Clarke Takes Lead from Campbell

By Sports NetworkDecember 10, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Target World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Darren Clarke fired an 8-under 64 on Saturday to take the third-round lead of the Target World Challenge. He finished 54 holes at Sherwood Country Club at 14-under-par 202 and is one ahead.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, who sat atop the leaderboard after the first two rounds, shot a respectable, 4-under 68 on Saturday. He is tied for second place with 2002 winner Padraig Harrington, who posted a third-round 65, at minus-13.
Tiger Woods
Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods is 11 back.
Kenny Perry carded a 6-under 66 and is alone in fourth place at 11-under-par 205.
Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods managed a 3-under 69 on Saturday. He moved into a tie for 10th place at 3-under-par 213, but knew that a few more birdies could have put some worry into the leaders.
'I was trying to make three more,' acknowledged Woods, who is a two-time winner. 'If I could have gotten to 6 or 7 (under par), I might have had a really good chance tomorrow.'
The one with the best chance on Sunday is Woods' buddy, Clarke.
He started off poorly with a bogey at the first, but reclaimed the lost stroke one hole later. Clarke parred his next two, but ran home a 5-footer for eagle at the fifth. He drained a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 6 to reach 9 under par and get within one of the lead.
Clarke only managed pars around the turn, including an amazing par at seven when he had to take an unplayable lie penalty, but still trailed by a single shot. He assumed the lead at the par-5 11th when his second shot stopped 6 feet from the hole. Clarke converted the eagle try to get to 11 under par.
Campbell eagled the same hole a group later to move back into first by one. Clarke took advantage of the next par-5, the 13th, as he kicked in a short birdie try to tie the U.S. Open champion. Campbell gave Clarke the lead as he three-putted from 9 feet at 13, including a lip out for par.
Clarke's outstanding play at the par-5s continued at the 16th. His second flew right at the stick, but rolled 12 feet past the cup. He missed his eagle try left, but tapped in for birdie and a two-shot lead.
Clarke hit a mammoth drive down the 18th fairway and his sand-wedge approach hit the slope long of the pin and rolled back to 7 feet. He holed that putt to get into the clubhouse at minus-14.
'I've been playing nicely for a while, so it was good to go out there and shoot a good number,' said Clarke. 'I've had five eagles on the par-5s. I've never done that before.'
Campbell closed strongly to get within one. His 8-iron tee shot at the 17th sailed over the green left, but kicked back on to the green, eight feet short of the hole. He rolled that in, then sank a 15-footer from the fringe for a birdie at the closing hole.
The player that made up the most ground on the back nine Saturday was Harrington. He was 2 under par on his third round after 10 holes, but went on a birdie run.
The Irishman collected back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14, then pulled within one of Clarke's lead with a short birdie putt at 16. After Clarke birdied 18, Harrington followed with an approach that landed 6 feet from the stick. Harrington drained the birdie try and is in position to join Woods and Davis Love III as multiple winners of this event.
The problem is Harrington's Ryder Cup teammate, Clarke. The man from Northern Ireland has as much winning experience in the United States as any foreign player in the field with victories at the 2000 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the 2003 WGC-NEC Invitational.
Although Clarke conceded he has played well recently, he seemed to be shocked at the way things are coming together this week.
'I don't know what's going on. Usually this week for me is a little bit of a party week, but my scoring is getting in the way of that,' said Clarke. 'I'm going to have to stay sensible again tonight. Hopefully I'll go out and play the same again tomorrow.'
Luke Donald (68) is alone in fifth place at minus-8, followed by Fred Couples (70), who is sixth at 7-under-par 209. Tim Clark (69) and Chris DiMarco (70) are knotted in seventh place at minus-6.
Thomas Bjorn shot a 2-under 70 and is ninth at 5-under-par 211. Woods, David Howell (73) and David Toms (70) share 10th at minus-3.
Fred Funk (69) and Jim Furyk (73) are tied for 13th at 2-under-par 214. Colin Montgomerie, who won in Hong Kong last weekend, carded a 3-under 69 and is 15th at minus-1. Love shot a 73 and is last at even-par 216.
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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.