Sunday showdown looms for McIlroy and company

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2016, 4:03 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Rory McIlroy envisioned this being a statement week, he just didn’t figure he’d have so much company on his way to a 2016 kick off.

After all, the last time McIlroy teed off on a Sunday in this desert it was essentially a two-man race between himself and Andy Sullivan at the DP World Tour Championship, in November up the road in Dubai.

For Sunday’s sequel, however, McIlroy will set out early tied with four others for the lead, including Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter and Branden Grace.

All total, 16 players are within three strokes of the lead, including Jordan Spieth and esoteric American amateur Bryson DeChambeau.

“This one is a bit more bunched. I think there will be a few more in contention,” said McIlroy, who beat Sullivan in November at the DP World Tour Championship by a stroke.

The stars have aligned for a possible showdown between McIlroy and Spieth, although it’s not likely they will be paired together with the Northern Irishman needing to finish his third round and the world No. 1 already in the clubhouse at 7 under.

More likely is a challenge by committee, with a host of proven players within striking distance.

Among that group would be Grace, who emerged as a major player with top-5 finishes at the U.S. Open (T-4) and PGA Championship (third) last year and fresh off four consecutive top-10 finishes, including a third-place showing last November at the European Tour finale.


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Poulter should also be considered a legitimate contender among the group of would-be winners, having emerged from last week’s EurAsia Cup in something close to his signature Ryder Cup form.

“It’s match play, whenever you go head-to-head you get the juices going, and that's obviously nice as the first tournament of the year,” Poulter said of last week’s matches. “I think it's done me some good, and I think I'm looking forward to what the challenge is for the next 20, 26 holes.”

The biggest challenge for McIlroy may be avoiding the sight of any leaderboards during what will be a marathon Sunday, particularly with the likes of Spieth looming.

Spieth rebounded after finishing his second round early Saturday, a 1-over 73 that was his first over-par card in his last 21 worldwide rounds, with a flawless third round.

Starting Round 3 at the 10th hole, he birdied two of his first three holes and added two more birdies before racing into the clubhouse before darkness halted play with a 4-under 68.

“I started out this tournament not driving the ball particularly well the first 12, 13 holes and since then my driver has been on,” said Spieth, who won his first start of the year two weeks ago at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by eight strokes.

“I can make excuses all I want; I still haven't made many putts and there's no excuses for that. It can all come together tomorrow. It's happened many times in random rounds. Why not the fourth round here?”

McIlroy can still change the narrative of a jam-packed leaderboard. He was 2 under for the day when play was halted by darkness through nine holes.

When he returned to the golf course early Saturday to complete his fog-delayed second round he was four strokes out of the lead, but closed his morning with a birdie-eagle finish at Nos. 17 and 18 to narrow that gap.

Like Spieth and Fowler, McIlroy – who is making his 2016 debut this week – has gotten sharper with each passing round and his driving is reminiscent of when he won majors by eight strokes.

“Twenty-seven holes left to play and hopefully I can play a good back nine tomorrow morning and set myself up for an exciting last 18 [holes],” McIlroy said.

In short, McIlroy is hoping history repeats itself Sunday morning in the United Arab Emirates, and Sunday afternoon.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1