Morgan Grabs Legends Lead

By Sports NetworkApril 23, 2004, 4:00 pm
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Gil Morgan matched the course record Friday with his 7-under-par 65 and in the process, took the first-round lead of the Legends of Golf at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa.
 
Dave Barr and all-time Champions Tour wins leader Hale Irwin are tied for second place at 6-under-par 66. Craig Stadler is alone in fourth at minus-5.
 
Morgan wasted little time in breaking into red numbers. He drained a 10-foot birdie putt at the first and added a 4-footer at the next hole. Morgan chipped his third to three feet to set up birdie at the par-5 fourth but missed the green and a 10-foot par save at No. 6.
 
Morgan reclaimed the lost stroke at the ninth when he holed a 20-footer.
 
He made it back-to-back birdies at 10 when he sank a 15-foot birdie putt. Morgan made it three in a row with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 11th, then blasted out of a bunker to 3 feet to set up birdie at the 14th.
 
Morgan closed his round with a 10-foot birdie putt at the 16th to post his 22nd consecutive round of par or better.
 
'The goal today was to get into position to putt for birdie,' said Morgan, who equaled Bruce Lietzke's record from last year's second round. 'I just tried to keep it in play, get it close and roll some putts.'
 
Morgan has yet to post a round over par in his 2004 campaign and sits atop the tour's money list.
 
'It's been a pretty good run to start the season,' said Morgan. 'I think I've struck the ball better this year than last. I feel some of the aspects of my shot are better.'
 
Barr made the turn at 3-under 33, then parred his first six holes on the back nine. He drained three long birdie putts in his final three holes -- 25 feet, 35 feet and 18 feet.
 
Barr, the winner of the 2003 Royal Caribbean Golf Classic, has struggled in opening rounds this season. He has broken 70 once before Friday's round and that was at the season-opening MasterCard Championship.
 
'This is a nice turnaround for me,' said Barr. 'I'm playing with a new putter this week. Putting has been my menace.'
 
Irwin also made the turn at 3 under par but unlike Barr, Irwin moved up the leaderboard with his play early on the second nine. He played his third at the par-5 11th to tap-in range and then hit a pitching-wedge to three feet for birdie at the 12th.
 
Irwin kept his hot streak going with the pitching-wedge at 14. His approach landed five feet from the hole and he converted the birdie putt to get within one of Morgan's lead.
 
'I'm very pleased with the day especially since I had played only one round in the last four weeks,' said Irwin, who owns 38 victories on the elder circuit. 'Gil played well and I tried to keep up with him.'
 
Gary Koch, Leonard Thompson, Dana Quigley, Dave Stockton and Bruce Fleisher are knotted in fifth at 4-under-par 68.
 
Defending champion Bruce Lietzke, who is making only his fourth start of the season while battling shoulder injuries, opened with a 2-under 70 and is tied for 16th.
 
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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.