Sluman Shares Lead In Stockholm
'I had my European Tour card in 1984 but unfortunately never used it because I got my U.S. card as well, but we've had a great time in Stockholm,' said Sluman, who is playing in his first European Tour event outside the British Open. 'It's been a wonderful experience and I hope I can finish it off with a win.'
Fasth, the world's top-ranked Swede at No. 32 in the official rankings, turned in a 65. He mixed three bogeys throughout his round but countered with five birdies and a pair of eagles, his last coming on a 15-foot putt at the 17th.
McDowell, a rookie from Northern Ireland who led after the first round, rebounded from shooting a 2-over 73 Friday with a 5-under 66.
'Today I was much more relaxed and had fun out there,' said the former standout at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. 'It helped being in the third-to-last group and it will help not being in the last group as well on Sunday.'
After carding birdies on the 16th and 17th, former South African Amateur champion Trevor Immelman just missed a 10-foot birdie try at the final hole that would have lifted him into the logjam in first place. He tapped in for his second straight round of 67 at Kungsngen Golf Club and sole possession of fourth at 9-under par.
Overnight leader Warren Bennett recovered from a wild tee shot to birdie a hole for the second day in a row, but his bid for a better round was foiled by a balky putter. The Englishman shot 69 and dropped into a tie for fifth at 8-under 205 with Norway's Henrik Bjornstad (66), and the Swedish duo of Carl Pettersson (68) and Fredrik Andersson (68).
Colin Montgomerie, the defending champion seeking his fourth victory in this event, began the third round only three strokes off the lead. However, the burly Scot rang up a triple-bogey six at the par-3 16th on his way to a 3-over 74, knocking him back to even par for the tournament.
Sluman, two shots back to start the day, produced three birdies on each nine. He birdied all three of the par-5s including the 520-yard 17th, where he reached a greenside bunker in two and blasted out to easy birdie range.
The 1988 PGA Champion is in position to win his second title of the 2002 season. He posted rounds of 64-66-63-68 en route to a four-stroke victory at last month's Greater Milwaukee Open.
Sluman's decision to enter the field for the Scandinavian Masters was made easier due to the fact he was already scheduled to be in Sweden to attend the wedding of Jesper Parnevik's sister Jill to Per-Ulrik Johansson.
'Jesper's been trying to get me to come over for the last few years but the wedding clinched it,' said Sluman, whose wife Linda is half-Swedish.
'A Swedish wedding is a little different from an American one, but it's something I will always remember.'
Johansson celebrated his recent nuptials by setting a new Kungsngen course record Saturday with an 8-under-par 63. He broke the previous mark of 64 established by McDowell in the opening round.
'I'm a very happy man,' said Johansson, who birdied the 17th Friday to make the cut by one shot. Saturday's 63 pulled him within four strokes of the lead at 6-under par.
'My slow start was more down to the fact that I am really tired and I haven't practiced much, so I wasn't really into the first two rounds.'
Parnevik rolled in a 20-foot putt on the 18th for his third consecutive birdie to close his round. He shot a 68 to finish at minus 5.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“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 four 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.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."