McDowell Vaults into Lead

By Sports NetworkSeptember 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
COLOGNE, Germany -- Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell fired an 8-under 64 on Friday to surge ahead at the Linde German Masters. McDowell finished 36 holes at 11-under-par 133 for a three-shot lead heading into the weekend.
 
Raphael Jacquelin of France joined Australian's Nick O'Hern and Richard Green in a tie for second at 8-under-par 136. Germany's Alex Cejka was one shot further back at 7-under-par 137.
 
McDowell, who won this year's Italian Open, was hardly in contention for a spot in the Ryder Cup this year, but the 25-year-old finished within reach of one of the last entries on the European points list.
 
'I began to realize how realistic the Ryder Cup really is for me,' said McDowell. 'I obviously played great for the first six, seven months this year and put myself right in the position where Ryder Cup was obviously realistic and I missed out this time, but 2006, Ireland is certainly going to be right on my horizon.'
 
He birdied the first two holes at Gut Lrchenhof on Friday and knocked his third in a greenside bunker at the par-5 third. McDowell then hit his sand shot within a few inches of the hole and tapped in to make it three in a row.
 
McDowell added a birdie at the par-5 seventh and joined the leaders at 8 under par with a birdie at the par-3 11th. He fell one off the pace with a bogey at the par-5 13th, but recovered in style at the very next hole.
 
'Kind of had a bit of nightmare on 13,' said McDowell. 'Some times the golf course takes things away and gives them straight back.'
 
McDowell holed out from the fairway with a wedge for a birdie at the par-4 14th and followed that up with a birdie at the 15th. He added to his lead with a birdie at the par-4 17th to hold the top spot through 36 holes for the first time in his European Tour career.
 
'The course is yielding a lot of birdies,' said McDowell. 'The front nine was playing difficult and right about our 10th or 11th hole today the wind actually started to subside a little bit and I guess we had it a little easier coming in.'
 
Jacquelin played the back side first and collected three bogeys and two birdies over his first nine holes. He began to turn things around with a birdie at the second and hit his third shot within a foot of the hole for a birdie at the par-5 third.
 
The 30-year-old drained a 14-foot putt for a birdie at the fourth and played his second shot to 8 feet for a birdie at the fifth. Jacquelin then birdied the seventh for his second straight round of 68.
 
O'Hern tallied five birdies and a bogey for a 68 of his own, while Green did the same for his 68.
 
Thomas Levet carded a 68 to take sixth place alone at 6-under-par 138 as the top-ranked European Ryder Cup member through the second round. Greg Owen and Robert-Jan Derksen tied for seventh place at 5-under-par 139.
 
Ryder Cup member Paul Casey shared ninth place with Peter O'Malley at 4-under-par 140.
 
Another pair of Ryder Cuppers were one shot further back at 3-under-par 141, including first-round leader Padraig Harrington. Harrington struggled to a 75 on Friday to join teammate Darren Clarke, Alastair Forsyth and Raymond Russell in a tie for 11th.
 
Defending champion K.J. Choi finished at 2-over-par 146, one shot off the cut line, which fell at 3-over-par 147.
 
A total of 72 players survived to play the weekend. Among those who won't be around are Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer and team members Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter. Open champion Todd Hamilton also missed the cut.
 
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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.