NHL Player Struggles at Canadian Q-School
The 25-year-old, who played the Canadian Tour in 2002, leads six players-- Glenn Collins of Winnipeg and Americans Eddie Heinen, Joe Horowitz, John Humphries, Michael McNally and Billy Zihala--by one stroke after the opening day.
Calgarys Scott McNeil and Justin Snelling of Boise, Ida. are two shots back.
Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers, who is attempting to earn playing status on the Canadian Tour after the National Hockey League cancelled its 2005 season last week, fired a 6-over 78 and is tied for 35th.
Savard had trouble on the greens all day and could only convert one putt out of five consecutive birdie chances inside four feet on the front side.
I had it going early on, but I had a tough time coming in, said Savard, who double-bogeyed his final hole of the day. The putter just let me down today. I could have easily been 2 or 3-under, but thats the way it goes.
I think Im good for a 69 (Wednesday.)
Amateur standout Casey Wittenberg bogeyed his final two holes of the day to come in at 1-over. Wittenberg finished 13th at The Masters last spring, the best showing by an amateur in 41 years.
Once final round action has wrapped up Friday, the Canadian Tour will award exempt playing cards for the 2005 season to the low nine finishers with an additional nine players, plus ties, earning non-exempt status.
After weathering an early-morning fog delay that pushed back tee times 90 minutes, Sahl went out and tamed the 7,000-yard Black Bear Golf Club with six birdies that offset three bogeys. Playing the 537-yard, par 5 second hole, Sahl knocked his second shot to within twelve feet before two-putting for birdie.
That was a nice starting round for me, said Sahl. Give me three more like that, and Ill be all right.
Sahl was a member of Canadas Four Nations Cup squad in 2001, a team that also featured rising Canadian stars David Hearn and Jon Mills, but hasnt had much success as a pro, failing to keep his card in his 2002 rookie season. While at Kent State University, Sahl was teammates with Mills and 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis. Two summers ago, Sahl caddied for Curtis in a handful of PGA Tour events but did not make the trip across the pond with Curtis for the Open.
I learned a lot out there watching those guys, he added. It was a great learning experience for me, and it gave me my drive back for this game. I havent been in the hunt in a while, so it feels good to get that back. I feel comfortable out on the golf course right now.
Opening round scores from the 7,000-yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (A-denotes amateur):
Danny Sahl 69
Glenn Collins 70
Eddie Heinen 70
Joe Horowitz 70
John Humphries 70
McNally. Michael 70
Billy Zihala 70
Scott McNeil 71
Justin Snelling 71
Chris Cureton 72
Brien Davis 72
Ryan Kings 72
Greg Martin 72
Jan Meierling 72
Brock Mulder 72
Gavin Ferlic 73
Chad Lydiatt 73
Mac McLeod 73
Casey Wittenberg 73
Matt Deschaine 74
Billy Dickenson 74
Pedro Park 74
Jim Seki 74
Jesse Smith 74
Jesse Hibler 75
Lynn Kilduff 75
Justin Sherriff 75
JJ Williams 75
Ian Hogg 76
Michael Hospodar 76
Yuji Makino 76
Jeffery Ryan 76
Scott Noble 77
Adrian Parker 77
Kelly Berger 78
Ron Hoenig 78
Juan Pablo Ibarreche 78
Evan Johnstone 78
Robert Kennedy 78
Michael Petrie 78
Marc (A) Savard 78
Rob Sitterley 78
Dan Cook 79
Brett Peterson 79
Scott Yopchick 79
Michael Brown 81
Bret Guetz 81
Jerry Heinz 81
Shane Tripp 84
Matt (A) Yarvi 85
Jordan Totten 94
Dan Johnson W/D
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.