Casey Levet Lead Bunched Leaderboard

By Sports NetworkJuly 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- England's Paul Casey shot a 5-under-par 66 Thursday to join Frenchman Thomas Levet in the lead after the first round of the 133rd British Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club.
Michael Campbell of New Zealand carded a 4-under 67 to finish alone in third place.
Tiger Woods looked to be on track in the opening round of a major for quite some time. The top player in the world, whose last major title came at the U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2002, ran home a long birdie putt at the second and rolled in a 4-footer for a birdie at the sixth to jump to minus-2.
The 28-year-old three-putted for a bogey at the seventh but countered with a birdie at the par-3 eighth. Woods found trouble on the back side, however, and missed the green at the 12th on his way to a bogey.
Woods dropped another shot at the 13th after he couldn't get up and down but got back into red figures with a birdie at the par-5 16th. He ended up with a 1-under 70, which ties him for 26th.
'I think it was positive the way I played today. That's the key,' said the champion in 2000 at St. Andrews. 'Granted, I shot a good number, but I think that's indicative of the shots I hit, and I hit a lot of good shots and controlled my ball really well today.'
Casey, who tied for sixth at the Masters, did more than a good job in improving upon his opening round score from last year's Open at Royal St. George's. An 85 on the first day last year meant Casey would be missing out on the weekend for the second year in a row. This time around, the 26-year-old is halfway to making the cut at the Open for the first time in his young career.
'Major championships are a big deal, and that's what everybody wants to win,' said Casey. 'You have to treat them the same as every other golf event and if you don't then 85s happen. You've got to want it a lot, but not push it over the edge and find a happy medium.'
Casey got things going early at the par-4 first and hit a wedge in to 10 feet for a quick birdie. He then knocked his third shot to 6 feet for a birdie at the par-5 fourth and hit his tee shot inside 6 feet for a birdie at the tricky par-3 eighth.
The Arizona State product hit a 7-iron over the back of the green en route to a bogey at the ninth, but responded well with birdies on each of his next two holes to reach 4 under.
Casey parred his next three holes before picking up a birdie at the par-5 16th. At the par-4 closing hole, Casey left an 8-iron within 16 feet of the hole and converted the birdie putt to enter the clubhouse in the lead under calm conditions on the seaside links at Troon.
'I'm not getting in my own way as I have done, especially last year,' said Casey, a three-time winner on the European Tour. 'This year it's been very good. I've been very relaxed and allowed myself to play good golf, and if I'm in that sort of frame of mind, as I was at the Masters, then anything is possible.'
Levet came into this week on a roll after winning the Scottish Open just to earn a spot in the field.
'When you win a tournament you get really lucky,' said Levet, who was not planning on competing this week. 'I just try to put everything on my side to be ready for this week and play good golf.'
On Thursday, Levet seemed to pick up right where he left off at Loch Lomond. He birdied two in a row starting at the par-5 fourth and ran home a long birdie putt at the par-4 seventh.
Levet made it two in a row with a birdie at the eighth, but gave that shot back with a bogey at the par-4 10th. Levet came right back, however, and placed his second shot inside 7 feet for a birdie at the 11th.
He coasted at even par over his next five holes before collecting a birdie at the par-3 17th. Levet then parred the last to join Casey atop the leaderboard.
Levet was on the verge of major glory two years ago at Muirfield when he lost out in a playoff battle to Ernie Els.
'Sometimes you feel like I was not too far from winning. But sometimes you learn from that, as well,' said Levet. 'It's the first time I was about to win something and there is nothing to be ashamed of. He won because he was the best.'
Campbell, who tied for third at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews, tallied a birdie at the fourth and added an eagle at the par-5 sixth. With the front nine yielding plenty of scoring, Campbell then birdied the ninth to make the turn at minus-4.
The 35-year-old bogeyed the 10th but moved back within a shot of the lead with a birdie at the par-4 15th.
'I was very, very comfortable out there today,' said Campbell, who was in contention last week at Loch Lomond. 'It was a good start to the tournament and I'm pretty happy about it.'
Vijay Singh posted a 3-under-par 68 to join amateur Stuart Wilson, K.J. Choi, Gary Evans, Carl Pettersson, Marten Olander, Kenneth Ferrie, Alastair Forsyth and Mathew Goggin in a tie for fifth.
Els had the shot of the tournament thus far at the difficult par-3 eighth. The South African holed a wedge for an ace to reach 3 under and added a birdie at the 11th to join a logjam at 4 under par.
While his challengers faltered over the difficult closing holes at Troon, Els got himself out of some hairy situations. He hit an errant drive at the 13th but was able to muscle his way out of the rough on his way to a par. Els then parred his next three holes before disaster struck at the 17th.
Els found a pot bunker off the tee at the par-3 and left his second shot in the sand. He knocked his third just off the front of the green and what had been a fine morning turned sour after Els two-putted for a double bogey.
'I didn't feel good after that,' said Els. 'I had a pretty nice round going there. But from such a highlight on eighth to such a low light on 17, it's amazing.'
Els played his second shot to 20 feet at the last and two-putted for par and a round of 69.
Colin Montgomerie was eager to get out in front of his hometown fans on his home course. Montgomerie, a member at Troon who has played the course since his youth, rocketed out of the gate with three birdies over his first nine holes.
The Scot stumbled on the back side with a double bogey at the 10th and a bogey at the 11th, but Montgomerie responded with a birdie at the par-4 12th to get back to 1 under.
Montgomerie then sank a 20-footer for a birdie at the par-4 15th and parred his way in for a 69 of his own.
'Whether that score is 75 or 65, I was going to enjoy myself, and I did today,' said Montgomerie, who tied for 24th at Troon in 1997. 'It helps if you break 70, it always helps.'
Els and Montgomerie were joined by U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke, Rich Beem, Joakim Haeggman, Kenny Perry, Scott Verplank, Paul McGinley, Skip Kendall, Trevor Immelman, Barry Lane and Steve Lowery at 2 under par.
Justin Leonard, the 1997 winner at Troon, was one shot further back at 1-under-par 70 in the group that featured Woods, 1985 Open champion Sandy Lyle, 1995 winner John Daly, Jay Haas and Robert Allenby.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson was unable to take advantage of the benign conditions on Thursday. He parred his first nine holes before picking up a bogey at the 10th. Mickelson dropped another shot with a bogey at the 15th but recovered with his only birdie of the day at the 16th.
The left-hander was not out of the woods, however, and bogeyed the 17th for a round of 73.
Defending champion Ben Curtis hit his approach to 6 feet for a birdie at the opening hole. It was all downhill from that point on for the Ohio native, who double bogeyed the fifth to fall back to 1 over.
Curtis birdied the very next hole, but collected four bogeys the rest of the way to finish in a group at 4-over-par 75 that included Sergio Garcia.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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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.