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Honda Classic. Rory Mac Still on Track.

dragon logo darkThe Honda Classic LogoRory McIlroy is still on track to win The Honda Classic, leading the competition on  the PGA National course at Palm Beach Gardens.

In driver's seat at Honda

Rory McIlroy / Getty Images

Rory shot a -4 under par 66 to maintain his momentum at the top of the leaderboard at The Honda Classic, with a -11 under par total. He spoke about his implosion last year and thinks maturity has helped him overcome those difficulties;

“It’s a different end of the spectrum I guess, I wasn’t quite comfortable with my golf swing. I was still tinkering with equipment. I just wasn’t feeling in control of, you know, what I needed to be in control of. This year is obviously a lot different. I think it’s just a sign of a little more maturity, not really trying to force the issue or press. I knew that with the way I’m playing and the confidence in my ability, I would be able to get those shots back. I didn’t panic.”

“When you’re not quite in control of your swing, your confidence can sort of go in peaks and troughs. When you hit a few good shots, your confidence can go up quite quickly but then you hit one bad one, it can sort of go down again and that’s where I was sort of most of last year. Now I feel I’m happy with where my swing is, and even if I do hit a loose shot, I can get over it much quicker and much easier because I have the confidence in what I’m doing. I’m playing well and I’m comfortable.”

Brendon de Jong is in second place after his super second round -6 under par 64, which elevated him to -10 under par overall. Brendon, who has never won on the PGA TOUR,  will be in the last group Saturday, alongside Rory. He mentioned the wind picking up in the afternoon;

“I think I might have got a little bit of switch in the wind. I feel very comfortable, I’ve been out here long enough now. I’ve played quite a bit with Rory. I know obviously what a great player he is. I feel very comfortable. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

In third place at -8 under par is Russell Henley, who carded a second round -2 under par 70, to stay in touch with the leaders.

Among those making the cut on the number, at even par were some dignitaries; Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, V.J. Singh and Paul Casey.

Tiger reported;

“I hit it good enough to shoot probably at least three or four lower than I did. I had so many looks where I just missed, and I just need to read them a little bit better than I did today.”

Sergio is struggling;

“It’s just been a little bit of a struggle, it’s just one of those weeks where you just don’t feel it. I wish I could put my hand on what it is. I just didn’t feel comfortable starting out, but I have to be happy with the finish and hope for a decent weekend.”

There were also a couple of big names on the missed cut column, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. Phil was +1 over par and Henrik was +9 over par for the first two rounds.

Accenture Match-Play. Rose & Rory Out. Magic McDowell Survives Again.

dragon logo darkAccenture Logo

Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy crashed out of the Accenture Match-Play tournament at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Course on Dove Mountain. Graeme McDowell survived another match where he looked like losing, once again.

Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)

Survivor G-Mac / Getty Images

Justin went down to Ernie Els, 1 up, while Rory lost to Harris English, on the 19th hole. G-Mac went three down after six holes against  Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan. He then birdied the seventh and eighth to get within one hole, only to then lose the 14th to be two down with four holes to play. Graeme won the 15th and the 17th, and rounding off with  a ten foot putt on the final green to seal a one up win.

He joked afterwards;

“Why do it the easy way when the hard way will do. I just got off to a slow start again, probably less so today. I was quite proud of myself when I got a half on three, so I was only two down after three, as opposed to three down. I tried to go out there today and execute my game plan and try not to give him any room, try not to make any mistakes, try not to give him anything, and he kind of played the same kind of golf back. He played very, very well. 

“I made big putts on 15 and 16. The 16th especially was a massive putt to give me the opportunity.I feel very fortunate again today. I’ve certainly expended all my energy and emotions the last couple of days, but thankfully it’s early in the season and I’ve plenty left in the tank.”

Louis Oosthuizen dumped out Henrik Stenson 4-3, and Webb Simpson dispatched Brandt Snedeker by the same score.

George Coetzee is still doing fine, winning the 21 hole battle with Patrick Reed. Jason Day took even longer to overcome Billy Horschel, 22 holes.

