Pettersen sees leftover Solheim talk 'dying down'

By Randall MellNovember 18, 2015, 8:10 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen this week is making her first start on American soil since she found herself at the heart of the Solheim Cup controversy that stirred up so much vitriol in Germany almost nine weeks ago.

Standing on the driving range Wednesday preparing for the CME Group Tour Championship, Pettersen feels comfortable that time is working its magic, soothing any wounds that may linger.

“I think everything’s good,” Pettersen said between shots. “It’s good for me. I feel like it’s all dying down on tour.”

Pettersen came under fire on Sunday morning of the Solheim Cup after American Alison Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt on the 17th green, saying she thought she heard the Europeans concede it. The controversy erupted after Europe’s Pettersen stepped forward to tell the rules official that neither she nor her playing partner Charley Hull conceded Lee’s putt in their fourball match. The Americans were penalized and lost the hole in a vital match leading into singles. The match ended with both Lee and Hull in tears and Pettersen bombarded with criticism that she violated the “spirit of the game” with unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I am disgusted,” European Hall of Famer Laura Davies said, doing the analysis for Sky Sports 4. “She’s been very unsporting. We’ve (Europe) got the point, but they’ve got the moral high ground.”

Two-time major champion Zach Johnson called it “a disgrace to the sport.” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin was also critical of Pettersen in the American telecast.

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While Pettersen initially stood her ground in the news conference after the Americans staged a historic comeback victory, holding to her position that she was within the rules of the game, she later said she was emotionally overwhelmed by the public backlash when she took to social media thereafter. She cried in the team room.

Pettersen met with U.S. captain Juli Inkster before leaving Germany and the next morning issued a nearly 300-word apology on Instagram. Ten days later, Pettersen went on Golf Channel to further apologize and explain what happened in a 17-minute interview on Golf Central.

“I don’t want to be remembered as someone who just gave it all and couldn’t care about the integrity of the game, because that means more to me,” Pettersen said in her Golf Central interview.

While this may be Pettersen’s first tournament on American soil since the Solheim Cup, she has crossed the paths of American players numerous times since leaving Germany. In fact, this will mark her sixth LPGA event since the Solheim Cup. Pettersen played four times on the fall Asian swing and last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico. Pettersen has been paired with Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis, Lizette Salas, Brittany Lincicome and Angela Stanford since the Solheim Cup.

On Saturday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Stanford and Pettersen were among four players who got stuck in a shuttle bus delayed two hours in a nightmarish traffic jam en route to the golf course. Stanford also played with Pettersen in the second and third rounds in Mexico City. While the two are on good terms, the Solheim Cup memory is there.

“I’m not one of those people who likes to remind someone of their mistakes, but she did make a mistake,” Stanford said. “I’m not saying it was a rules mistake, but an error in sportsmanship, and that’s what the Solheim Cup is all about. It helped light a fire for us. Ultimately, it sparked us. Unfortunately, she has to live with that.”

Lee said Pettersen approached her on the driving range in Malaysia in their first event together three weeks after the Solheim Cup.

“We did talk,” Lee said. “But for me, our talk was really personal. I don’t want to share what went on.

“I still look up to Suzann. She’s one of the best golfers out here, and I still respect her. I feel like now everything that happened is dying down, and I’m really happy about that.”

Lincicome played with Pettersen in the first round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the Solheim Cup didn’t come up.

“We talked about my wedding, her relationship and everything but that,” Lincicome said. “It’s so far in the past. It is what it was, and now we’re buddies again.”

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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.