Fleisher Nelson Share Top Spot

By Sports NetworkSeptember 26, 2003, 4:00 pm
CONOVER, N.C. -- Bruce Fleisher and Larry Nelson posted matching rounds of 8-under-par 64 Friday to share the lead after the opening round of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. Bob Gilder is one stoke further back at minus-7.
Champions Tour rookie Craig Stadler notched a 6-under-par 66. He shares fourth place with Tom Jenkins and James Mason.
Fleisher opened with a birdie at the first on the Jones Course at Rock Barn Golf Club and Spa. He birdied both front-nine par-5s, Nos. 4 and 7 to move to minus-3.
Around the turn, the Verizon Classic winner stumbled to a three-putt bogey at the 10th. He came right back to sink a 20-footer for birdie at the next to atone for that mistake.
Fleisher caught fire from there. He rolled in a birdie putt at the par-4 13th and followed with kick-in birdie at No. 14. Fleisher made it three straight when he birdied the 15th after dropping an 8-iron within two feet.
The 54-year-old continued his roll on No. 16 when he sank a birdie putt. Fleisher capped a remarkable run of five straight birdies when he made a 10-footer for birdie on the 17th.
'What is it about North Carolina? If I knew I would write a book and I'd sell it for a fortune,' said Fleisher, who has won four straight years in the state of North Carolina. 'I just like the surroundings.'
Fleisher, who was paired with Nelson and Stadler, used the strong play in the group to keep him going.
'We all played off each other out there,' said Fleisher. 'It would have been nice to birdie the last hole. Nelson is playing very good golf and he is confident.'
Nelson, like Fleisher, opened with a birdie on the first. He later sank back-to-back birdies from the fourth to climb to 3-under. However, he faltered to a bogey on the seventh but came right back to birdie the eighth to make the turn at minus-3.
On the back side, Nelson made a six-foot birdie on the 12th and made it two straight with a birdie on No. 13.
Nelson, who won the Constellation Energy Classic earlier this season, then holed a lob-wedge from 80 yards out for eagle at the 14th to get to 7-under. He finished his hot streak with a birdie at No. 15 to grab a share of the lead.
'I wanted to shoot 63 very badly,' said Nelson, who missed a short birdie try on the 18th. 'Seeing guys at 5-under early helped the guys who were playing later. We said, `Well, maybe we can go low here.''
Nelson, who has won 17 times in six years on the Champions Tour, knows this may be one of his last chances to win.
'You don't know when age is going to come and catch up with you, but I feel as good right now as I've felt ever since I've been out there,' said Nelson. 'I've always played fairly well when I've been healthy and right now I feel pretty good.'
Dana Quigley, starting his 229th consecutive event for which he's been eligible on the Champions Tour, carded a 5-under-par 67. He is joined in seventh place by Gil Morgan, Doug Tewell, Jim Thorpe and Jay Sigel, who played his college golf at nearby Wake Forest.
Bobby Wadkins and his brother, Lanny, lead a group of seven players at 4-under-par 68.

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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.

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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.