Scott on verge of first major win

By Jay CoffinJuly 21, 2012, 6:21 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Adam Scott is a man of few words. He speaks slowly, softly and gives each question an honest, thoughtful answer. He makes the boy next door jealous.

On Saturday after three rounds of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Scott summed up his situation perfectly when he said, “I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. I’ve not really teed off the last group of the Open before.”

Short and to the point.

The 32-year-old Australian is a world-class player. He’s won 18 times around the world, including eight times on the PGA Tour. He’s won The Players Championship, he’s won a World Golf Championship and he’s been ranked as high as No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

But he’s sniffed contention in a major championship only once.

Now it’s twice. Scott leads the Open Championship after three silky smooth rounds (64-67-68) at 11 under par. Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker are tied for second place at 7 under. Tiger Woods is fourth at 6 under.

Scott has seven top-10 finishes in majors but the only real opportunity he’s had to collect one came last year at the Masters where he tied for second. Scott shot consecutive 67s that weekend but on that historic Sunday at Augusta National Charl Schwartzel snatched the green jacket from everyone when he birdied the final four holes in epic fashion.

“He's been out here a long time,” Woods said. “I don't think he's really done probably as well as he'd like to in major championships.”

The way Scott has played for 54 holes, he appears unbeatable. His smooth swing has found fairways and greens around benign Lytham with the greatest of ease. His broomstick putter has allowed him to make putt after putt without nerves becoming a nuisance. No putt was more impressive than the 30-footer Scott made for par on the par-4 10th hole Sunday after he found a bunker off the tee. Scott then birdied No. 12.

Another key moment came late in the day on No. 17 when Scott blew his approach shot well right of the green and into one of Lytham’s 205 bunkers. Scott said the shot was not difficult, but bogey was clearly a possibility. Instead, he slid a sand wedge gently under the ball and nearly holed the shot. He settled for par.

The stars seem to be aligned here at the game’s oldest major. First, the last 15 majors have been won by 15 different men. Scott would up the streak to 16 as we head to the PGA Championship in two weeks. Second, Scott has Woods’ former swing and Woods’ former caddie, and Woods happens to be playing in the group ahead with Snedeker.

“Well, four-shot lead doesn’t seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I’ve watched,” Scott said. “The good part is if I play a solid round of golf tomorrow, it will be very hard for the others to beat me. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

 The majors are all Scott care about anymore and he’s not pleased that his name surfaces each time there’s a debate about the best players in golf who haven’t won a major. Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker… Scott.

To get more serious about the majors Scott developed a plan last year to competitively “starve” himself more so that he’ll be fresh each time a big one comes around. Essentially it means he’s done playing 30 times a year as he did the first decade he was on the PGA Tour.

This philosophy led to better performances in the majors last season. While other top players feel they need to mold their games into shape while battling tournament conditions, Scott couldn’t care less. That was his old approach, one that nearly burned him out and made him turn sour toward a game he was supposed to star in for a long time.

The time for Scott is now. His moment is within reach. He’s worked his entire life to do what it is he’s in position to do. He vividly recalls watching his idol Greg Norman win the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges in 1993, the last time an Australian won the claret jug. He’s aware that the last time an Australian won a major championship was Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 at the U.S. Open.

Scott is lucky that he’s in a position where he won’t have to press. Others will have to come chase him.

“It will be in Adam’s hands tomorrow,” said McDowell, who will be playing alongside Scott on Sunday in the Open’s final pairing. “He’s going to have to go win it.”

Said Scott: “I'm really excited for what tomorrow holds. No matter what the result, it's going to be an incredible experience for me.”

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.