Couch Takes Comfy Lead

By Sports NetworkNovember 1, 2003, 5:00 pm
PRATTVILLE, Ala. -- Chris Couch fashioned a 7-under 65 on Saturday to open a four-shot lead at the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship. Couch finished 54 holes at 18-under-par 198 in search of his second victory of the year.
 
Tjaart Van der Walt fired a 65 of his own to finish alone in second place at 14-under-par 202. Ken Duke, who played alongside Couch on Saturday, was one shot further back at 13-under-par 203.
 
Couch had already put together two solid rounds on the Senator Course at Capitol Hill before taking control of the tournament on Saturday.
 
He ran off back-to-back birdies starting at the par-4 third but found trouble with a bogey at the fifth. Couch recovered with a birdie at the seventh and rolled in a six-foot putt for a birdie at the eighth.
 
At the par-5 10th, Couch hit a stellar second shot that stopped within inches of the cup. He tapped in for the eagle to reach 16 under.
 
'That might be the best shot of my life,' said Couch. 'When it was in the air I thought it was going in. I don't think I've ever hit a shot that high before.'
 
Couch stumbled with a bogey at the 12th but countered at the par-4 14th and his approach dropped inside 12 feet for a birdie. Couch kept on rolling and knocked his second shot to five feet for a birdie at the very next hole.
 
The 30-year-old two-putted for a birdie at the par-5 17th to cap the dominating performance.
 
'I told my coach earlier this week that this is the best I've ever swung it,' said Couch, who has already secured his PGA Tour card for 2004. 'I'm striking the ball really well and making putts. But I never imagined it would be 18 under par after three rounds. I just want to stay focused for 18 holes tomorrow.'
 
Van der Walt is in a slightly different position than Couch. The South African is currently 25th on the money list, but a strong finish on Sunday would be enough to move him into the top 20 and grant him an exemption on the PGA Tour.
 
He collected three birdies and a bogey on the front side before coming on strong down the stretch.
 
Van der Walt tallied two straight birdies from the 14th and dropped his second shot inside six feet en route to an eagle at the par-5 17th.
 
At the par-4 last, Van der Walt drained a long birdie putt to finish four shots off the pace.
 
'The putts I've been missing I made up for on the last few holes,' said Van der Walt. 'I didn't even look at the board so I don't know where I'm at. But I do know I played well today.'
 
Wes Short posted a 5-under 67 to join D.J. Brigman in a tie for fourth at 11-under-par 205. Nationwide Tour money leader Zach Johnson was one shot further back at 10-under-par 206 along with Jason Bohn, Daniel Chopra and Chris Tidland.
 
Jess Daley and Doug LaBelle II shared 10th place at 9-under-par 207.
 
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    McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

    By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

    The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

    McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

    McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

    ''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

    Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

    ''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

    McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

    ''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

    ''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

    The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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    Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

    By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

    If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

    Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

    If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

    Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

    Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

    I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

    A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

    And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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    Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

    The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

    Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

    “I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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    Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

    Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.