Creamer using simple formula to re-energize game

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2016, 11:13 pm

PHOENIX – Paula Creamer was chasing from behind before she reached the first tee Thursday at the JTBC Founders Cup.

She was nine shots back before hitting her opening shot of the tournament.

That’s how it is at the fast track known as Wildfire Golf Club, where a string of pars can leave you in somebody else’s dust.

With a 7-under-par 65 in Friday’s second round, Creamer was kicking up plenty of her own dust here in the desert. She was just one shot off the lead when the morning wave finished up.

“I hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of opportunities,” Creamer said. “Just played pretty solid golf.”

Creamer said being nine shots back before she was even introduced at the first tee Thursday got her attention.

“It was crazy,” Creamer said. “I looked over at the board, and I’m like, `Holy cow.’ You can’t really think too much about that. I feel like I’ve been out here long enough to know that, but it’s still hard. You don’t want to be nine back before you’ve teed off.”

Actually, opening the week like that was a good test of what Creamer and her new/old swing coach have been working on since they got together three months ago. Gary Gilchrist is a big believer in a simple formula that includes a dose of patience.

“You put in the work and trust in it and stay patient and good things will happen,” Gilchrist said.

Creamer patiently hit one good shot after another Friday in a steady climb up the leaderboard.

She was strong with her driver, hitting 11 of 14 fairways. She hit 14 greens in regulation and got up-and-down for pars every time she missed a green in her bogey-free round. She needed just 27 putts.

Creamer, 29, is seeking her 11th LPGA title, her first since winning the HSBC Women’s Champions two years ago. Sometimes change is rejuvenating, and Creamer is feeling energized since going to Gilchrist. Creamer had a lot of success under long-time coach David Whelan, winning all 10 of her LPGA titles with him, including the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont in 2010, but they amicably parted ways at the end of last year.

Gilchrist worked some with Creamer back when she was a student at the Leadbetter Academy and Gilchrist was the director of golf there. They have been focused on more than getting her club in balance at the top and working on her body turn and on sharpening her short game and putting.

“At the end of the day, a great mind set is always better than a great looking swing,” Gilchrist said. “If you have the right mind set, you can play with any swing.

“Paula’s strengths have always been her determination and her ability to handle competition, and we’re trying to get back to that, to enjoying the challenge of competition. She had become a little critical and judgmental and hard on herself because she wasn’t getting results. We’re getting her to enjoy the game, getting her focused on working, improving and trusting what she is doing.”

Creamer opened the year tying for fifth at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in her first start since going to work with Gilchrist. She was T-15th in her next best start this season at the HSBC Women’s Champions two weeks ago.

“I'm excited,” Creamer said. “I love what I'm doing. I really believe in Gary’s philosophy of teaching me. I think he's brought the kid out of me, that's for sure. It's a great match. I really trust what he's teaching me, and I can go out and do it, which is kind of a big thing.”

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.