Singh contends, speaks at Open

By Mercer BaggsOctober 13, 2013, 12:53 am

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Vijay Singh spoke. That’s the biggest revelation through three rounds of the Open.

He’s not leading the tournament entering the final round, but he’s close. Following a Saturday 65, he’s three shots behind leader Brooks Koepka, who shot 67 in Round 3 to reach 15 under.

“The goal was to get to 12 under. Had a shaky start there, but played well in the middle,” Singh said. “If I putt well, I’m going to score well.”

Singh had one eagle, five birdies and one bogey in the third round at CordeValle Golf Club. His eagle came at the par-4 17th, when he nearly made a hole-in-one. Singh’s drive came to rest 1 foot 4 inches from the cup. Open: Articles, videos and photos

That got him within one of the lead at the time and had media folk wondering: Will he talk?

And so it was, at 5:08 p.m. PT, Singh spoke on the record to a small group of reporters. For the first time since Oct. 13, 2012, at this event, there was a Tour transcript of a Singh conversation.

A quick timeline of events:

• 4:51 p.m.: Singh walks up the par-4 18th hole. No one announces the group so there is no crowd reaction.

• 5 p.m.: After he just misses a 27-foot birdie putt, fans give him an enthusiastic applause.

• 5:04 p.m.: Singh enters the scoring trailer. PGA Tour media official John Bush hopes to get Singh to do a live Golf Channel sit-down with Todd Lewis, an XM Radio interview and a media scrum. Singh agrees to the scrum and Lewis.

• 5:08 p.m.: Singh speaks to two writers, one Golf Channel producer and one radio reporter for two minutes and 13 seconds. No one brings up his lawsuit against the PGA Tour. No one wants to send him scurrying. Or get pummeled.

• 5:11 p.m.: Singh sits down with Lewis. “How many questions,” he asks. “I’m going to ignore any question I don’t want to answer.”

• 5:14 p.m.: Singh leaves Lewis and goes to sign autographs. He doesn’t engage much with fans, just saying “thank you” when they complement and encourage him. But he signs for most everyone and even poses for a few photos.

• 5:17 p.m.: He’s gone like Keyser Soze.

He was almost … pleasant. It certainly helps when you’ve just put yourself in contention to win your first Tour title since 2008, and the 35th in your Hall of Fame career.

“I’m not in the lead, so coming from behind is much easier than being in the lead,” he said. “(I) haven’t won for a long time, but I feel good. If I keep playing well, there is not much nerves. (I'm) striking the ball good and driving the ball really well and the putts have gone in, so it’s a good feeling.”

Asking Singh a question is like talking to a unicorn. You knew they existed but you didn’t know they could speak.

The reason such a minor thing is news-making –  if you missed the entire 2013 season – is because of Singh’s lawsuit. He is suing the PGA Tour for “violating its duty of care and good faith.” In January of this year, Singh was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article as using deer-antler spray, which contains IGF-1. The chemical was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, by which the Tour models its anti-doping policy.

The Tour treated Singh’s quotes as an admission of guilt and suspended him for 90 days. Singh appealed. WADA later reviewed IGF-1 and took it off its list of banned substance. The Tour dropped its case against Singh on April 30. Singh filed suit nine days later for defamation.

And here we are, suit still lingering, Singh back contending. It’s been awhile since he was in this position. His last top 10 on Tour came last year at CordeValle; though, he did tie for sixth in his Champions Tour debut last month.

Lewis, who has a good working relationship with Singh, asked him if all the hubbub had been a distraction to him. Singh did not ignore the question.

“Personally, yes. Professionally, bigger yes. It kind of messed up my whole season,” he said. “I’m re-energizing. Still not over it yet, but focused on my game.”

Will Singh win again? Will he speak again? The answers may be one day away.

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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.