Continued rain could work in Internationals' favor

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2013, 1:21 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – It seems Mother Nature has had her fill of lopsided Presidents Cups.

Or maybe the old girl just has a soft spot for the Rest of the World. Either way, another weather delay and a foreboding forecast appears to be conspiring in the Internationals' favor at muddy Muirfield Village.

For the second consecutive day play was delayed, this time for two and a half hours, by a storm and eventually called because of darkness with four matches still to be determined.

On Thursday the green and yellow radar blob that inched its way through central Ohio actually resembled the International standard and proved to be a much-needed timeout. Friday’s intermission had a similar impact on the proceedings.

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With the Internationals down in five of six Day 1 matches, captain Nick Price’s crew rallied to finish the day down just 3 ½ to 2 ½, which felt to many in green and yellow like a victory, be it moral or otherwise.

When the horn echoed through Muirfield Village at 3:09 p.m. ET on Friday the U.S. was ahead in three and tied in one other match. By the time darkness descended on the property each team had won a match and the United States was leading in two and trailing two.

First-time captain Price figured it would be a format change – officials began this week’s matches with a fourball session, instead of the traditional foursome session that the Internationals have struggled in – and an infusion of fresh talent (there are seven rookies on the International side) that would be the tonic to wrest his team off a 1-7-1 drought in the biennial matches.

He didn’t count on the weatherman playing the role of the 13th man, but will take everything he can get.

If the forecast holds – there is a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a 50 percent chance on Sunday – officials may be challenged to complete the matches on time.

The second session is scheduled to restart at 7:35 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the third fourball and fourth foursome session in the afternoon, leaving the 12 singles bouts for Sunday, weather permitting.

That schedule would allow officials to finish at roughly 10 minutes before 7 p.m. (sunset is 7:08 p.m.). “That’s in an ideal world, obviously,” said Tour official Steve Carman. And this week has been anything but ideal.

Otherwise, officials would have to consider finishing on Monday or reducing the number of matches. Regulations don’t allow for a reduction in matches like at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales when weather delays forced a reduction in the remaining number of foursome matches from eight to six, but if play is not completed by sundown on Monday the team with the most points would be declared a winner.

The latter option could be Price & Co.’s best option.

The Internationals haven’t won a foursome session since Day 1 in 2003, a reality which prompted Price, former International captain Greg Norman and future captain Ernie Els to ask PGA  Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to reduce the number of team matches from 24 to 16.

Finchem balked at the Internationals' request, but Mother Nature may well have the final say.

For the Internationals less is effectively more. The possibility of fewer matches means fewer opportunities for the deeper American squad to take advantage of the Internationals' perceived lack of depth.

“If we have more weather it might happen,” Els said of the possibility of an abbreviated schedule.

It’s not as though umbrellas and standing water spell doom for the Americans, not with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley picking up where they left off last year at Medinah and Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar picking up a new tradition.

Mickelson, who is feeling so confident he put a driver back in play in competition for the first time in months on Day 2, and Bradley birdied seven of eight holes starting at No. 5, a phenomenal run considering the format, and steamrolled arguably the Internationals' best two-ball of Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, 4 and 3.

Woods and Kuchar were 6 under on the front nine and led Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, 3 up, through 12 holes in their quest to remain undefeated.

But for Price there is opportunity in his team as well as the gray October skies.

Els and rookie standout Brendon de Jonge rolled over Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan; and Adam Scott and his new best friend Hideki Matsuyama were 4 up over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson through 11 holes.

Depending on the volatile Ohio skies, officials are hoping to get back on schedule on Saturday. If not, the weather could, in theory, help swing the cup in the Internationals' favor for the first time since 1998. Amid the gloom late Friday the possibilities were enough to brighten Price’s mood.

“We are up in (two)  matches, and I think if you consider what's happened in the past in alternate shot, we are certainly very happy to be in that situation,” he said. “I'm not ruling out the chances that we may get another halve or a full point somewhere. So if we can tie this thing up at the end of tomorrow morning's play, that would be absolutely perfect for us.”

And if it continues to storm, well, that would be just fine as well.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.