4-14. Johnson's 14 birdies through 36 holes pace the 30-man field, and he will now take an advantage into Sunday as he looks to close in on his 11th career PGA Tour win.

Best of the rest: After leaving Maui with the trophy a year ago, Dustin Johnson raised questions when he was forced to withdraw from the pro-am earlier this week with a neck injury. He showed no signs of struggle Saturday, however, recording nine birdies on the Plantation Course to more than offset a pair of bogeys. Johnson's outward nine of 6-under 30 included three straight birdies both from Nos. 3-5 and Nos. 7-9.

Biggest disappointment: Though he held a share of the overnight lead, Chris Kirk saw his name tumble backwards on a day when the rest of the winners-only field had few troubles carding birdies. A winner at the McGladrey Classic in November, Kirk bogeyed two of his first four holes Saturday and failed to get on track from there, ultimately settling for a 2-over 75. As a result, he will tee off Sunday morning eight shots off the lead that he held a share of just 24 hours ago.

Main storyline heading into Sunday: Few active players can match the win totals of Johnson, who just last month stared down Tiger Woods at his own event and emerged victorious. It remains to be seen if the 37-year-old can hold on and earn a return trip to Maui next January, but he's certainly in position to do just that through 36 holes. The three players closest to him, though, all warrant attention: the event's defending champ is the only player in this week's field who has won at Kapalua, while Kuchar and Spieth were both mainstays on leaderboards throughout 2013.

Shot of the day: One of the longest hitters on Tour, Gary Woodland was expected to play well this week and got a boost Saturday at the par-4 seventh hole. After bombing his drive 381 yards down the right side, the Reno-Tahoe champ carved his approach from 133 yards over bunkers in front of the green and watched his ball find the hole for an eagle 2. The result helped propel Woodland to a 3-under 70, and at 5-under 141 he will begin the third round eight shots off the pace.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.