Bjorn in Familiar Territory at Dubai
The duo owns a one-shot edge over Ernie Els, the winner of the last week's Genuity Championship on the PGA Tour, Charlie Wi, Olle Karlsson, Ryder Cupper Niclas Fasth and his captain at the Belfry, Sam Torrance, who made his 2002 season debut after knee surgery.
The co-leaders are also making returns to the tour in some respects. For Bjorn, this is his first competitive action of the year after a shoulder injury caused him to miss several months.
'I didnt have any expectations,' said Bjorn, who bested Tiger Woods by two shots last year. 'I knew I was swinging the club well but I would have taken anything under par for my first competitive round of the year. I knew if I went out and hit the shots Ive been hitting on the range then I could shoot 64 but it could also have all gone up in the air.'
Karlsson's absence was for a more joyous occasion. Prior to Christmas, he welcomed his first daughter, Thea, into the world and he took time off to be a father after three tournaments early in the 2002 campaign.
'Thea, my baby daughter, was born on the 19th of December and I was getting used to being a father when I went to Australia,' said Karlsson, a four-time winner on the European Tour. 'Perhaps I should have practiced instead of playing. However Ive got over the shock of being a dad and Ive practiced hard during my break.'
Bjorn opened with three birdies in his first six holes at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club before adding another birdie at No. 11. The Dane matched Karlsson for the lead with a birdie at the 17th hole to reach minus-five.
Karlsson took a different approach to his 67, mixing five birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. His birdie at the ninth, his final hole of Thursday's opening round, gave him the clubhouse lead over his playing partner, Els.
Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, collected five birdies and a bogey while showing no hangover from his win on the PGA Tour last weekend.
'I felt good today,' said Els, who won the Heineken Classic in early February. 'The celebrations and all that stuff was done and dusted. I like the course and Im ready to play.'
Torrance, the European Ryder Cup captain, came out on fire with four birdies in a row, starting at the second hole. He picked up two birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way for his 68.
'It was just down to wear and tear,' said Torrance of his knee injury. 'I hadnt had any problems before and it seems fine now. Today was all a bit of a shock, to be honest, but a nice way to start the year.'
Pierre Fulke, also a member of the European Ryder Cup team, posted a 3-under 69 and shares eighth with Mark Mouland, Paul Broadhurst, Gregory Havret, Sven Struver and John Bickerton.
Padraig Harrington shot a 2-under 70 while Colin Montgomerie carded a 1-under 71 Thursday and is part of a logjam tied for 28th.
Darren Clarke, Justin Rose and Nick Faldo are part of a group at even-par 72, five shots out of the lead.
Full field scores from the Dubai Desert Classic
Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race
A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.
Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.
Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.
Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:
1. Brooks Koepka
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Justin Thomas
5. Bubba Watson
6. Jordan Spieth
7. Rickie Fowler
8. Webb Simpson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Phil Mickelson
11. Xander Schauffele
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Kevin Kisner
14. Tony Finau
15. Brian Harman
On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.
Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:
1. Francesco Molinari
2. Justin Rose
3. Tyrrell Hatton
4. Tommy Fleetwood
1. Jon Rahm
2. Alex Noren
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Paul Casey
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.