Campbell Charges to Lead

By Sports NetworkNovember 8, 2003, 5:00 pm
HOUSTON -- Chad Campbell, who finished as the runner-up to Shaun Micheel at this year's PGA Championship, established a new course record Saturday when he fired a 10-under 61 to take the lead at the Tour Championship. Campbell stands at 13-under-par 200 and owns a one-shot lead over Charles Howell III, the first and second-round leader.
Campbell broke Jim Furyk's 2001 record of 62 on Saturday and the round of 61 was Campbell's lowest by two strokes. He fired a 63 in the third round of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, one of three events including the PGA Championship where Campbell finished second this season.
'Well it was a good day, obviously,' stated Campbell, whose 61 was the lowest score in Tour Championship history. 'I chipped in today and made a long putt. Stuff like that just tells you that it is your day.'
Retief Goosen, the 2001 U.S. Open winner, shot a 4-under 67 and is tied for third place with Chris Riley, who posted a 5-under 66. That pair is knotted at 10-under-par 203.
Tiger Woods will need a miracle if he is to win his fifth consecutive money title. He had to win the Tour Championship at Champions Golf Club and Vijay Singh, the leader in the money race had come in worse than a tie for third place.
Woods never got anything going on Saturday, as he mixed two birdies and two bogeys for an even-par 71. He is at 2 under par for the championship and tied for 15th.
Singh, on the other hand, tallied five birdies and only one bogey to shoot a round of 4-under-par 67. Singh is alone in ninth place at 5-under-par 208.
Also at stake this week has been the Player of the Year race, which is voted on by the players. Woods and Singh are the front runners but with neither looking in great shape to visit the winner's circle Sunday, it will come down to what the players thought before this week.
'It's in the voting hands now. It comes down to what they believe is a better year,' said Woods. 'If Vijay would have won the tournament, or still can, if he would win the tournament, he would lock it up. And if I would win it, it would be locked up. So it was all in our hands at the beginning of the week.'
'I'm in great position unless something odd happens,' said Singh, referring to the money title. 'I think I've secured it. That wasn't my concern coming over here. I wanted to play well in this tournament and I'm playing well.'
But no one in the field played better than Campbell on Saturday. He was 2 under par on his round after a bogey at No. 8 but he turned things around very quickly. Campbell drained a 20-footer for eagle at the par-5 ninth, then went on a birdie tear on the second nine.
Campbell missed the green at the 10th but chipped in for birdie. He sank a 10- footer for birdie at 11, then ran home a 55-footer for birdie at the par-3 12th. Campbell hit a poor drive at the par-5 13th but laid up and wedged his third to four feet to set up his fourth consecutive birdie and fly past Howell into first.
Campbell parred the 14th but returned to his birdieing ways. He holed a 10-foot birdie putt at the 15th and made another birdie at the par-3 16th to reach 10 under with two holes to play.
Time to start thinking about 59?
'I never really knew exactly how many under I was,' admitted Campbell. 'I knew I was playing good, but it doesn't really matter. I knew I had a lot of ground to make up at the start of the day. That's the outlook I was taking.'
Campbell had looks at birdie on the final two holes but neither found the cup. Instead Campbell gets the third-round lead for the first time since the PGA Championship, when Micheel upstaged him in the final round. It could be win No. 1 for Campbell, whom many of his fellow players say is the next big thing in golf.
'I'm really not picky where my first win would come,' said Campbell. 'It would be extra special winning it here in Texas. I've always loved coming to Houston and playing all their golf courses.'
Howell made three birdies on the front nine to stay ahead of the field but got caught in Campbell's wave. Howell found the fairway at the 10th but pulled a 6-iron that hit a tree and landed in the rough. He chipped to 12 feet but missed the par putt.
Howell came back on the back nine. He sank an eight-footer for birdie at the 15th and added another at No. 17 to get within one shot of Campbell.
Jonathan Kaye (68) and Davis Love III (67) share seventh at 6-under-par 207, followed by Singh in ninth.
Furyk, the U.S. Open winner and Darren Clarke each shot rounds of 4-under 67 and tied Chris DiMarco, who carded an even-par 71 on Saturday, in 10th. The trio stands at minus-4.
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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.