Kjeldsens Course Record Earns Lead

By Sports NetworkMay 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
MILAN, Italy -- Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark fired a 9-under-par 63 on Thursday to match the course record and take the lead after one round of the Italian Open.
Kjeldsen's bogey-free 63 equaled the Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club course record set by Richard Finch last year and gave him a two-shot lead over England's Benn Barham.
Standing one stroke behind Barham at 6-under-par 66 are Philip Archer, Gregory Bourdy, Andrew Butterfield, Gregory Havret, James Hepworth, Michael Kirk and Alessandro Tadini, the top Italian finisher in the first round.
There are 11 players tied one stroke further back at minus-5, and a total of 110 players who were even-par or better on Thursday.
Kjeldsen managed to stay ahead of them all.
'The course was playing quite short, but the main thing is that the greens are playing so well and it's possible to make a lot of putts,' Kjeldsen said. 'They are not that hilly either, and are just very pure. The rough isn't up as much as it was last year...the conditions were just perfect today.'
Teeing off on the back nine in one of the earliest groups, Kjeldsen began his round with four straight birdies to vault to the top of the leaderboard.
Kjeldsen followed the birdies with three pars in a row, then moved to 5 under around the turn after he birdied the 17th. Four more birdies on the front nine -- at the first, third, fifth and ninth -- gave the Dane his two-shot lead.
Kjeldsen, 30, holds a first-round lead for the first time in his European Tour career. He has not won since claiming his only title at The Diageo Championship at Gleneagles in 2003.
'I've been playing well but just had some bad Sundays,' Kjeldsen said. 'I just haven't finished the job because I've been getting into the habit of becoming a little tense on Sundays.'
This season, Kjeldsen has four top-25 finishes in 11 events, but has not placed better than a tie for 18th at the UBS Hong Kong Open in December.
'I feel I have been playing well enough and I want to see the results,' said Kjeldsen. 'It's just a case of trying to stay more relaxed like I was today.'
Barham also completed a bogey-free round Thursday. It was deserving of the top spot, but Kjeldsen's record-tying performance got in the way.
Beginning on the back nine, Barham started out with four straight pars before getting into red numbers with three birdies over the following four holes. He added another birdie at the first, and three more at the third, seventh and ninth.
Barham, 30, collected two of his birdies on par threes and two on par-5s, with his final birdie at the par-5 ninth placing him ahead of the pack knotted at 6 under.
A Challenge Tour player last year, Barham has missed the cut in seven of his 10 starts on the European Tour this season. He has recently been working with sports psychologist John Pates.
'Technically I have been happy with my game for a while,' said Barham. 'I played great on the Challenge Tour last season and this year I have forgotten about getting it round the course and making a score. John has reminded of the fact that's what you need to do to win tournaments.'
Among the 11 players tied for 10th place at 5 under is Matteo Del Podio, an Italian amateur. Fellow Italians Alessio Bruschi and Francesco Molinari are among a group of 10 knotted one stroke further back in 21st.
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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.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.