Sergio Garcia is going along smoothly, a 3-1 victory over Bill Haas, while Jason Dufner eliminated Matteo Manassero by 2-1. 

Sergio said he had fun out there today;

“It was good fun, we both played hard. We both tried to play as well as we could to beat our opponent and I was fortunate to be just a little bit better than him today.”

A resurgent Rickie Fowler beat Jimmy Walker 1 up, Matt Kuchar beat Ryan Moore by the same score. Jim Furyk took care of Charl Schwartzel 3-2, and Jordan Spieth was too strong for Thomas Bjorn, beating him 5-4.

Victor Dubuisson continued to impress on his World Golf Championships debut as he overcame Peter Hanson 3 -1 to progress to face former Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, who saw off Jonas Blixt at the 17th hole when Jonas lost his ball under a bush. ( would have been ironic if Jonas had got a free drop, wouldn’t it)

Some good match ups tomorrow and any of the remaining players could win, as Graeme McDowell said yesterday, this is a brutal format.

Accenture Match-Play. Who Lost on Day 1

dragon logo dark (2)

The Accenture Match-Play tournament was most noted for who lost on day 1 of the competition, at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

Day 1 recaps: Accenture

Ricky Fowler / Getty

It was a great victory for Ricky Fowler, defeating legendary matchplay exponent Ian Poulter 2-1. Even Ricky thought Poults was on a winner;

“I was definitely an underdog coming in. Heck, if I was filling out a bracket, I would have picked Poulter, too.  It feels like a big win after those missed cuts, it was nice to be the underdog. I had nothing to lose.”

Another Englishman on the wrong side of the leaderboard was Lee Westwood, he was defeated by Harris English 5-3.

George Coetzee, fresh from his win in South Africa, defeated Steve Stricker, an unlikely result at the start of play.

Zach Johnson, coming back from a layoff, lost to Richard Sterne 5-4. Everyone must now wonder if the unenforced rest period was a disaster, as Zach was playing really well beforehand. Another loser on day 1 was Keegan Bradley, falling to Jonas Blixt 2-1. Luke Donald also packed his bags, losing 5-4 to Matteo Manassero.

G-Mac only just made it,  he was four down through seven holes, and still three holes behind with three to play, when he staged an improbable rally against Florida neighbor Gary Woodland

Daily Wrap-up

Graeme McDowell / Getty

Graeme said he was surprised to get through;

“I’m sure he’s extremely disappointed right now, and I’m extremely elated. I’m surprised to be sitting here, having won. Yeah, I hit a couple of quality shots down the last couple of holes, but he had mistakes, as well. It’s a brutal format. I thought it was over, you’re not coming back from 3 down against a guy that’s playing as well as him. Yeah, I’m still going to try to hit my shots. But it required a mistake from him to give me half a sniff, even. It feels like a Sunday afternoon on Wednesday.”

The big names that made it safely through include, Henrik Stenson, the number one seed here, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, albeit after 22 holes, Jimmy Walker, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson.

     

Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Rory Has Half-Way Lead.

dragon logo dark Rory McIlroy has the half-way lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.

Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)

Rory in the desert / Getty Images

Rory followed his first round 63 with a more pedestrian second round of -2 under par 70, but he still maintained top position on the leaderboard at -11 under par. His round today contained three bogey’s, which prevented him from building a commanding lead in the competition. He gave a blow by blow account of his wobbly back nine, but still expects to win this tournament;

“Making a few birdies on the front nine and turning two under par was a good effort, especially as the wind started to get up. I birdied ten, played eleven and twelve okay but then missed that little one (a par putt from inside two feet) on thirteen. Had a chance on fifteen and didn’t convert and made bogey on sixteen, but it was nice to birdie the last and at least give myself a one shot lead going into tomorrow.I will just go back tonight and regroup and realise that I am still leading the tournament. I hit a couple of loose drives which I haven’t done the last couple of weeks but I still feel like I’m playing well enough to go and win the tournament.”

