Wind and Webb Rule the Day
Webb shot 1-over-par(73)Saturday. It wasnt very pretty, but I did the job. I got off to a pretty slow start, she said.
She came into the third round at 6-under-par, with a four-shot lead over Wendy Doolan and Sorenstam. However, putting woes quickly turned things upside down for the Aussie.
All anyone could do was watch, painful as it was, as Webb made bogey-bogey-bogey on the front side, and lost precious ground. 'A few bogeys in a row on the front nine. I was pretty frustrated with myself. You know, I think by the time I got to the 10th tee, I knew that I had, you know, a big back nine ahead of me as far as how hard it was going to play.'
The northeasterly winds played a large part in Saturdays results. After two days of northwesterly winds the change made the course play much different than the field was used to.
In fact, only two players were able to break 70 ' Maria Hjorth 3-under (69) and Janice Moodie.
Moodie had positioned herself to be in the final group on Sunday after finishing at 2-under-par (214) for the championship.
I played solid, Moodie said. Obviously I had that double bogey on 7, that was really my only hiccup. It was so mentally tough out there because of the wind.
Sorenstam came out strong Saturday morning, only to end the day in a most unusual fashion.
The fiercely competitive Swede did her best to make up ground after shooting 2-over-par 74 in the second round.
She made it through the front nine with nary a problem. Back-to-back birdies at the turn left Sorenstam with the outright lead at 4-under and left Webb playing catch-up.
I wasnt leading after six holes, (starting) today with a four-shot lead, Webb said. I knew how quickly it could go.
Sorenstam and Webb were fighting for the lead throughout the back nine.
The finishing holes were not kind to the 31-time LPGA Tour titleholder.
Sorenstam met her match on No. 18, where her approach shot rolled off the green and into the water. Three attempts to drop her ball at the nearest point of entry proved futile. Sorenstam then made more than 12 attempts to place the ball at the nearest point of entry before it finally came to rest.
Triple bogey. That's how Sorenstam finished the hole, ending the day tied with Rosie Jones at even par (72) and trailing the lead by five.
Theres a lot of water on the hole and I think we dropped my ball 20 times near the green, Sorenstam said of her troubles on the 18th. It was no fun. Id been playing well and leading the tournament and it just ruined my day. It was very windy today and if you dont put a good swing on it, you can get in a lot of trouble.
Im definitely not happy, especially since I had been leading all day. I made two bad swings and they cost me. We have one more day, though. Im glad todays not Sunday,' said Sorenstam.
As of Saturday, Sorenstam needed to shoot 5-under, 7-under for the championship, in order to break the record for lowest scoring average in a season. She now needs to shoot a 65 in the final round to do it.
The record, set by Webb in 1999 is 69.43, and Sorenstam came into this event with an average of 69.38. This is a big motivator for Sorenstam, who is as self-driven as they come.
After setting a new record in 1999, Webb finished first again in 2000, but with a 70.05 scoring average.
This season she looks to finish even higher. Webb came into the season-ending event with an average of 70.19, and currently ranks third in this category.
Full-field scores from the Tyco/ADT Championship
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.