Frenchwoman Leads in Illinois
Meunier-Lebouc equaled the two-day mark established by Laura Davies in 1994 and matched by Annika Sorenstam last year. This will be the first time that Meunier-Lebouc will take the lead into the weekend on the LPGA Tour.
'There are a lot of players who can do it by the end of the week, but know I have a chance,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who represented the European team in the 2000 Solheim Cup. 'That is my dream.'
Mi Hyun Kim, the 1999 State Farm winner, shot a 4-under 68 Friday and is alone in third place at 9-under-par 135. Kim Saiki (65), Nancy Scranton (69), Cristie Kerr (69) and Betsy King (70) share fourth place at minus 8.
One of the themes of the State Farm Classic is that automatic qualifying for the United States Solheim Cup ends Sunday with the completion of the tournament. Kerr seems firmly set on the team in fifth position but Scranton, currently 14th on the list, needs a strong finish to qualify for the squad.
Meunier-Lebouc opened on the back nine at The Rail Golf Course and drained a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 12. She made it two in a row with an 18-foot birdie at the 13th. At the par-5 15th, Meunier-Lebouc knocked it on the green in two and two-putted for birdie.
The 29-year-old wasted little time collecting birdies on her second nine. At the first, Meunier-Lebouc played an 8-iron to a foot to set up the kick-in birdie. She capitalized on the remaining par-5s when she holed a pair of seven-foot birdie putts at the fourth and eighth.
Meunier-Lebouc ran into trouble on her way to the clubhouse. She drove into the rough at the ninth hole and played her second shot into a greenside bunker left of the putting surface. Meunier-Lebouc blasted out to 10 feet and two-putted for her first bogey of the tournament.
'It means a lot to me to be very consistent,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who tied for sixth here last year. 'I hit the ball pretty well now. I was not as aggressive as yesterday, but I still kept making birdies.'
Fukushima had a very inconsistent round Friday with an eagle, seven birdies, two bogeys, a double-bogey and seven pars. All totaled, it was her second 5-under 67 in as many days and she will play in the final group Saturday with Meunier-Lebouc and Kim.
'I think I shot the ball a lot better yesterday,' Fukushima said through an interpreter. 'I had some bogeys today. So overall, I think I hit it better yesterday.'
Eleven golfers share eighth place at 7-under-par 137, and among the group are several players with Solheim Cup implications. Wendy Ward is eighth on the Solheim Cup points list while Emilee Klein (12th) and Pat Hurst (13th) are trying to move inside the bubble.
The 36-hole cut fell at even-par 144 with 83 players qualifying for the weekend.
Full-field scores from the State Farm Classic
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
“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.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."