Azinger Sauers Lead Suspended HP

By Sports NetworkApril 29, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 HP Classic of New OrleansNEW ORLEANS -- Paul Azinger and Gene Sauers posted matching rounds of 6-under-par 66 Thursday to take the clubhouse lead in the first round of the HP Classic of New Orleans suspended due to darkness.
 
Azinger and Sauers are joined atop the leaderboard at minus-6 by Robert Damron, who has played 17 holes and Chris DiMarco, who is through 14 holes at English Turn Golf and Country Club.
 
Play was suspended due to darkness at 8:30 p.m. ET after a three-plus hour weather delay earlier in the day. First-round action will resume Friday at 8:00 a.m. with the second round commencing at 9:15 a.m., an hour later than originally scheduled.
 
A group of 12 players are one stroke behind the leaders. Ricky Barnes and Mathias Gronberg, as well as K.J. Choi, Joe Durant and Justin Rose all carded rounds of 5-under-par 67. They are joined there by David Sutherland (17 holes), Patrick Sheehan (16), Scott Verplank (16), Charles Howell III (15), defending champion Steve Flesch (14), Dennis Paulson (13) and Danny Ellis (9).
 
Azinger began his round on the 10th tee at English Turn and started by converting back-to-back birdies. He dropped in another birdie putt at the 14th to move to minus-3.
 
The 1993 PGA Championship winner cruised around the turn as he ran off nine consecutive pars. Azinger caught fire down the stretch, converting a birdie try at the par-5 sixth.
 
He made it two straight with a birdie at the seventh and capped a run of three birdies in a row when he dropped in a birdie attempt at the eighth.
 
'The last couple of years I played awful. My swing was a disaster. My body was hurt, and my back was a disaster too,' said Azinger. 'I changed coaches and I'm trying to get the club to go more around me. So far it's been paying off. My driving accuracy has been bad, but I'm on the mend. The great thing is, my lower back doesn't hurt anymore.'
 
Sauers started with a bogey at the first, but came right back to birdie No. 2. After four straight pars, he dropped in his second birdie at the seventh and moved to minus-2 with a birdie at the ninth.
 
On the back side, Sauers birdied the 10th and 11th to make it three in a row. He moved to minus-5 with a birdie at the 13th and joined Azinger atop the leaderboard with a birdie at the 16th.
 
'I hit the ball well after the first hole,' said Sauers, whose last win was at the 2002 Air Canada Championship. 'I just kind of was in a hurry this morning. I kind of rushed myself to the range and wouldn't settle down. Now I can concentrate on golf.'
 
Damron spread four birdies over his opening nine holes on the back nine. On the front side, he dropped in a birdie at the par-5 second and tied the leaders with a birdie at the eighth. Play was halted due to darkness with Damron needing to play one more hole.
 
DiMarco birdied the second and fifth to get his round going. He then reeled off three consecutive birdies from the seventh to make the turn at minus-5. He birdied the par-5 11th, then posted three straight pars from the 12th before play was halted.
 
The leaderboard remains crowded behind the players at 5 under. Dan Olsen, Ryan Palmer, Blaine McCallister, Kelly Gibson and John Rollins all completed rounds of 4-under-par 68.
 
Eleven more players stand at minus-4, including Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who is playing for the first time since winning his first major. Those 11 players make it 29 golfers within two strokes of the leaders.
 
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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.

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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.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he 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.''