Past Tops Present at LPGA Championship

By Sports NetworkJune 7, 2002, 4:00 pm
WILMINGTON, Del. -- Beth Daniel, a 32-time winner on the LPGA Tour, posted a 1-under 70 Friday to lead the LPGA Championship. Daniel's 36-hole total of 5-under-par 137 is good for a two-shot lead over defending champion Karrie Webb heading into the weekend.
 
Se Ri Pak carded a 1-under 70 to move into a share of third. She was joined by Carin Koch at 1-under-par 141.
 
A total of 72 golfers returned to DuPont Country Club Friday morning to complete the opening round after storms forced the suspension of play Thursday.
 
Daniel was already in the clubhouse Thursday after a round of 4-under 67. She trailed Karrie Webb, who was at 5-under through 15 holes before play was called.
 
Webb, who became the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam with her victory here last year, resumed her round and double-bogeyed the par-3 17th en route an opening-round 3-under 68.
 
'Obviously, I had a lot of momentum going yesterday afternoon, and I probably would have finished my round off a little better than I did this morning,' said Webb.
 
The 27-year-old began her second round almost immediately and faltered out of the gates with a bogey at the par-4 10th. She recovered with a birdie at the 13th and made it two in a row after she landed her second shot within 12 feet of the cup at No. 14.
 
However, Webb had a shaky inward nine with bogeys at the second and seventh holes. The Australian salvaged what she could with a 20-foot birdie at the eighth for a round of even-par 71.
 
'It took a long time before I could trust that the greens were a little bit softer and that the fairways were softer, so the course played extremely long,' said Webb, who stands at 3-under-par 139.
 
Daniel, who took to the course with a one-shot lead over Webb, also played the back nine first and faired much better initially. At the par-3 13th, Daniel knocked a four-iron three feet from the hole. She converted the short birdie putt to take a two-shot lead.
 
'No one in that swing that went off this morning really did anything, so I knew the course was probably playing pretty tough or just as tough, and as it turned out, it was,' said Daniel.
 
The 45-year-old soon found some trouble of her own. At the very next hole, Daniel landed short of the green and three-putted for bogey. She two-putted for bogey at the 15th to fall back into a tie with Webb.
 
Daniel persisted and regained the lead with a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth to return to 4-under.
 
She added to her advantage at the very last hole after she dropped a sand wedge six feet from the jar. Daniel ran home the putt to finish with a two-shot cushion at the same event in which she earned her first and only major title.
 
'I was real pleased to end up shooting 1-under because I really didn't hit my irons very well,' said Daniel, who won this event in 1990. 'So as a result, I missed a lot of greens short, but that's not such a bad thing on this golf course. I was able to get it up and down most of the time.'
 
Pak, who won this event in 1998, collected three birdies and two bogeys to finish four shots off the pace. The 24-year-old also won the U.S. Women's Open in 1998 and captured the Women's British Open in 2001.
 
Akiko Fukushima and Kim Saiki each shot rounds of 71 to finish tied for fifth at even-par 142.
 
Michele Redman (69), Rachel Teske (71), Michelle McGann (72), Barb Mucha (73) and Catriona Matthew (73) were knotted at 1-over-par 143.
 
Annika Sorenstam, who is trying to become the first woman since Pat Bradley in 1986 to win the first two majors of a season, finds herself nine shots off the pace after she failed to make a single birdie.
 
The 31-year-old, who successfully defended her title at the Nabisco Championship in March, struggled to a 5-over 76 to come in at 4-over-par 146.
 
The 36-hole cut fell at 8-over-par 150 with 71 players qualifying for the weekend. Among those who didn't make the grade was two-time LPGA Championship winner Laura Davies.
 
Full-field scores from the McDonald's LPGA Championship
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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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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.