Captains Reveal Possible Pairings Preview
This was the first time fans were awarded an insight to possible pairings when the matches officially start Friday at The Belfry.
I think you should play (in practice) with who I think you might play with in the matches, said U.S. Captain Curtis Strange. I just think practice rounds are very important.
European Captain Sam Torrance agreed.
A lot, a lot, said Torrance when asked how much one can read into the practice pairings. Obviously, Im trying to put pairings out there Ill use Friday and Saturday.
The Europeans went out first, at 9:00 AM local time, with Dane Thomas Bjorn paired with Northern Irishman Darren Clarke. They played in the same foursome with Scot Colin Montgomerie and Englands Lee Westwood.
In the second foursome, Swede Niclas Fasth and Irishman Padraig Harrington played alongside Swede Pierre Fulke and Welshman Phillip Price.
Sergio Garcia of Spain and Germanys Bernhard Langer went out with Irishman Paul McGinley and Swede Jesper Parnevik in the final grouping.
The Americans teed off around 9:45 AM, with Paul Azinger and Stewart Cink first out with Mark Calcavecchia and Tiger Woods.
David Duval and Davis Love III grouped with Phil Mickelson and David Toms, while Jim Furyk and Scott Hoch played with Hal Sutton and Scott Verplank.
Woods group grew a bit frustrated with the pace of play and skipped from the third hole to the eighth hole.
They all play fast; thats why I put them out first, Strange said. They went from 3 to 8, and theyre (went) back after the round to 3 and play 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Torrance met the American players at the ninth green and apologized for the delay.
Youve got to understand its the first practice day, Torrance said. I think the mistake was putting the two teams out directly behind each other; there should have been a half-hour gap.
The groups practiced playing four-ball on Tuesday. Wednesday, they will practice alternate shot.
'The best ball, the guys play a lot of practice rounds and little games here and there. But there's an agenda out there today,' Strange said.
'I personally think you probably need more of a practice round in foursomes - that we're going to do tomorrow, because we're not used to that.'
Of all the pairings, only Duval and Love have teamed together in an actual Ryder Cup match. They halved their Saturday four-ball match against Parnevik and Garcia in 1999.
Parnevik and Garcia played all four of their team matches together three years ago, winning three and halving one. Though they werent paired together Tuesday, they were in the same group.
A similar situation was seen in the first foursome. Clarke and Westwood played four times together in 99, going 2-2. This practice round they were split as a team, but in the same group.
There are four rookies on the European side, and three on the American. European Captain Sam Torrance put three of his first-timers ' Fasth, Fulke and Price ' in one foursome with Harrington, while Padraigs good friend and World Cup partner McGinley (also a rookie) was in a more established group.
U.S. Captain Strange spread out his first-timers, putting one in each foursome. Cink and Verplank were cast with veteran 40-somethings Azinger and Sutton, respectively. Toms played with 2001 PGA Championship rival Mickelson, who is competing in his fourth straight Ryder Cup.
As for the Woods, the worlds No. 1 had to feel comfortable with his pairing. He and Calcavecchia play practice rounds together consistently in PGA Tour events.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
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.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
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.
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.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
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 contacted 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:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
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.