Former Open Champ Leads in DC

By Sports NetworkJune 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Booz Allen ClassicPOTOMAC, Md. -- Ben Curtis fired a career-best 9-under-par 62 on Thursday to take the lead after one round of the Booz Allen Classic.
Four days after finishing 57th at a tough U.S. Open, Curtis made the TPC at Avenel look easy, carding nine birdies in a bogey-free round to take a one-shot lead over Jeff Gove.
Ben Curtis
Ben Curtis is seeking his first win on TOUR since the 2003 Open Championship.
'I think after playing last week, the fairways look like they are 80 yards wide, the greens look huge, so you just kind of free swing,' said Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion. 'I felt like if I could get my irons going that I could shoot a good number.'
Curtis collected his birdies in two long stretches: four straight from the second, and five in a row from the 13th. The 62 bested his previous career-low of 64, set three times, including twice last year.
'Everything was easy,' said Curtis. 'I hit every shot pretty much where I wanted to. Hit it close quite a few times and made a few putts as well. So everything, it just was slow and easy.'
Gove posted nine birdies too, but also had a bogey in his round of 8-under-par 63. He was 6 under par on the front nine.
Jose Coceres shot a 7-under 64 to stand alone in third place. Steve Flesch and Will MacKenzie share fourth place 6-under 65, while Bart Bryant, Grant Waite and James H. McLean are tied one shot further back in sixth.
A lot of players chose to take this week off following four long days at Winged Foot and the U.S. Open. Curtis saw it a different way.
'For me, I was playing well, so I knew I needed to play. If I wasn't playing well, then maybe I wouldn't be here,' said Curtis.
'Just because all the top players in the world aren't here doesn't mean it's not a good field. Everybody here is a good player, and so anybody can play anymore. That's the way golf is going.'
Curtis opened his round with a par, then began his first birdie string at the par-5 second, where he knocked a sand wedge within 4 feet.
He followed that with long birdie putts at the third and fourth holes before setting up the fourth birdie with another nice sand wedge shot at the par-4 fifth.
After seven consecutive pars, Curtis chipped to within a foot at the par-5 13th to get back on the birdie track. He drove the green at the 301-yard, par-4 14th and two-putted for another birdie.
Curtis went pin-seeking on the next three holes, rolling putts of 12, one and eight feet to reach minus-9.
Since claiming the British Open in 2003 -- in just his 16th start on the PGA TOUR, no less -- Curtis has gone without a second victory. Thursday was the sixth time he has held a first-round lead since that day at Royal St. George's.
'I feel like I'm playing like I did three years ago,' said Curtis. 'I'm making a lot of cuts, just haven't put four rounds together. So I felt like if I could get four rounds together then I would play extremely well and maybe have a chance to win.
'It's been tough, but the last year, but it's been pretty good. I just wish I could get four rounds together.'
Gove strung three birdies together from the 14th hole to pull within one shot of Curtis, but ended with two straight pars. His 63 was also a personal best -- one shot better than the 64 he shot in the second round of the 2002 Greater Hartford Open.
Weak as the field is this week -- only two of the world top 20 are here -- it got weaker when defending champion Sergio Garcia pulled out with a back injury.
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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.