Wagner in Familiar Position

By Sports NetworkMay 11, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Rheem ClassicFORT SMITH, Ark. -- Johnson Wagner fired a 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Rheem Classic at Hardscrabble Country Club.
 
John Merrick aced the par-3 17th and is alone in second place at 5-under-par 65.
 
Brandt Snedeker, Darron Stiles, Franklin Langham, Craig Lile, Erik Compton and David Hearn are knotted in third place at minus-4.
 
Wagner, who won this year's Louisiana Open, flew out of the gate on Thursday with a 15-foot birdie putt at the first. He hit a 6-iron to 6 feet to set up birdie at the par-3 fourth to reach 2 under par.
 
At the par-5 sixth, Wagner missed the putting surface with his second. He chipped to 12 feet and rolled in the birdie putt. Wagner made it two in a row thanks to a strong 7-iron approach that stopped 4 feet from the flagstick at the seventh.
 
He made the turn at 4 under par, but promptly gave one back. Wagner's drive at the 10th found the trees and he could not convert a 6-footer for par. He reclaimed the lost stroke with a 12-footer at the par-5 11th.
 
Wagner's second at the par-4 14th found a bunker, but he holed out from the trap for his sixth birdie. He took sole possession of the lead with a long birdie putt at the 16th.
 
'I made a lot of putts, got a lot of good breaks and just capitalized on every one of them,' said Wagner, who only needed 24 putts to make it around the Hardscrabble course on Thursday.
 
Wagner is third on the Nationwide Tour money list thanks to the win in Louisiana. That puts him in good shape to earn his PGA TOUR card, but Wagner is not resting yet.
 
'Right now, there's almost no pressure because I'm so close,' said Wagner. 'But, I'm still not there. A good week here can solidify that. It was probably one of the best rounds I've ever had out here.'
 
Merrick collected three birdies over his first nine holes, then bogeyed the 10th. He recorded back-to-back birdies from the 12th, but dropped another shot at the par-3 15th.
 
He fell down to 3 under par until the ace at the 204-yard, par-3 17th. That vaulted him into second place by himself.
 
Scott Dunlap, Scott Parel, Josh Broadaway, Scott Gutschewski and Dicky Pride share ninth place after opening rounds of 3-under-par 67.
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    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.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    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.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    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.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    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.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.