Scott moving on from anchored stroke just fine

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2015, 10:18 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – This week’s Hero World Challenge is a home game for Adam Scott.

He was one of the first PGA Tour types to migrate to this island enclave, but it’s his spot on assorted leaderboards the last few months that is starting to feel like the friendly confines again for the Australian.

By his own admission, 2015 was a year of “transition” for the 35-year-old. He managed just three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, failed to win anywhere in the world and slipped to 16th in the World Ranking.

Most will point to Scott’s putting, and the looming ban on anchoring next month, as the source of his swoon, but his troubles went deeper than that much-maligned broom-handled putter.

In fact, he only half-jokes that he should have made the switch to a traditional-length putter long before October, and the statistics suggest he’s correct.

Scott ranked 158th in strokes gained-putting in 2015 – his lowest position in that category since 2010 just before he switched to the anchored putter – and was 183rd on Tour in three-putt avoidance.

“I think the focus on putting is probably the least impactful thing,” said Scott following his opening 67 at the Hero World Challenge left him one stroke off the lead. “I putted so poorly this year with the long putter, I wish I had transitioned to the short putter earlier.”

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But Scott’s play, at least in the near future, will be analyzed by his performance on the putting surfaces after he became the first player to win the Masters using an anchored putter.

Whether it’s deserved or not, Scott became the poster child when the ruling bodies made their move on anchoring in many minds, and as the deadline has inched closer the focus has been squarely on Scott.

So much so he made news when he arrived at the Presidents Cup in October with a traditional-length model, and even more headlines when he struggled in his early matches in South Korea.

Since those matches, however, that liability has become a luxury with Scott’s results since the transition trending in all the right directions.

He finished tied for seventh the week after the Presidents Cup at the Japan Open, runner-up at the CIMB Classic, fifth at the Australian Masters and tied for second place last week at the Australian Open.

The momentum continued on Thursday at Albany, where he spends his time when he’s not on Tour, with a quick start that included an eagle at the par-5 third hole.

Slowed by sloppy bogeys at the fourth and 13th holes, Scott finished his round with a birdie at No. 18 for a 67, which was two strokes off the course record which was set by Scott when Albany was, by most accounts, much harder.

“I think the course has been softened a lot,” Scott said. “I mean they made some changes with this event in mind over the last 12, 18 months I guess to the greens specifically. The course is playing very soft this week, so I think that record probably is going to be gone soon.”

Considering Thursday’s scoring, with three players – Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson and Paul Casey – grabbing a share of the lead at 6-under 66, Scott’s record is certainly in jeopardy, but his career – which some thought might be perched on a non-anchored abyss – has been rejuvenated.

His improved play on the greens has fueled improvements in other parts of his game, specifically his ball striking, which has always been the standard on Tour but has suffered in recent years.

“I haven't had the consistency with my striking this year because it's kind of one of those things where when your putting suffers, eventually it catches up with your ball striking,” he said.

“I had been a bit inconsistent with that this year, but I think the better putting over the last couple months has helped make that happen so I feel like I'm getting back into that kind of top rhythm you have when you're playing well.”

The goal is to finish the season with a victory and this week’s stop is his final chance, but even without a trophy on Sunday his “transition” year will end on a positive note.

It was by any measure an eventful year for Scott, who switched caddies, tinkered with his driver, became a father and, yes, ditched the anchored putting stroke for good.

Asked on Thursday if he’s tired of being asked about his putter, Scott – normally one of the more reserved interviews in the game – left no room for ambiguity.

“Yep, absolutely,” he said. “It's really not that big of a deal, and I'm portrayed as a poor putter, but I think that's a bit of a misconception. Yes, I putted poorly this year, but it's very hard to do well when putting as poorly as people might think.”

There will undoubtedly be more questions about his putting in 2016, but Scott is answering those doubts the only way he can – one top-10 finish at a time.

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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.