Aoki Leads Big Names Lurk

By Mercer BaggsJune 29, 2001, 4:00 pm
If you see a light radiating from Peabody, Mass., its not the sun, the moon or a falling star. Its the ever-broadening grin being flashed by USGA officials.
Unlike last year, when Hale Irwin tallied a 17-under-par winning score at Saucon Valley, only one player is under par through 36 holes of the U.S Senior Open.
That player is Isao Aoki.
Aoki fired a 2-under-par 68 at Salem Country Club is secure a one-shot advantage entering weekend play in the Senior PGA Tours third major of the season.
Aoki stands at 1-under-par 139, the same number Bruce Fleisher posted to lead after day one. However, thanks to back-to-back bogeys on 17 and 18, Fleisher now resides in second place.
Fleishers 71 has him tied with Gil Morgan (70) at even-par. Larry Nelson (67) and Dana Quigley (70) are two back at 1-over.
Fleisher was one up entering the penultiamte hole Friday; but after a bogey at the 17th, he wanted to hit a 6-iron into the green at the 18th. Instead, he listened to his caddie, who suggested a 7-iron.
Both men were wrong. Fleisher came up two clubs short of the green and two-putted for bogey.
Jim Thorpe fired the round of the tournament, a 5-under-par 65 to tie Raymond Floyd (70), Jim Ahern (70) and Jim Colbert (67) for sixth place at 2-over.
Check out Thorpe's scorecard!
Thorpe, who finished second to Tom Watson in the Senior PGA Championship, was 12 strokes lower on Friday than he was in his opening round of 77.
A host of major talent is tied at 3-over. Tom Kite (70), Irwin (70) and Jack Nicklaus (72) are all just four shots off the lead.
Kite made the turn in 5-under-par 30, only to come home in 5-over-par 40.
Check out Kite's scorecard!
Nicklaus was within two shots of the lead following birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th holes; however, the two-time Senior Open champion bogeyed holes 15-17 and narrowly escaped a fourth straight bogey at the home hole.
Aoki is seeking his first Senior victory in three years, and his first major title. He chased Nicklaus for 72 holes of the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol Golf Club, only to come up two shots short.
He may be most remembered in the states for holing a pitching wedge out of the rough from 128 yards for an eagle-3 on the 72nd hole to leapfrog Jack Renner and win the 1983 Hawaiian Open, his only PGA Tour title.
At 58, Aoki is trying to join Roberto DeVicenzo as the only player over the age of 55 to win the Senior Open. It would also be his first victory since the 1998 BellSouth Senior Classic.
So, why the resurgence this week?
I dont know, said Aoki. Maybe putting. Putting is okay.
Okay? Aoki has taken only 26 putts in each of the first two rounds.
Nicklaus dropped in a 50-foot putt for birdie at the 1st on Friday. After another birdie at the 3rd moved him to even par for the tournament, his up-and-down round took a turn for the worse. He bogeyed the 4th, 7th and 8th holes to fall to 3-over.
For the day, the 61-year-old recorded five birdies, six pars and seven bogeys.
Sixty-four players made the cut, which fell at 9-over-par 149.
Full-field scores from the 22nd U.S. Senior Open
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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.