Tuesday - News Notes

By Mercer BaggsJune 11, 2002, 4:00 pm
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Many players werent privy to the Black Course prior to arriving to Bethpage State Park this week. But after a couple of practice rounds under their belts, they are now fully cognizant of their opponent.
This is the hardest golf course Ive ever played, said Davis Love III, who is making his 14th U.S. Open appearance this week.
Nothing is tougher, said Brad Faxon.
If the wind blows, its almost going to be impossible, said Chris DiMarco.
But while players agree the 7,214-yard par-70 layout ' the longest in U.S. Open history ' is a beast, they also agree its a beauty.
I love this course, said Stewart Cink, who finished a heartbreaking third in last years Open at Southern Hills.
Best course Ive played, said 15-year tour veteran Billy Andrade.
I asked David Duval, I said, Is this the best U.S. Open greens weve ever seen? He said, They are the best greens Ive ever seen anywhere, recanted Love.

Fleisher, a Disappointment
Bruce Fleisher opted not to compete this week, an honor awarded to him after winning last years U.S. Senior Open. He said last week he felt he could not be competitive and that the course was too much.
Tuesday, a pair of Fleishers Senior PGA Tour colleagues who are participating in the U.S. Open responded to his decision.
I think everybody is kind of disappointed in that, said Tom Kite, who earned a spot in the 156-man field by finishing tied for fifth last year. I think he had a great opportunity to represent the Senior Tour, and to be honest, I think when you win the Senior Open you have an obligation to go to the U.S. Open.
I think everybody on the Senior Tour was surprised and disappointed at Bruces decision.
Added three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, who is in this week on a special exemption: I think he let a lot of people down. Most of the seniors would give their right leg to play in this event as the Senior Open champion. I think anybody who qualifies to play and decides not to play it really missing out on something.

Eight is Enough?
DiMarco is among the many players this week deciding which 14 clubs to keep in his bag. But the club he may exclude might surprise you.
I am trying to figure out if Im going to take my 8- or my 9-iron out. One of those two are coming out, because you dont need one of those two clubs, he said. I havent hit a 9-iron or a wedge in three days (of practice). Im putting a 2-iron and a 5-wood in.

The Numbers Game
It is often said that you must drive the ball in play to win the U.S. Open. But since the PGA Tour started keeping tournament records in 1980, the player who led the U.S. Open field in driving accuracy has not won an Open title. Only one player who led in driving distance (Tiger Woods, 2000) has won and only two players (Tom Watson, 1982, Curtis Strange, 1988) won who led in putting.
On the other hand, seven players who led the Open in greens hit in regulation won the title, most recently Woods in 2000.
Full coverage of the 102nd U.S. Open
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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.