Browne Takes First Lead of Season

By Sports NetworkJanuary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Olin Browne overcame difficult conditions on Thursday to shoot a 4-under-par 69 and take the first-round lead of the season-opening Mercedes Championships.
Vijay Singh, who has never won this event, battled a balky putter on Thursday, but still posted a 3-under-par 70. He is alone in second place at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort.
Stuart Appleby
Stuart Appleby's bid for a three-peat got off to a good start with a 2-under 71.
Two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby hit a poor drive at the 17th and left with a bogey. That dropped the Australian to a 2-under-par 71 and tied him for third place with 2002 winner Sergio Garcia, David Toms, who lost to Garcia in a playoff that year, and Carl Pettersson.
This event is reserved for PGA Tour winners from the 2005 season. Four players - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington - qualified, but elected to skip the week.
Ernie Els, the fifth-ranked player in the world, did not qualify for the tournament as he missed significant time in the 2005 season because of knee surgery.
Swirling wind and new green surfaces confused some players on Thursday. Eleven of the 28 competitors have never played in this tournament and all of those factors added up to only nine players breaking par.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, 2001 Mercedes Championships winner Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard, basking in the Rose Bowl victory of his University of Texas Longhorns on Wednesday night, were the other players to break par. They each shot 1-under-par 72s.
Despite the missing stars in the field this week, Browne is one of the most intriguing stories of the 28 who teed it up on Thursday. He made a serious run at last year's U.S. Open, then broke through at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He collected the PGA Tour's Comeback Player of the Year Award for his efforts.
Browne collected his first birdie of the round at the par-5 fifth. He reached the back edge of the green with his second and two-putted. Browne parred No. 6, made a tricky birdie putt at the seventh, then hit a 6-iron to 13 feet to set up another birdie at the par-3 eighth.
The 44-year-old got to 4 under par at the 10th when he ran home a 8-footer. Browne became the only competitor to get to minus-5 and it came in a strange fashion. The wind wreaked havoc with his approach at 13 and the ball rolled off the putting surface. Browne chipped in for birdie from 45 feet and was thankful to be where he was on the leaderboard.
'I stole one on 13,' admitted Browne. 'It was not an easy shot. I got pretty lucky there I think. That ball is round and that hole is too. You get some that go and some that don't.'
The wind got Browne again, this time on the par-5 15th. His lay up got tangled in the rough and his third hit the green and came back. Browne chipped to 8 feet, but missed the par putt and fell to 4 under par.
'It's hard to get the ball close all the time. The wind is gusting,' said Browne, whose win last year was his first on tour since the 1999 Colonial. 'There's plenty of trouble out there. I know I'm thrilled to be here.'
Singh struggled with the flat stick on Thursday and it's not a total surprise. He ranked 108th in putting last year on the PGA Tour and it showed early. Singh missed two putts inside 10 feet, one for birdie at the second and the other for par at three.
His approach spun to 3 feet to set up birdie at the fourth, but the putting woes continued. Singh once again failed to convert birdie tries from inside 8 feet at the fifth and eighth, but moved up the leaderboard with birdies at seven and nine.
Singh lipped out for par from 3 feet at the 11th. He rebounded with a 7-footer for par at the 13th, then back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 got him within one of the lead.
Wes Short, Jr., another University of Texas product, managed an even-par 73 and is part of group knotted in 10th place. Mark Calcavecchia and Ted Purdy joined Calcavecchia four shots out of the lead.
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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. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."