Lewis makes pain her ally on way to landmark win

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2013, 1:35 am

PHOENIX – Stacy Lewis turned heartache into something to marvel over again.

She made pain her ally yet again.

Lewis won the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup on Sunday to seize the Rolex world No. 1 ranking with the odds heavily stacked against her. She won closing fiercely, scorching Wildfire Golf Club with an 8-under-par 64 to come from four shots back and beat Ai Miyazato in the final round.

This victory embodied what makes the folks around Lewis appreciate her so much.

The little girl who inspired family pursuing an unlikely golf dream was at it again here. The little girl who persevered after doctors surgically attached a metal rod and five screws to her spine to remedy the ravages of scoliosis turned pain into triumph again.

When the final putt dropped Sunday, Lewis turned to her caddie, Travis Wilson, waving her index finger at him before he engulfed her in a hug.

“This was for you!” Lewis told him.

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Lewis, 28, told Wilson the same thing walking off the 16th hole, a piece of property that Lewis and Wilson will always remember for the agony and ecstasy it gave them both.

Just a day earlier, Lewis was penalized two shots after Wilson was deemed to have violated Rule 13-4 by testing the surface of a hazard when he walked into a fairway bunker. The penalty came down hard at round’s end and threatened to mar what was otherwise a brilliant third-round charge.

On the precipice of seizing No. 1, Lewis was struck with what should have been a momentum-killing blow.

Instead of starting Sunday two shots behind Miyazato, Lewis found herself in a hole four back.

Wilson was crushed Saturday evening, despondent that he put his player in such a hole. Golf was abuzz with debate over why he even ventured into the bunker, whether it was a subtle attempt to test the sand, or just an unfortunate mistake under the heat of the moment.

As Lewis hit balls Saturday night, she confided concern to swing coach Joe Hallett.

“I’m really worried about Travis,” Lewis told Hallett. “He’s taking this really hard, and he doesn’t need to.”

Hallett said Lewis set the tone for the entire team when she marched out so resolutely to the practice putting green after Saturday’s disappointment. Wilson, Hallett and Dale Lewis, Stacy’s father, were waiting there curious how Lewis would greet them.

She clapped her hands and then threw her arms in the air.

“She was wearing the biggest smile,” Hallett said. “She says, `You know what? We work our butts off every week to put ourselves in position to win, that’s where we are. What could be better? Let’s go putt and hit some 3-woods.'”

It was fitting the 16th hole would prove to be the turning point again Sunday.

Lewis virtually willed a better outcome with her resolve.

One shot down at the 16th tee, Lewis pounded a drive into another fairway bunker there. This time, she hit a pure wedge from 123 yards to 18 feet. She buried that birdie putt in a dizzying three-shot turnaround.

Miyazato made double bogey there. Her fate was sealed in a struggle to escape an errant shot into the desert. Miyazato, playing so steadily all day long, blew a pitching wedge left into the scrub brush, where she had to take an unplayable lie. She couldn’t get up and down from her drop into the desert dirt.

Lewis birdied four of the final six holes in giving a clinic on how to close.

“I was super motivated by what happened yesterday,” Lewis said. “I feel good for Travis.”

At first reluctant to speak as Lewis signed her scorecard, Wilson acknowledged the great relief the win gave him.

“It’s a huge weight,” Wilson said. “I do everything I can to help her get in the winner’s circle, and to have something weird like that happen yesterday . . . It’s the first time in 21 years that I’ve had anything like that happen. I was just devastated by it.”

Wilson clutched the flag from the 18th hole in one hand, his prize to remember this unforgettable finish. He briefly revisited his disappointment he felt standing in this same spot 24 hours earlier.

“It was a great day on the course, but the half-hour after, you go through the gamut of emotions,” Wilson said. “You’re mad, then you just have to accept it.

“Stacy just showed me the way to do it. She is like, `We will just go out there and get it done tomorrow.’”

Dale Lewis was overwhelmed yet again by his daughter’s determination to overcome obstacles in her life.

“Today, and what happened yesterday, it’s almost like that’s the way Stacy’s whole career has been,” Dale said. “Every time she gets down, she just bounces back up.”

Stacy told her father there had to be some adversity to stick with the script.

“Why should getting to No. 1 be anything different from anything else in my career?” Lewis told her father. “I’ve always got to make it extra hard.”

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.