Another Sunday Showdown Set in Dubai

By Sports NetworkFebruary 3, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Dubai Desert ClassicDUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Three-time winner Ernie Els closed with back-to-back birdies Saturday to shoot 4-under 68 at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Those late birdies moved Els two clear of the field at 17-under-par 199. Second-round leader Ross Fisher managed a 71 and shares second place at minus-15 with Henrik Stenson (69) and Jyoti Randhawa (67).
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to a missed putt during Saturday's round. (WireImage)
World No. 1 and defending champion Tiger Woods also closed with consecutive birdies to shoot 5-under 67. He is alone in fifth and three behind Els at 14-under-par 202.
The second and third rounds at Emirates Golf Club were both completed Saturday morning. The second round was suspended Friday night due to darkness after weather delayed action for over two hours Friday afternoon.
Woods trailed by as many as six strokes early in the round before a birdie on the fifth moved him to minus-10. He dropped a shot on eight, but atoned for that error with a birdie on nine.
The 31-year-old came right back with birdies on 10 and 11 to move within two strokes of the lead at 12 under. Woods parred his next five holes before closing with birdies on 17 and 18 to finish three behind Els.
'When you are chasing and coming from behind you can't afford to make mistakes,' Woods explained. 'That's the great thing about leading, you can slip up and still win the tournament. But coming from behind and given the golf course we have here, you have to make a bunch of birdies. I have to try and do that and hope it is enough.'
Els, who won here in 1994, 2002 and 2005, entered round three one behind Fisher. Els faltered to a three-putt bogey on the first. He erased that mistake with a birdie on two.
The South African birdied the third as well, but remained one back as Fisher also birdied the third. Fisher stumbled to a bogey at six to fall back into a tie for the top spot with Els and Stenson.
Els bogeyed the eighth to again fall one down. He got that stroke back with a birdie on 10. After Fisher bogeyed 11, Els took the lead with a birdie on 12. Fisher and Stenson birdied the 13th to forge another three-way tie for the lead.
After four straight pars, Els converted a 3-foot birdie try on the par-4 17th. He made it two straight as he two-putted for birdie on the 18th to finish two clear.
'It is a great golf course and it will produce a good test (Sunday) that is for sure,' Els stated. 'We have a great leaderboard and the number one player in the world is in there too, so it is going to be great. But it is important to play your own game and concentrate on what you have to do. I have a good game plan.'
Fisher was even par through nine with a birdie and a bogey. After a birdie on 10, he dropped a shot at 11. Fisher's final birdie came at 13 before he parred out to share second.
Stenson connected on consecutive birdies from the second. However, he turned in even par after bogeys on seven and nine. Stenson fought back into the mix with birdies on 10 and 11.
He made birdie on the par-5 13th for the third straight round to move to 15 under, before closing with five pars.
'It is pretty bunched up and a lot of guys will have a chance (Sunday), but the good thing is that I'm one of them,' Stenson said. 'Obviously Woods is in there, but Ernie is playing very well and I think he is going to be the one to look out for.'
Randhawa used a strong back nine to move into contention. He had a birdie and a bogey through nine holes. The 34-year-old moved to 12-under with birdies on the 10th and 13th. He closed with three straight birdies to grab a share of second.
Niclas Fasth flew up the leaderboard in round three with the low round of the day, a 7-under 65. That moved him into a share of sixth with Peter Hanson at 13-under-par 203. Prom Meesawat in one stroke further back at minus-12 after a Saturday 68.
Thomas Bjorn (66), Simon Dyson (69), Joakim Haeggman (69) and Robert Karlsson (68) are tied for ninth at 11-under-par 205.
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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.