Big Challenge Awaits in California

By Lpga Tour MediaSeptember 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
DANVILLE, Calif. ' At this week's Longs Drugs Challenge, defending champion Nicole Perrot will face quite a challenge.
One of the strongest fields of the year has assembled for a shot at the winner's share of the $1.1 million purse, including 18 of the top-20 players in the world, and any memories Perrot has of the golf course where she captured her first career title will be irrelevant, as the event has moved from the Sacramento area after 10 years to beautiful Blackhawk County Club in Danville, Calif.
Last year, Perrot became one of 10 Rolex First-Time Winners on the LPGA Tour, and the first Chilean to capture an LPGA title, with a one-stroke victory over Hee-Won Han. The fiery Perrot, now 22, took a three-shot lead into the final round before making bogey on holes one, three and five to fall back to the field. But she steadied her nerves and posted two cluch birdies on 15 and 16 to eek out a win with a 270 (-14) total.
Joining Perrot are six additional former Longs Drugs Challenge champions, including Kelly Robbins (1996), world number-one Annika Sorenstam (1997), Northern California resident Juli Inkster (1999-2000), 2006 major championship winner Se Ri Pak (2001), three-time tournament winner this season Cristie Kerr (2002) and local favorite Christina Kim (2004).
Last year, Paula Creamer was not in the tournament field, but had two wins under her belt, the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year title on her resume and was on her way to having more than $1.5 million in her pocket, an LPGA rookie earnings record.
This year, the Pleasanton, Calif., native will tee it up in Danville, and the homecoming would be the ideal setting for the 20-year-old to hoist the first trophy of her sophomore year on Tour. Although she has not yet won this season, Creamer has been a tough competitor with more than $800,000 in season earnings and ranks 12 th on the ADT Official Money List.
The 2006 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award could also be secured this week. Seon-Hwa Lee has been the top rookie on Tour nearly all year, aided by a victory at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and $853,150 in season earnings. Lee (998 points) holds a 238-point lead over Ai Miyazato (760), while Jee Young Lee (758) is in third, followed by Julieta Granada (711).
With Miyazato and Jee Young Lee playing in tournaments overseas this week, neither can catch Seon-Hwa Lee, even with a win at the final full-field event in two weeks, the Corona Morelia Championship (a win is worth 150 points). Granada would not only have to win the Longs Drugs Challenge, but also the Corona Morelia Championship for a chance to overtake Seon-Hwa Lee for the title. Therefore, only a Granada win this week would extend the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year to one more event.
Other players to watch this week include Pat Hurst, who grew up minutes away from the course in San Leandro.
LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Inkster also has a short commute to the course this week and, after tasting victory at the 1999 and 2000 events, is easily a favorite to become the sixth multiple winner on Tour this year.
Not to be overlooked, Kerr most recently won the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic presented by SemGroup for her third win this season. Kerr, who leads the Tour in birdies (319) and Putts per GIR (1.72), became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2002 Longs Drugs Challenge and has posted 14 top-10 finishes in 21 events this season.
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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.