Couch Goes from Worst to First

By Sports NetworkApril 29, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Zurich ClassicNEW ORLEANS -- Chris Couch fired an 8-under 64 early Saturday before gusty winds wreaked havoc to the third round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Couch, who played in the fourth group out on the course, is one stroke clear of the field at 12-under-par 204. Second-round leader Joe Durant birdied the last to card a 1-over 73 to join Charles Howell III (66) in second place at 11-under-par 205.
Chris Couch
Chris Couch's best finish this season is a tie for 50th at the FBR Open.
Dean Wilson (66) and Cameron Beckman (67) are one stroke further back at minus-10.
Two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson carded a 4-under 68 Saturday to move into a tie for sixth place at 9-under-par 207.
Couch got going with a 25-foot birdie putt on the third. He rolled in a birdie effort from off the green at the fifth, then got up and down for birdie on the par-5 sixth to move to 7 under.
The Florida-native birdied the par-3 eighth. Couch's approach at the ninth stopped inside 15 feet and he drained that for the fifth birdie of his round.
Couch, a five-time winner on the Nationwide Tour who is going for his first PGA TOUR title, poured in a 12-footer for birdie on 11 and capped a run of four in a row with an up-and-down birdie on the par-5 11th. Couch carded three straight pars to remain at 11 under.
He two-putted for birdie on the par-5 15th. Couch, who will turn 33-years- old on Monday, sank a birdie on the par-3 17th to move to 13 under par. However, he dropped a shot at the last to finish at minus-12.
'It was blowing from the get-go,' said Couch of the wind. 'I think it blew hard all day. It was very tough all day. I hit it really good and made some putts today. I had one bad shot there on 18, but other than that I played solid.'
Howell flew up the leaderboard with a hot front nine. He birdied each of the first two holes to move to 7 under and birdied three of the last four holes on the front nine to turn at minus-10.
The 26-year-old posted his sixth birdie on the par-5 11th. Howell, whose lone TOUR win was at the 2002 Michelob Championship at Kingsmill, came back with a birdie on the 14th. He faltered to a bogey at the last though to end one back.
'When I woke up this morning and saw the wind in the forecast, I was worried because this golf course is not easy in wind like this,' Howell stated. 'It really helped seeing Couch play good early. I see low numbers out there and think there is something out there for me.'
Durant was up and down all day. He bogeyed No. 1, birdied the next, then dropped another stroke on the third to fall to 11 under, one behind Couch.
The 42-year-old fell two behind Couch as he bogeyed the fifth. Durant got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 seventh. He struggled to three consecutive bogeys from the ninth to tumble to minus-8.
All looked lost for Durant, but he flew right back up the leaderboard with three straight birdies from No. 11 to get back in it at minus-11.
The three-time PGA TOUR winner had a short approach to the par-5 15th, but dumped that in the water. Durant managed to save bogey, but that dropped him to minus-10. He poured in a birdie putt from just inside 26 feet at the last to get back within one stroke of the lead.
'The wind blew the same direction all day, but it was very gusty, extremely gusty at times and it made choosing clubs almost impossible,' Durant admitted. 'The only thing I could really do today was keep my patience. I knew it was going to be difficult.'
Mickelson was joined at minus-9 by Stephen Leaney, Ian Poulter, Brett Wetterich, two-time winner here Carlos Franco, Matt Hansen and Tim Herron.
Louisiana-native and 2001 champion David Toms is one stroke further back at minus-8. He was joined there by seven other players.
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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.