“I have led from the front quite well in tournaments that I have won. I feel like I am still playing well, I know the course as well as anyone else and I expect to go out there and shoot two good scores over the weekend and hopefully lift the trophy.”

Second place belongs to American Brooks Koepka, whose flawless -7 under par 65 equalled the lowest score of the day and elevated him up the leaderboard to -10 under par overall.

Brooks is looking forward to going round with Rory tomorrow;

“I’ve never played with Rory, so it’s going to be fun. I know him a little bit from seeing him around, so hopefully I’ll be able to play as well as I did today. I putted really well today. Yesterday I didn’t putt very well, but today my putter came through for me. I’m striking the ball really well, and I also chipped well today. So everything’s going well, I can’t complain.”

Three players are tied in third place, Danny Willett who also shot -7 under par 65, Damien McGrane and Julien Quesne are at -8 under par for the competition.

European Number One Henrik Stenson and defending champion Stephen Gallacher among seven players another shot back at -7 under par in total.

Henrik was happy with his putting, and is hoping to put in a good challenge here;

“I think there is still a little way to go but today was the best I have putted for a long, long time. I was threatening on every putt and kept the score together with no bogeys, which is always a good sign.”

Danny started the week by jumping out of a plane, he thinks it could have been a good idea, made the first tee shot less terrifying;

“It was a different way to start the week, but if you are standing on the first tee trying to hit a drive onto the fairway it seems a little less nerve-racking than jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet, so it might have prepared me quite well. As soon as you jump out you think ‘What are we doing?’, but after that you level out and start to feel like you are just floating down and it’s unbelievable.”

He also mentioned his 0700 local time start;

 “A half-four alarm is never great but it’s a great time to play golf in the desert. The back nine is the scoreable nine and I was really, really clinical, didn’t miss a green, hit a couple of par fives in two and it was a real easy six under. The front nine gets a little trickier with the breeze and the doglegs but all in all it’s two good days’ work.”

World Number One Tiger Woods, playing alongside Rory, could only manage a second round of +1 over par 73 to make the cut with just one shot to spare on -3 under par.

Thailand Golf Championship. Garcia Grabs Win.

 

Sergio Garcia stays steady and grabs the win at the Thailand Golf Championship, shooting a last round -4 under par 68 for his winning total of -22 under par.

Sergio and Trophy / Getty Images

Sergio with girlfriend  Katharina Boehm  on his bag at  Amata Spring Country Club collected his first this year, the last victory coming at the Johor Open, an Asian Tour event in Malaysia last December.

Sergio was happy with his amazing week’s work;

“It was great, an amazing week, I’m very, very happy and I can’t wait to go back home to Switzerland and kind of sleep on it a little bit. I knew Henrik was going to make it difficult for me. He’s been playing so amazingly great, and he did. I started well, but he also did. He kept hitting good shot after good shot.”

Henrik Stenson, finished in second place, he also had a final round of -4 under par 68, to finish the tournament on -18 under par, four shots off the pace. A couple of missed chances and then Sergio got away;

“It was a good week. Especially because I’ve had a great year but coming here really on the fumes left in the tank, not too much going for me to perform this week in that sense. But I was hanging in there and I was just coming up a couple short. I needed something really, really good to happen there. I had a couple of chances to get a little bit close around 8 and 9 but I didn’t make those two birdie putts and Sergio was hanging in there, made one or two good saves and then he made three birdies in a row, and then he pulled away, and then really I would need something spectacular to happen the last four or five holes.”

In third place was Alexander Levy of France, he shot a final round -3 under par 69 to finish at -14 under par .

Last year’s winner, Charl Schwartzel  with had a second straight -5 under par 67, and finished in joint fourth place, along with Yuki Kono of Japan, US Open champion Justin Rose, and Anirban Lahiri of India.

Best placed Thai golfer was Nirat Chapchai, tied in eighth place at -11 under par, in his effort to win his National Championship.

Thailand Golf Championship. Sergio Surges Ahead.

  

Sergio Garcia produced his second brilliant round of -7 under-par, 65 and surges ahead with a commanding a four-shot lead at the Asian Tour Event, the Thailand Golf Championship.

