I Spy a Record for Donald

By Sports NetworkFebruary 9, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Englishman Luke Donald fired a 10-under-par 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
Donald shot his 62 on the SpyGlass Hill Golf Course, one of three courses in the rotation this week. That matched defending champion Phil Mickelson's course record from last year. Mickelson went wire-to-wire for the victory in 2005.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson's strong finish kept him within five of Luke Donald's lead.
'I'm not going to try and get ahead of myself, but it's definitely set me up well for the tournament,' said Donald, whose only PGA Tour victory was at the 2002 Southern Farm Bureau Classic. 'It's not like the tournament is over. Hopefully, I can do what Phil did last year.'
 
Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course are the other courses in the rotation as play is spread over the first three rounds. After the 54-hole cut, the golfers, who team with an amateur partner, play Pebble Beach on Sunday.
 
Mike Weir, who has three top-4 finishes in his last three starts at this tournament, posted a 9-under-par 63 at Pebble Beach. He is alone in second place.
 
Michael Allen (SpyGlass), Arron Oberholser (Poppy Hills) and Nick Watney (Pebble Beach) all carded 7-under-par 65s on Thursday, and are knotted in third place.
 
Donald began on the back nine Thursday and parred his first before an amazing stretch of golf. At the par-5 11th, Donald reached the green with a 2-iron second shot. He two-putted for birdie from 30 feet, then at the 12th, Donald sank a 45-footer for birdie.
 
The 16th-ranked player in the world rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at 13, but saved his most heroic shot for the par-5 14th. Donald holed a sand-wedge from 96 yards for eagle to reach 5 under par through his first five holes. Donald added another birdie at the par-3 15th when his pitching-wedge stopped 12 feet from the hole and he converted the putt.
 
'It was obviously a great start,' acknowledged Donald, who played on the European Ryder Cup team in 2004. 'I kept going and didn't threaten bogey all day.'
 
Donald parred his last three holes on his opening nine, but birdied the first from 4 feet. He hit a 4-iron to 30 feet at the difficult par-3 fifth, and drained the birdie putt to get to 8 under par.
 
Craig Barlow and Mike Weir
Mike Weir receives congratulations from playing competitor Craig Barlow after his 63.
At the par-5 seventh, Donald just missed the green with a 2-iron for his second shot. He chipped to 6 feet and ran home the birdie putt.
 
Donald matched Mickelson's record at the par-4 ninth. He knocked a 6-iron 12 feet over the flagstick and buried the putt to post his lowest round on the PGA Tour.
 
'It's nice to finish off strong, especially when you had a good round going,' said Donald. 'I knew that was a 62, so I was excited. I did feel very calm. I didn't feel nervous at all.'
 
Weir got off to a poor start at Pebble Beach when he missed the green left at one and made bogey. He parred the second, then went on a tear. The Canadian nearly holed his second shot at the par-4 third, but tapped in for birdie. He made it back-to-back birdies with a 4-footer at the fourth and kept it going with a long birdie putt at five.
 
The 2003 Masters champion birdied the par-5 sixth and capped off his birdie run with a 15-footer at No. 7. That was five birdies in a row for Weir and he squandered two makeable birdie putts at eight and nine.
 
After he made the turn, Weir got back on track. He drained a 12-foot birdie putt at the 10th, then hit his tee ball to 10 feet at the par-3 12th to set up another birdie.
 
He birdied 14, 16 and 18 to get within one of Donald.
 
'It was funny how it turns out like that,' joked Weir, who battled a neck injury for most of last season. 'I wasn't feeling real great with my swing. I just happened to hit a close shot and built my confidence.'
 
Brian Davis, Darron Stiles and Tim Clark all shot 66s on Thursday at Pebble Beach. They are tied for sixth place with Greg Chalmers, who fashioned his round of 66 at SpyGlass.
 
Mickelson leads a group tied for 10th place at 5-under-par 67.
 
Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk are part of a logjam in 22nd place at minus-4.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”