Tanaka Quigley Set Pace in Hartford
'The greens are good and they had some pretty tough pin placements,' said Quigley, who like Tanaka is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour.
Scott Verplank, who fired a tournament-record-tying 61 in last year's final round en route to a tie for 17th, opened with a 65 on Thursday for a share of third place with Tim Herron, Briny Baird, Kaname Yokoo, Jonathan Kaye and Skip Kendall.
'I played very well actually,' said Verplank, who hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens in regulation and putted 27 times Thursday. 'I finally started rolling a few putts in. I haven't been doing much of that lately and for some reason I got a little better feel today and made a few.'
Peter Lonard, 34, a three-time winner on his home circuit in Australia, is competing in his first season on the PGA Tour after tying for 10th at the 2001 Qualifying Tournament. He has yet to miss a cut in 14 events played and was well on his way to making it 15 with a bogey-free 66 in first-round action.
Alongside Lonard at 4-under par were Kirk Triplett, Steve Pate, Glen Hnatiuk, Mathew Goggin and Steve Allan.
Notah Begay III, hampered by a bad back since winning in Hartford two years ago, shot a three-under 67, just his second sub-70 round in a year in which he's missed all 11 cuts.
Begay was in 15th place with Scott Hoch, Corey Pavin, Jim Carter, Deane Pappas, Brandt Jobe and Peter Jacobsen, who captured the 1984 Greater Hartford Open, the first held at River Highlands.
Paul Azinger, the winner here in 1987 and '89, finished four shots off the pace with 10 players, among them Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia and Joe Durant.
Although a tournament will often have problems drawing a quality field the week following a major championship, five of the top-10 players in the world decided to make the short trip from Long Island's Bethpage State Park, site of the last week's U.S. Open, to the suburbs outside Connecticut's capital.
Phil Mickelson, the second-ranked golfer in the world and the 2001 GHO champion, turned in a 1-under 69 as he began his quest to become the first player to successfully defend this title. Also with 69s were No. 3 Ernie Els and No. 4 Sergio Garcia, while Vijay Singh, the world's eighth-ranked player, carded an even-par 70.
Seventh-ranked David Duval continued his season-long struggle on Thursday. The man who will defend his British Open title a month from now made eight bogeys in a three-over 73. Should Duval fail to qualify for the weekend after Friday's round, it would mark his fourth missed cut in his last five starts.
Quigley, 32, the nephew of current Senior Tour star Dana Quigley, was caddying for his uncle when he set the tournament record of 61 at Wethersfield Country Club in 1982. While the younger Quigley didn't enter record territory on Thursday, his 64 was his best round of the 2002 campaign.
After starting strong with four birdies over his first six holes, Quigley rolled in a 20-foot birdie at the 11th. He moved atop the leaderboard with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 13th.
Quigley made bogey out of a bunker at the 16th but returned to 6-under courtesy of an 18-foot birdie putt at 17.
'I think I've tried too hard this year. I've come out feeling like I should be able to take it to the next level,' said Quigley, who registered his best showing on the PGA Tour when he finished second at last year's Greater Greensboro Classic. 'As a result, I think I've tried too hard, and certainly the last few months it's been pretty frustrating.'
Quigley missed seven cuts and was disqualified once, at Bay Hill, in his first 11 starts of 2002. Although he missed only one cut over his next six events, Quigley's highest finish in that span was a tie for 30th in Greensboro.
Tanaka, who has 15 victories worldwide, including 10 on the Japan Golf Tour, hit all 14 fairways and took just 25 putts in the first round.
'I didn't have too many big mistakes, and my putts and my shots were very good,' the 31-year-old Tanaka said through an interpreter.
The purse for the event was increased by a healthy $900,000 from last year to $4 million. The winner will take home $720,000.
Full Field Scores from the Canon Greater Hartford Open
PGA Tour Statistics
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
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.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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.”
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.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
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.
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.”