Sergio Garcia

A Happy Sergio / Getty Images

Sergio, has his girlfriend Katharina Boehm caddying for him, with these kind of performances maybe she should get the job permanently;

“It was great obviously to be able to go out there and shoot 65 again I played nicely and felt pretty comfortable. I was able to hit some really nice shots and then was able to roll two or three really good putts in and it was nice to be able to finish birdie, birdie on this difficult finishing stretch. Not only Henrik, there’re probably five or six guys who can shoot a really good number.  It’s going to be exciting tomorrow. I’ll just try to do the same things I’ve been doing and stay focused, stay patient and hopefully I’ll be able to play well enough to win. “I want to try to be as aggressive as possible. I want to still try to make as many birdies as I can and if I manage to do that, then I’m going to put it quite difficult to the rest. I think if I start getting a little defensive, then I can give them a good opportunity of catching me.”

Tied in second place are Anirban Lahiri and Henrik Stenson, at -14 under par.

The Indian rising star Anirban is happy to be in the zone;

“I’m just going out there and play and I’m happy that I’m in a zone where I can play and not think about shots. Sergio is running away with it, so I’m glad I’m still within touching distance. I can’t really go into tomorrow expecting anything. I just want to play solid.”

Henrik enjoyed his day;

“That was a good day, it was definitely the best I played this week. Made some good birdies and some really good saves to keep the momentum going, those were crucial. Even though I’m tired and worn out, as soon as you see your name on the leaderboard, all of a sudden that tiredness goes away and you’re looking forward to be there and hopefully have a chance to win. I know Sergio is desperate to get his hands on a trophy but I’ll try to challenge him.”

Justin Rose of England

Justin Rose / Getty

Justin fell back with a third round of -2 under par 70 to finish the day in fourth place at -13 under par.

Nedbank Golf Challenge. Brilliant Björn Valiant.

Valiant Thomas Björn triumphed in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa.

Thomas Bjorn  (Getty Images)

Thomas Björn / Getty Images

Thomas carded a super -7 under par 65 to overcome a similar super score from Sergio Garcia in the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. The difference was two shots as Thomas finished on -20 under par and Sergio tied on -18 under par in second place with Jamie Donaldson. Jamie could only manage a -2 under par final round.

Thomas spoke about his special day, and the two Eagles on the back nine;

“This is right up there with the best days of my career. You never forget your first victory, and then my win against Tiger in Dubai when I went toe-to-toe with him for four days and came out top was special, but winning here in the way that I did against a field of this quality is up there. I knew I had to shoot something low and then see what Jamie was doing. It turned out that it was Sergio and every time I saw a leaderboard he was making birdies. I am very proud of the way I played today,  it’s a very special day in my career.Obviously having two eagles on the back nine on a Sunday doesn’t happen very often. The shot into 14 was a bit fortunate but that’s what happens when you win golf tournaments, I guess.”

Sergio finally succumbed to a bogey on the 16th hole;

“I tried to be aggressive all day and drove the ball well, I had just one bad swing on 16. But Thomas played unbelievably and I needed to keep birdieing if I was to have a chance.”

Poor old Jamie Donaldson must have wondered what hit him, he started the day with a three shot lead, and then lost by two.

Henrik Stenson was in fourth place at -16 under par, shooting a -5 under par 67, on a day that was full of low scores.

 

 

Nedbank Golf Challenge. Donaldson Dominates.

Jamie Donaldson dominates at the Nedbank Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa.

Jamie Donaldson  (Getty Images)

Jamie Donaldson / Getty Images

Jamie carded a -5 under par 67 in round three of the Nedbank Golf Challenge to lead the tournament at -16 under par, a three shot advantage going into the final round. It would have been a shot more had he not bogeyed the 17th hole, he said he was between clubs;

“I was in between clubs and it put me in trouble but in the end I came out with a good five. I’m still in a strong position and I’ve got to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf.  It’s a tough field, a lead of three doesn’t mean much among these guys.”

