Irwin Takes ACE Group Classic

By Sports NetworkFebruary 10, 2002, 5:00 pm
Hale Irwin shot a 4-under 68 to capture his second ACE Group Classic title Sunday. He finished at 16-under 200 for his 33rd career victory on the Senior Tour.
The win moved Irwin past the $20 million mark in all-time career earnings, joining Tiger Woods as the only other player to reach that plateau. It is also the eighth straight year that Irwin has earned a Senior Tour win.
'It's been a great career,' he said. 'The entire career I've been very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.
Irwin began the day two shots behind overnight leader Tom Watson in what became a head-to-head battle between the two golf legends.
The pair stepped onto the decisive par-5 17th tee. Irwin played first, hitting his drive into a fairway bunker. It was now a three-shot hole for Irwin, with Watson giving himself the opportunity to reach the green in two after a solid tee shot.
'I knew I couldn't get to the green in two,' said Irwin. 'After Tom really bombed his drive, I wanted him to go for that green. It's not an easy shot, he just didn't hit it the way he wanted to.'
Watson had 232 yards to clear the water in front of the green, but his fairway wood fell just short of the ledge before the putting surface. His fourth shot left him with a long par putt and opened the door for Irwin.
Irwin hit out of the bunker leaving a short approach. He landed his third shot 12 feet from the hole to set up a birdie while Watson made bogey for a two-shot swing.
'I had my opportunity at 17 and I hit it about 10 yards left from where I was trying to hit it,' said Watson. 'I was trying to put the pressure on Hale. He's back there in a safe position and I'm in a risky position right there and I didn't hit the risky shot very well.'
The lead was enough for Irwin to bogey the final hole as Watson managed only a par.
'It was like the old days out there,' said Watson. 'I've always admired the way he plays.'
'It just so happened two players with some fame or infamy were
battling it out,' said Irwin.
He made his first birdie on the third to climb to 13-under while Watson matched him with a birdie on the same hole to retain the margin.
On the following hole Watson made the first of back-to-back bogeys while Irwin began his charge on the fifth with a birdie and took the lead outright at minus-14.
Irwin then birdied the sixth and ran home a long birdie putt on the seventh to take a two-shot lead over Watson at 16-under. But the 56-year-old kept Watson in the game, finding bunkers twice on the ninth for a double-bogey.
The duo was knotted in first place when Dana Quigley joined them in the lead on the 11th with a 12-foot birdie putt.
Watson set up a long eagle putt after reaching the green in two on the par-5 13th. He two-putted for birdie to move to 15-under while Irwin blasted out of a bunker to within six feet for a birdie of his own.
Irwin had a chance to re-take the lead but missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th. Watson capitalized, making birdie with a putt from just off the green.
On the 16th, the same hole Watson aced in the opening round, Irwin hit his tee shot to within 12 feet for a birdie and a share of the lead. It then came down to No. 17, where Irwin walked off with the title.
Jim Dent (66) used an eagle on the 13th to finish tied for third at 14-under 202 alongside Jim Thorpe (68). A trio of players finished one shot further back at 13-under, including Quigley (70). He was joined by Sammy Rachels (67) and Allen Doyle (69).
Ben Crenshaw, who made his Senior Tour debut, came back from an
opening-round 4-over 76 to finish at 1-under 215.
Full-field scores from the ACE Group Classic
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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.