Norton to Battle Smith In Mid-Amateur Final

By Usga News ServicesOctober 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
Wilmington, Del. ' Two players making their first appearances in the U.S. Mid-Amateur will duel it out for the right to be called champion Thursday at Wilmington Country Club.
 
Forty-four-year-old Bryan Norton of Mission Hills, Kan., and Nathan Smith, 25, of Brookville, Pa., will be paired in the final 36-hole match on the South Course.
 
A former professional on the PGA European Tour and PGA Tour, Norton dispatched defending champion George Zahringer, 50, of New York, N.Y., 3 and 1. Earlier in the day, Norton came back to defeat 35-year-old Pat Carter of Lesage, Va., in 19 holes.
 
Smith carved his way to the final by eliminating Alan Hill, 41, of Spring Branch, Texas, 5 and 4, in the semifinals and 1995 champion Jerry Courville, 44, of Milford, Conn., 3 and 2.
 
The winner of the Mid-Amateur historically receives an invitation to play in the upcoming Masters in April.
 
That would be the dream of dreams, and some kind of Cinderella story, said Smith, vying to supplant Greg Puga as the youngest ever Mid-Amateur champion. I cant even comprehend that right now.
 
Norton has played in four U.S. Opens and one British Open, tying for 28 th in 1990 at St. Andrews. Earlier this year he was the medalist at the British Mid-Amateur before losing in the second round. The championship this week marks just the fourth individual tournament hes played all year.
 
You know, it would be great, but at the same time, I dont know how well I could be playing in April, joked Norton. I cant even break 80 in May.
 
Except for a couple of missed 3-foot putts, Norton didnt look rusty Wednesday. In the match against Zahringer, Norton never trailed. He grabbed the lead on the fifth hole, pushing the advantage to 2 up by the turn.
 
In all, he had two birdies, the last of which came on the par-3 17 th hole where he stuck his drive to within 7 feet of the hole. But there was a reason for the shortage. Wind gusts of up to 30 mph played tricks with the ball all day.

Case in point: In Zahringers quarterfinal match against 31-year-old Rick Reinsberg of Lafayette, Calif., Reinsberg called a penalty on himself on the 18 th green after the wind moved his ball while he addressed it.
 
We went straight from summer to fall, said Smith. There were times you wanted to put it on the tee, quickly address it and hope it didnt move.
 
Zahringer, who made it to the finals the last two years, cut the deficit to 2 down when he knocked his 140-yard approach shot to 2 feet on No. 15 to win the hole but he couldnt sustain the charge back.
 
On No. 17, with the match dormie, Zahringer hit the fat part of the green for a 30-foot putt. He opted to chip, but the ball only went 12 feet. Soon after he conceded.
 
Looking back, [Norton] played steady all afternoon, said Zahringer. He had a very good ball-striking round.
 
It was pretty tough. I was kind of fighting my swing all week.
 
In the other semifinal match, Smith won five of the first six holes before Hill could capture his first at No. 7. The highlight for Smith came on the 378-yard par-4 sixth. Far left off the tee, Smiths ball bounded under branches behind trees with no sight line to the hole. He hit a blind approach shot to the green and two-putted to set up an impressive save par.
 
A graduate student at Clarion University in search of his MBA, Smith studied most of this week for an accounting test ' that was to take place Wednesday evening. He had a premonition that he would have to reschedule the exam.
 
The other night, you know what, I said to myself, Somethings going on here and closed the books, said Smith, whose father, Larry, is on his bag.
 
Neither Norton nor Smith knew anything about one another. Norton regained his amateur status in 1998, several years removed from a professional career on the PGA European Tour (1987-91) and one on the PGA Tour (1991). For six years after leaving the tours, he hardly competed, less alone played, he said.
 
My take is that the guys who play the most have the best advantage, said Norton, when asked about his professional past. Thats where you can get the advantage. I dont care if youre a pro or an amateur.
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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.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

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, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“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 more than three 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.