Thomas Björn and Ryan Moore are tied in second place at -13 under par, Thomas thinks he still has a chance tomorrow in the final round, if he can go low;

“I got off to a good start and played solid golf. That’s what you need to do on this course. If I can shoot 66 or 67 tomorrow, I’ll give myself a chance. But you have to play sensible golf, not try and chase down the leader.”

Ryan, a recent winner on the US PGA Tour, carded a -3 under par 33 front nine, before picking up two further shots on the back to complete a -5 under par 67 third round.

Five shots off the lead at -11 under par for the tournament are Thongchai Jaidee, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

Henrik will be ruing his compounded error, twice finding the water en route to a double bogey seven at the par four ninth hole.

Sergio produced one of the shots of the day, to chip in for an Eagle 3 at the par five 14th hole, and followed that with birdies at 16 and 17. While Thongchai went bogey free in his round of -6 under par 66.

Nedbank Golf Challenge. Jaime Donaldson Leads.

Jaime Donaldson leads the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa.

Jaime Donaldson / Getty Images

Jaimeshot a second round -6 under par 66 at the Gary Player Country Club to lead the tournament at -11 under par, and by three shots from his nearest rival. He said he had nicely but it had been a long day;

“I’ve played very nicely for the first two rounds and hit a lot of good shots so I am happy with the way I am playing. We had to play six holes of the first round and then back out after a 45-minute break for the second, so it’s been a long day.”

He carded one bogey, in a strange way when his shot from a fairway bunker at the par-5 10th hole unfortunately struck the lip of the bunker. and then his club, to cause a penalty. Jaime laid up with his fourth shot, and then managed to get up and down from 150 yards;

“These bizarre things happen and you just have to get on with it, in the end it was a good six!”

Tied in second place are Ryan Moore and Henrik Stenson, both on -8 under par at the half-way stage of the competition.

Defending champion Martin Kaymer and Denmark’s Thomas Björn are a shot further back, at -7 under par, while the eventual first round leader, after the resumption of play, Sergio Garcia slipped back in the second round with a +1 over par 73.  He shares ninth place with Luke Donald and a host of other players at -5 under par.

Before the start of play there was a moments silence for Nelson Mandela. The European Tour and Sunshine Tour announced plans to move up next week’s Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban, to a Wednesday-Saturday schedule in order to play four rounds before the state funeral Sunday, December. 15th.

Nedbank Golf Challenge. Like Lights Up His Dull Year.

Luke Donald lights up his dull year, leading the Nedbank Golf Challenge event at Gary Player Country Club, in a suspended first round in South Africa.

Cool hand Luke off to a flier in stormy Sun City

Luke Donald / Getty Images

Luke was at -5 under par through eleven holes, starting birdie, Eagle, before the violent  thunderstorms brought a premature end to day one at Gary Player Country Club.

Luke said he was feeling good about his game, and is playing with confidence;

“It doesn’t get much better than a three-three start around here, birdie-eagle and all of a sudden you are three under par through two holes. I played solid for those first eleven holes and hit a couple of very nice shots in that time that I was able to take advantage of. I feel good over the ball right now and I am playing with confidence. I took a lot of confidence from winning in Japan. It is a place that I love to go back and a course that I love to play so it was very satisfying to be able to go back there and defend. I had seen good signs in Dubai the week before that and did some good work on my long game with Chuck Cook before I left for Dubai and I really felt the benefit of that. I also have to say that the putting came back in Dubai and Japan. That had been a little off for most of the year so it was very encouraging to get that back and I am feeling good about my game right now.”

Tied in second place at -3 under par are,  Denmark’s Thomas Björn, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, and Zimbabwean Brandon de Jonge. Brandon holed out for an eagle on the ninth hole which catapulted him up the leaderboard just before the suspension of play for the day.

The defending champion, Martin Kaymer is at -2 under par, having completed six holes, while The Race to Dubai champion Henrik Stenson is at -1 under par after seven holes.

Round one play will resume at 07:30 local time on Friday morning, with round two expected to tee off from 10:10.

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