Big Names Big Moves -- Big Surprise

By Sports NetworkJuly 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Skip Kendall fired a 5-under 66 on Friday to surge into the lead after the second round of the 133rd British Open Championship. Kendall finished 36 holes at 7-under-par 135 for a one-shot edge over Frenchman Thomas Levet.
'It feels great. I really wasn't paying much attention to the leaderboards out there today,' said Kendall. 'It was a lot of fun out there.'
England's Barry Lane posted a 68 to join K.J. Choi in a tie for third at 5-under-par 137. Local favorite Colin Montgomerie missed a short putt at the last to join Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Michael Campbell and Todd Hamilton at 4-under-par 138.
Tiger Woods was among the big names making waves early under windy conditions at Royal Troon. While the wind died down in the afternoon, Woods was steady in the breeze Friday morning and two-putted for a birdie at the par-5 fourth.
Woods then converted a birdie putt to reach minus-3 and just like that the 2000 Open champion was back in the mix. The top player in the game was soon betrayed by his putter, however, when he missed a short par putt at the seventh.
The 28-year-old missed left with a 9-foot par putt at the ninth to fall back to even par on his round. Woods could not manage a single birdie on the inward half and finished six shots off the pace after a round of 71.
'The golf course was not playing easy,' said Woods, who tied for 24th at Troon in 1997. 'It was much more difficult today. It was even more difficult on the easier holes going out. It would have been difficult to try and get shots back coming in.'
While the wind meant trouble for the morning groups, those teeing off in the afternoon were faced with much calmer conditions.
Kendall, whose best finish in a major is a tie for 10th at the 1998 PGA Championship, posted a number that most thought was unattainable after the lack of scoring in the morning. He ignored what had come before him and took full advantage of the situation.
'I just wanted to play as well as I could,' said Kendall.
The 39-year-old found a bunker with his approach to the par-4 third but chipped in for a birdie. Kendall then birdied the par-3 fifth to move to 4 under.
'A pretty easy bunker shot, but how many times does the ball go into the hole,' he said. 'It went in and got my day going.'
Kendall stumbled to a bogey at the difficult par-4 11th, but drained a 25-foot putt on the very next hole for a birdie. He then dropped his tee shot inside 16 feet for a birdie at the 14th to move to minus-5.
At the par-5 16th, Kendall hit his approach just short of the putting surface. As has been the choice of many players this week, Kendall took out the flat stick from off the green and ran home the long eagle try to match Levet in the lead at 7 under.
Kendall, who has never won on the PGA Tour, parred his two remaining holes to find himself in an unlikely position heading into the weekend at a major championship.
'I really feel like I've been very close,' said Kendall, who lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson at this year's Bob Hope. 'I really feel like I can win out on the PGA Tour, as well as any place else. I think it's just a matter of time. Hopefully this will be mine.'
Levet was on fire early and drained a long birdie putt at the second to become the first player this week to reach the 6-under mark. He took things a step further at the par-5 fourth after his second shot found a greenside bunker.
Levet hit out of the sand to 5 feet to move to minus-7. He had another birdie chance at the seventh after his second shot stopped within 15 feet of the hole, but was unable to convert.
The 35-year-old could have distanced himself even further after a solid tee shot to the par-3 eighth rolled to 10 feet. Levet missed the birdie effort right, however, but still managed to carry a comfortable advantage around the turn.
Levet was scrambling at the 12th and hit his fourth shot to four feet to save bogey. Levet, who finished second to Els in a playoff at the 2002 Open at Muirfield, was then passed by Kendall and parred his next six holes to complete a round of 70.
'I am a little tired after last week and the first two rounds here, but when you play that well it doesn't matter,' said Levet, who earned a spot in the field by winning the Scottish Open last week. 'I will have a couple of weeks off after this so it is okay, I will have a good sleep tonight and go for it tomorrow.'
Singh tallied a birdie at the second, but three-putted at the fifth for a bogey. The Fijian responded with a birdie at the par-4 seventh, but stumbled again with a bogey at the ninth.
The 41-year-old buckled down in the wind at the par-5 16th and sent his second shot past the flag. Singh then two-putted for birdie to reach 4 under.
'I liked the way I played today,' said Singh, who carded a 70. 'Whenever you play well you are going to enjoy it, but I am pretty relaxed out there. It's hard enough in the conditions out there to tighten up so I was trying to feel relaxed, breathe a little bit better and try and score a bit better.'
Els faltered with a bogey at the fifth but recovered well with a birdie at the following hole. The South African played his approach to 12 feet for a birdie at the 10th, but gave that shot back with a bogey at the 13th.
At the par-3 14th, Els missed the green off the tee, but chipped in for a birdie from a side hill lie. He then two-putted for a birdie at the par-5 16th en route to his second straight round of 69.
Montgomerie was on fire early on, giving the hometown fans plenty to cheer for. He sank a 20-footer for a birdie at the first and moved to 4 under with a birdie the second.
The Scot three-putted for a bogey at the third but countered with a birdie at the very next hole. Montgomerie found trouble again with a bogey at the ninth, but regained his form on the inward half with back-to-back birdies starting at the 15th to move within two of the lead.
Montgomerie acknowledged the galleries while he walked up the 18th fairway, but a mistake on the green changed his mood in a heartbeat. Montgomerie had three feet left for par, but was unable to convert. He tapped in for bogey and a round of 69.
'It was disappointing, but no perfect round of golf has ever been played on a links course and I don't suppose it ever will be,' said Montgomerie.
The amazing shots continued in the second round of the Open Championship and Hamilton did the honors on the front nine. He holed his second shot for an eagle at the par-4 seventh and added a pair of birdies and a bogey the rest of the way to finish three shots off the lead.
Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson, the winners of the two previous majors this season, joined Kenny Perry, Mike Weir and Scott Verplank in a tie for 10th at 3-under-par 139.
Mickelson began the day at 2 over par, but tallied four birdies over his first six holes to make his presence known. The reigning Masters champion added a birdie at the 16th to complete a bogey-free round of 66.
Kim Felton posted a 67 to join fellow Australian Rod Pampling in a tie for 15th at 2-under-par 140. Woods was one shot further back along with Darren Clarke, Davis Love III, Gary Evans, Stuart Appleby, Gary Emerson and Adam Scott at 1-under-par 141.
Paul Casey, who shared the first-round lead with Levet, struggled with a 77 to finish in a group at 1-over-par 143.
The 36-hole cut fell at 3-over-par 145 with 73 players surviving for the weekend. Ben Curtis posted a 74 to finish at 7-over-par 149, becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut at the British Open since Paul Lawrie in 2000.
Other notables who missed the cut include: Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, John Daly, Chad Campbell, Robert Allenby, Fredrik Jacobson, Thomas Bjorn and Stephen Ames.
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  • Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii, the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilders Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

    Getty Images

    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''