Weir in the Drivers Seat at Nissan

By Sports NetworkFebruary 21, 2004, 5:00 pm
Defending champion and 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir fired a 5-under 66 on Saturday to storm into the third-round lead of the Nissan Open. The Canadian stands at 17-under-par 196 and owns a five-shot lead over Shigeki Maruyama, who shared the overnight lead with Weir.
Weir established a new 54-hole record at this event with his 17-under-par-196 total. Fred Couples held the previous mark at 197 in 1990 and Couples went on to the winner's circle that year.
Maruyama birdied the last to post an even-par 71. Jeff Maggert shot a 2-under 69 to take third place at 11-under-par 202, followed by Scott McCarron, who carded a 1-over 72 on Saturday for a solo fourth at minus-10.
John Daly will have to make up a lot of ground if he is to win two weeks in a row on tour. Last week's Buick Invitational winner put up a round of 1-over 72 and is tied for fifth place with Mercedes Championships winner Stuart Appleby (70), Loren Roberts (69) and Briny Baird (73). That group is at 9-under-par 204.
Tiger Woods never mounted a charge on Saturday. He struggled to a 1-over 72 and is tied for 44th place at 3-under-par 210.
Saturday's round featured cooler temperatures and steady rainfall. As the round pressed on, the rain intensified but all 78 players completed their third rounds, albeit on a much longer course than earlier in the week.
With the increased length the rain brought, the storyline of the third round was the difference in play by the leaders on Riviera Country Club's final three par-3 holes.
The second-round leaders remained knotted until the par-3 sixth. Weir sank a 16-foot birdie putt to go to 13-under par, while Maruyama made bogey and fell two behind.
'That got momentum on my side,' Weir said.
The margin held at two as both players tapped in short birdie putts at the 10th and each made lengthier birdie tries at No. 11. The next swing hole came at another par-three, the 14th.
Weir landed his tee ball 17 feet long and left of the hole while Maruyama pushed his iron shot right into a greenside bunker. Maruyama blasted out to 20 feet and missed his par putt but Weir cashed in his birdie opportunity to complete another two-shot swing and move four ahead of Maruyama, his closest competitor.
At the 166-yard 16th, Weir hit his first to 11 feet but Maruyama missed the green left of a bunker. He pitched to 12 feet and his par-saving putt died short of the hole. The reigning owner of the green jacket poured his putt in the center of the cup and now it was a six-shot advantage.
'It was a tough day out there. I really leaned pretty hard on my short game today,' said Weir.
Although Weir seems to have a commanding lead, history has not been kind to the Canadian left-hander when he owns at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Weir has had a piece of the 54-hole lead five times in his PGA Tour career and has posted zero victories with his best finish a second at Doral in 2001.
'I'm looking at this as a big challenge,' said Weir, whose six tour victories have all been comebacks. 'I want to prove to myself that I can handle leading by five shots like I am. I want to go out there and play solid golf tomorrow and make whoever is challenging tomorrow do something phenomenal to catch me.'
Maruyama birdied the final hole to close within five of Weir's lead at 12- under-par 201.
Tim Clark (64), Carl Pettersson (68), J.J. Henry (65), Hank Kuehne (68), Aaron Baddeley (69) and Kirk Triplett (72) share ninth place nine shots out of the lead at minus-8.
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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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    Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

    After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

    La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

    "Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

    Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

    The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

    "That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''