Six Tied in Suspended Lewis Chitengwa Memorial
Hearn, Gillespie, Mike Grob, Michael Harris, Chris Wisler and sponsor invite Cameron Yancey each opened with a 6-under 65 at the 6307-yard Keswick Hall at Monticello, one shot better than Americans Hank Kuehne and Tim Turpen, as well as Andrew Smeeth and Chris Anderson.
Play was halted for an hour and forty minutes in the late afternoon when a storm blew into the Charlottesville area. Darkness suspended the opening round at 8:15 p.m. ET, with nine players still on the course. They will finish their first rounds Friday morning.
Seconds after the horn sounded to resume play following the delay, Hearn, 22, just missed an eight-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would have given him the outright lead. But the tour rookie, who has been the first- or second-round leader in four events this season, is looking forward to challenging once again this weekend.
Im still feeling confident in my game, I am swinging the club well, said Hearn. I know if I am getting interviewed by you guys, Im getting the job done. Id finally like to get interviewed on Sunday, though.
Less than a week after his first professional win at the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship, Gillespie, the 2001 Canadian Rookie of the Year, finds himself in the early hunt once again. On Thursday, he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
Yeah, well see what happens but Im not worried about that, Gillespie admitted when asked if he was thinking about becoming the first player to win back-to-back events since Steven Alker, of New Zealand, did it two years ago. Of course, it would be great to do but I wont put any pressure on myself. Im just thinking about playing good golf. Everything is coming around for me right now.
Just as play was halted in the afternoon, Grob came into the clubhouse with a share of the lead. After an eagle on the par-5 opening hole, the 38-year-old Grob did himself one better when he aced the 137-yard, par-3 third.
An eagle and a hole-in-one will help every time, thats for sure, smiled Grob. I hit the ball well all day, although I didnt make a lot of putts.
With the rough in some areas reaching as high as ten inches, keeping the ball in play will be crucial all week. Grob was able to do that Thursday, hitting all 14 fairways off the tee.
If the guys can keep it on the fairway, it is going to turn into a putting contest this weekend, he added. If you go into the rough on any hole, there is going to be problems.
Harris birdied his first three holes, including a 15-foot putt on the par-4 second, and missed just one fairway all day.
The start was key for me, by the time I knew it I was 3-under, said Harris, who finished tied for eighth at last years Grant Forest Products/NRCS Classic in Sudbury, ON. There is no way you can plan on a start like that, but you are able to feed off it and stay aggressive. Hitting straight is key out hereif you get it in the rough, youll be struggling to make bogey all day long.
Named in honor of former Canadian Tour rookie Lewis Chitengwa, who died suddenly in Edmonton last summer during the TELUS Edmonton Open, Harris admitted that there was a little more emotion involved in the Tours eighth official event of the year. Players and tournament officials are wearing buttons with Chitengwas picture emblazoned on them this week.
A lot of the guys have Lewis on their mind this week. You think about a 26-year-old guy in the prime of his life, doing what it is we are trying to do. You try not to think about it when you are playing, but then you realize how blessed we are to play golf. Whether we shoot 63 or 73, we are lucky, and I think this tournament is a great way to pay tribute to Lewis.
Yancey was also a close friend of Chitengwas, with the two starring together on the University of Virginia golf team. In fact, Yancey took Chitengwa to get his first drivers licence in Charlottesville.
Despite playing the three par-5 holes at 1-over, Kuehne, widely regarded as one of the longest hitters in the world, managed a strong start Thursday. Coming off two events in Myrtle Beach, SC, where he admittedly struggled, Kuehne hopes to turn things around and increase his lead atop the money list this week.
These past two weeks Ive played poorly, I was a little rough around the edges, said the 26-year-old. Its been frustrating, especially after playing so well for most of the year, but Ill keep working. Ill get things turned around.
Full Coverage from the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.