Annika Holds Slim Lead at ADT

By Sports NetworkNovember 19, 2005, 5:00 pm
2004 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Defending champion Annika Sorenstam continues to lead the ADT Championship despite shooting a 2-over 74 in Saturday's third round.
 
Sorenstam, a three-time winner at this season-ending event, stands at 3-under-par 213 for a one-shot lead over Marisa Baena and Liselotte Neumann.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Despite tough conditions and a 2-over 74 in Rd. 3, Annika Sorenstam still holds a slim one shot lead at the ADT Championship.
Along with the rest of the field, Sorenstam battled windy conditions during the third round. Rain has softened the grass at Trump International Golf Club and forced officials to institute a lift, clean and place rule for rounds two and three.
 
The conditions -- not to mention a difficult layout at Donald Trump's course -- led to just eight rounds under par on Saturday.
 
'I think it's been very, very difficult,' said Sorenstam, who is now two rounds removed from her confrontation with Paula Creamer on Thursday. 'This course is difficult with no wind, and to play with gusty winds like we had today is extremely hard.'
 
Baena didn't seem to mind so much. She matched Cristie Kerr's 6-under 66 from Friday's round for the best score of the week so far.
 
Neumann reached minus-2 another way. After being tied with Sorenstam for two holes late in her round, she found water at the par-3 17th and finished with a double bogey after taking a drop.
 
'I played so well today, and unfortunately I put probably one of my worst swings on that ball,' said Neumann, who ended with a 71.
 
First-round leader Hee-Won Han played with Sorenstam in the final group and matched her 2-over 74. She shares fourth place at minus-1 with Catriona Matthew, who fired a 2-under 70 Saturday.
 
All in all, 12 women in this 30-player field are within five strokes of the lead. But they are all looking up at Sorenstam, who will be tough to beat as she plays for her 10th win of the season and 66th of her career on Sunday.
 
Still, she isn't ready to endorse that check just yet.
 
'It's not just any players,' Sorenstam warned. 'They're great players, and I think they're all hungry to win tomorrow.'
 
Sorenstam carded a 70 on Friday without a birdie, mixing in two eagles with two bogeys on the front nine before finishing a rare round with nine straight pars.
 
On Saturday, she bookended her round with bogeys at Nos. 1 and 18. In between, Sorenstam carded two more bogeys to go along with birdies at the ninth and 10th holes.
 
Her birdies came on putts of 4 and 20 feet -- the second giving her a brief two-shot lead -- but overall Sorenstam's putting was off. After laying up at the par-4 18th, she just missed a par putt from the middle of the green.
 
Sorenstam also missed a 4 -foot par putt at 13 that dropped her into a tie for the lead with Neumann.
 
'I just have to make some putts (in the final round),' she said. 'Today I didn't make anything. I think that was the biggest difference today compared with the other two days.'
 
More consistent was the round of Heather Bowie, who finished with 13 consecutive pars for a 71. She shares sixth place at even-par with Soo-Yun Kang (70) and Michele Redman (74).
 
Creamer, the Rookie of the Year who argued with Sorenstam over a drop on Thursday, is part of a group tied one stroke further back in ninth place. She shot a 74 in her third round.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.