Leonard Blows Past Field in PGA Championship

By Mercer BaggsAugust 17, 2002, 4:00 pm
Following the conclusion of his second round, Justin Leonard was told of Saturdays forecast in Chaska, Minn.
Wind, wind and more wind.
Leonard said bring it: I want to see it play as difficult as possible, he added.
The 30-year-old Texan loves to play in conditions stiffer than a breeze, as evidenced by his 1997 British Open triumph. Saturday, he got what he wanted, and backed his boast, shooting the lowest round of the day for the second day in a row.
Amid confounding gusts, Leonard, who had never seen this course before Monday, was the only man to break 70 in round three of the 84th PGA Championship. As a result, he takes the lead into the final round at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Leonard turned a one-shot deficit through 13 holes into a three-stroke lead by rounds end by birdieing two of his final four holes. He shot 3-under 69 to finish 54 holes at 9-under-par 207.
'I love tough conditions. I look forward to a challenge,' said Leonard, who completed a marathon last November.
'There's something special about gutting something out. It really proves what you're made of.'
International winner Rich Beem (72) was the outright leader for the most part Saturday, but bogeyed two of his final five holes to finish at 6-under. He made a six-foot par save at the last to ensure a spot in the final twosome Sunday.
Fred Funk, who shot 73, is alone in third place at 5-under. Mark Calcavecchia (74) and Tiger Woods are five back. Woods bogeyed his final hole to shoot even-par 72.
'I grinded my tail off,' said Woods, a two-time PGA Champion. 'I'm a little far behind right now, but hopefully tomorrow I can play a little bit better.'
About his deficit, Woods said: 'The problem is you can't be that aggressive on this golf course...you still have to play conservative and play smart and aggressive to your spots. The main thing is picking your spots out.'
Like Woods did following his 1997 Masters triumph, Leonard went through an extensive swing change in late 2000. Leonard has since successfully defended his title in the 2001 Texas Open and won this year's WorldCom Classic in Hilton Head.
'I'm a better player,' Leonard said when asked to compare himself now to when he won the '97 British and was the '99 Ryder Cup hero.
As it has in each major played this year, weather has played a major role this week. Lightning suspended play for three hours Thursday morning, and put an end to second-round play Friday evening.
Overnight rains further delayed the conclusion of the second round Saturday morning, which, in turn, pushed back the start of the third round to 12:30 PM CDT. Woods teed off at 1:00 PM, with the final group going out 20 minutes later. Threesomes and split tees were in effect.
Outside of the three inches of water on the course, rain wasnt a factor Saturday ' but the wind was.
Winds whipped between 25 and 35 mph on the 7,360-yard course, where water comes into play on nine holes.
Five players ' Beem, Leonard, Calcavecchia, Funk and Retief Goosen ' were deadlocked for the lead, at 6-under, when the third round began. And though Leonard opened up a three-stroke cushion, only Goosen, who shot 7-over 79, played himself out of contention.
Beem, who takes a swig of Pepto-Bismol to settle his stomach before a round, immediately took sole possession of the third-round lead by sticking his approach shot on the par-4 first to three feet.
He then parred his next nine holes before moving to 8-under with a six-foot birdie at the par-5 11th.
Beem dropped his first shot of the day at the par-4 14th. He hooked a long iron off the tee and compounded his mistake by putting his second shot into the left greenside bunker.
Though Beem failed to get up and down for par, Leonard pitched from the dense rough around the 14th green to a foot. The two entered the 15th hole tied for the lead at 7-under.
They left with Leonard 1 up ' or so they thought.
Beem overcame another poor drive to make par, while Leonard pitched to three feet and made a birdie-4.
However, it was pointed out ' and shown clearly on television replay ' that Beem brushed off his line of play on the green with his cap. But because his ball was off the green on his birdie attempt, there was no infraction.
'There was a bunch of stuff in my line and instead of trying to sweep everything with my hand I just went ahead and did it with my hat. I knew that was going to raise a few eyebrows, but I knew the ruling,' Beem said.
Leonard increased his advantage to two by running his approach shot on the par-4 16th to near tap-in range.
Beem then fell three back after bogeying the par-3 17th when his tee shot clipped a tree and landed in the front greenside bunker.
Both men parred 18, with Beem making a gutsy six-footer.
Tigers day began by wrapping up the final two holes of his second round. After parring the 17th, Woods hit his tee ball into the left fairway bunker on the par-4 finishing hole. He then proceeded to strike one of the best shots Ive ever hit.
In a crowded, uncomfortable stance, with the ball hanging below his feet, Woods played a 202-yard 3-iron over the lip of the bunker and over an obtrusive group of trees to 12 feet. He made the birdie and moved to minus 4.
Woods stayed on that number as he parred his first 10 holes in round three. He finally made a birdie by two-putting from 30 feet at the 11th. He was in danger of giving back that stroke on the next hole, but as he did on the ninth, he saved par from 10 feet.
His most impressive save of the day, however, came at the par-4 16th. Woods ' playing away from the water right of the green ' badly pulled a wedge from 129 yards into a valley left of the green. He pitched to 30 feet and then made the par putt ' the ball dying into the hole on the last revolution.
Woods pumped his fist and released a joyous howl.
The 18th didnt treat the Masters and U.S. Open champion as well in the afternoon as it did in the morning, however. Woods piped his drive way right, over the gallery and against the corporate tents. He was able to play his second shot just short of the green, but couldnt get up and down, and made his first bogey of the day.
'I hate ending with a bogey, it just ticks me off,' Woods said.
Full-field scores from the 84th PGA Championship
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

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.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

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.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

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:

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.