Campbell Grabs European Open Lead
Ireland's Padraig Harrington shot a 3-under 69 Friday to share low round of the day honors. The Irishman is tied for fourth with Jamie Donaldson (71), Joakim Haeggman (73), Patrik Sjoland (70), Jorge Berendt (73), 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie (71) and overnight co-leader Darren Fichardt (74). The group is two shots back at 3-under-par 141.
Campbell opened the second round on The K Club's back nine and tallied only one birdie through his first nine holes but ran into some interesting circumstances as he made the turn.
One of Campbell's playing partners, Pierre Fulke, withdrew after nine holes due to a back problem and then the third member of the group, Phillip Price pulled out of the tournament with a neck injury a short time later.
Campbell bogeyed the 11th hole by himself with Price acting as a non-playing observer. After the bogey at 11, an official went to the group ahead of Campbell and asked if anyone would wait behind and join Campbell in a twosome. Fred Funk agreed and Campbell responded with a pair of birdies at his 13th and 14th holes.
Campbell bogeyed the 15th but parred his way in and took sole possession of the 36-hole lead.
'I said thanks to Fred for joining me. I thought no one liked me on this tour,' joked Campbell, who last won on the European Tour at the 2001 Heineken Classic. 'It's the first time that has happened to me. It was quite strange to play a one ball in a tournament and to have a fellow peer in Phillip Price watching me. It was a very unusual day and actually put me off a little.'
Lane mixed four birdies and three bogeys for a round of 1-under 71.
'I was very satisfied with the way I played today,' said Lane. 'Yesterday I played poorly for six holes and didn't hit a green in regulation. I felt weak and fed myself up on chocolate bars and hit a great 3-iron at the seventh and never looked back.'
Pilkington overcame a bogey at his second hole with four birdies the rest of the way for his 3-under 69.
Harrington had one of Friday's later tee times and took advantage of the sunny skies that hit The K Club for the first time all week. The Irishman collected three birdies on his back nine and when the final birdie putt fell at 18, he was in the hunt for his European Tour title of 2002.
'I am surprised that 69 is the best score today but I am delighted to be in the thick of things,' said Harrington, who along with Pilkington, Eduardo Romero and Nick O'Hern were the only players to break 70 on Friday. 'I left myself too much to do last week and after shooting 72 yesterday I was thinking it was the same story.'
Jarrod Moseley, the other co-leader after the first round, carded a 3-over 75 Friday and is tied for 11th at 2-under-par.
Retief Goosen and Lee Westwood, the last two winners of the Order of Merit title, are part of a logjam at 1-under-par 143.
Darren Clarke, the 2001 European Open champion, rebounded from an opening-round 74 Friday with a 2-under 70 and is part of a group at even par. Colin Montgomerie is part of the pack at even par while Greg Norman, who matched Montgomerie's 69 in the first round, struggled to a 4-over 76 and is tied for 35th at plus 1.
The 36-hole cut fell at 3-over 147 and three European Ryder Cuppers missed out on the weekend. Germany's Bernhard Langer, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Irelands's Paul McGinley all failed to make the cut.
Full-field scores from the Smurfit European Open
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“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 four 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.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."