Sterne leads, Garcia three back in Dubai

By Associated PressFebruary 1, 2013, 3:23 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Richard Sterne sank a birdie on 18 to take a one-shot lead over Danish youngster Thorbjorn Olesen and two others after the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia pulled to within three of Sterne despite struggling with shoulder problems that required treatment midway through his round.

Sterne, a South African who has struggled with his own injuries in recent years, finished the day with a 12-under total of 132. Olesen (66), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and Stephen Gallacher (70) were a shot back.

Sterne had a topsy-turvy round in which he grabbed the lead with a birdie on 13 only to fall back into a tie when his drive went into sandy rough and he bogeyed 14. He recovered, though, with a 3-wood that traveled 250 yards and landed on the fringe for a long eagle putt. He rolled it to four feet and sank it for the birdie and outright lead at the halfway point.

''I'm pretty happy with the performance today. It was not as easy as yesterday,'' said Sterne, who was a shot from matching the course record on Thursday with a 10-under 62. ''I held it together and I made a couple of good putts at the right time and a couple of good shots.'

The 165th-ranked Sterne barely played in 2010 and 2011 because of a bad back, and was forced to spend his time watching countrymen win majors while he recuperated. He has won five times on the European Tour – the last time in 2009 – but admitted this was a rare occasion when he was leading coming into the weekend.

''I always kind of won coming from behind. I've been close to the lead on Sunday so I know what it's about,'' Sterne said. ''There's a long way to go in this tournament. The guys are bunched up and there are some good players and I think anyone five or six back has still got a good chance of winning.''

Olesen, a Dane who won his first tour event last year, started off with four birdies and sank a 15-footer on his 10th to move into a share of the lead. He briefly took the lead alone when he sank a 20-footer for one of his six birdies. He also didn't drop a shot for the second day in a row.

''I played more solidly, definitely. I rolled the putts really nicely the first two days, and that's why I'm 11 under,'' Olesen said. ''I struck the irons a lot better today. I was still struggling a little bit from the tee and I got a few good breaks out there, especially on 8. It could have been a double but I saved par there.''

Olesen is considered one of the rising stars of European golf. He signed alongside Rory McIlroy with Nike last month and broke into the top 50 with a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi, ensuring he will play all four majors this year.

''I want to win twice this season,'' he said. ''That's my main goal. So the quicker I can get the first one, the better.''

Six more players were within three shots of Sterne including Garcia, whose 67 put him at 9 under.

Early on, it appeared it would be a disappointing day for Garcia. The tightness in his left shoulder during the first round continued on Friday. He contemplated withdrawing four holes into the round but reconsidered when he got hot, carding two of his five birdies and an eagle on the final three holes.

''On the 14th green, I told my caddie, if it doesn't get better after 18, we'll probably walk. Because what I don't want is to keep building up and not really recover it,'' Garcia said. ''Then, unfortunately, we started making birdies and eagles, and I thought, well, what do we do now? So I got the physio out and, he worked on it a little bit, put some ball on it. It did feel a little bit better.''

Lee Westwood didn't fare so well. On track to finish the day at 8 under, he double-bogeyed the 17th after drove into sandy rough, botched a chip, and missed a short bogey putt. On 18, he reached the greenside rough in two but missed an eight-foot birdie putt to finish at 6 under.

Two-time major winner Mark O'Meara, who was in contention after the first round at 5 under, shot 2-over 74 on Friday to just make the cut at 3 under. Colin Montgomerie, shot 75 to sit level par. He missed the cut that was projected to be at 2 under.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”