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Golf-Reed targets majors, and a top-10 habit

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Already established as one of the best players in the game, American Patrick Reed has set his sights on making a bigger splash at the majors this year while also improving his consistency week-by-week.

The 24-year-old Texan has climbed to 15th in the world rankings after winning four PGA Tour titles during the past 18 months, a meteoric rise for someone who had not competed in a major until last season.

“That’s the one missing piece for me right now, being able to contend and trying to win a major,” Reed told Reuters at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I know that will come with experience and hopefully this year will be that time.

“I only played my first majors last year but I was able to see what they were like. I made just two cuts, but on the Sunday I wasn’t even a factor.

“I just want to keep improving, and have a chance coming down the stretch on a Sunday to at least make some noise at a major.”

Reed clinched his fourth PGA Tour title at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii earlier this month, beating fellow American Jimmy Walker in a playoff.

ELITE QUARTET

With that success, he joined Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia as the only players over the past 20 years to have won four times on the U.S. circuit under the age of 25 but readily admits he does not share that trio’s consistency.

“I have only been out here on Tour for a couple of years while Rory has been out here a long time so that experience is definitely going to pay off,” said Reed.

“You know how to handle some different situations so I think that’s partly to do with it. I definitely want to make my percentage of top-10s better … just to get that consistency better.”

This season has already been proof positive of that inconsistency with Reed having posted just one top-10 in four PGA Tour starts.

At last week’s Humana Challenge, he fluctuated between the exceptional and mediocre as he recorded scores of 65, 70, 67 and 71.

“I kind of played well one day and didn’t play very well the next,” he said. “That was the reason why I wasn’t able to be closer to the lead going into the final round and have a chance to win the event.

“That’s something that I need to work on and improve on.”

Reed’s biggest victory so far came at the elite WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral last March, where he brashly claimed he was “one of the top five players in the world,” though his form since has been erratic.

“Everyone is trying to be the best in the world, but that’s going to take a long time,” he smiled. “It’s nothing that happens overnight, that’s for sure.

“But winning at Kapalua just kind of backs up that I’m moving in the right direction, I’m on the right path.” (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Golf-Reed targets majors, and a top-10 habit

Australian golfer Kel Nagle dies age 94

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Australian golfer Kel Nagle dies age 94

Golf number one McIlroy looking for desert storm

Dubai (AFP) – Rory McIlroy says he’d be focused completely on trying to win a second Dubai Desert Classic title, this week rather than thinking about his upcoming date in a Dublin court.

The world number one has fond memories of recording his first win as a professional in what is the oldest golf tournament in the Middle East, and, having finished second in his last three starts on the European Tour, McIlroy is hoping to go one better and add to his 2009 title in the desert.

Speaking to the media on the eve of the tournament, McIlroy said: “One win here at the Emirates, but seems every time I come here I have a chance and I play well. It’s a great way to start the season.

“I’ve done this the last few years where I’ve played Abu Dhabi, taken another week off to practise and then come here and play in Dubai.

“Looking forward to the week. The course is in fantastic shape. The greens are as good as I’ve ever seen them, and I feel like my game is in good shape.

“I’m very happy with where my game is tee‑to‑green and I put some good work in over the last week on my short game, which I felt needed a little bit of sharpening up from Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve got four days to try and get back on the victory trail and feels like a long time since my last win.”

On his legal battle with his former management company, which is expected to reach a conclusion in the next couple of weeks, McIlroy said he has consciously tried not to think about it.

“To be honest, I’ve been concentrating on my golf and practice and that stuff is much more important to me than what’s going to happen next week,” said the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland.

“After this tournament’s over, I’ll have to do my homework a little bit but at the same time, I’m fully focused on this event and golf and try and do the best I can this week.

“Of course I will be relieved when this is over. It’s not something that I would want anyone to go through. It’s a very sort of tedious and nasty process at times.

“I’m going to be heading to the States regardless with it off my mind and not having to deal with it or think about it anymore.

“It will be nice once it’s over and done with.”

McIlroy has been paired with former world number one Martin Kaymer and England’s Andy Sullivan for the first two rounds in Dubai.

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Golf number one McIlroy looking for desert storm

PREVIEW-Golf-Super Bowl, Tiger give Phoenix Open extra spark

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The Waste Management Phoenix Open and Super Bowl are both being staged this week in the Phoenix area and Patrick Reed, one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour, is licking his lips in anticipation.

The National Football League’s showpiece is the biggest sports event in the United States while the $6.3 million Phoenix Open, played at the TPC Scottsdale, is renowned for its raucous crowds and the loudest hole in golf.

Add to that the return of former world number one Tiger Woods to PGA Tour action this week, for the first time in five months, and you have all the ingredients for a sporting extravaganza in the Grand Canyon State over the next five days.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” American Reed told Reuters on Tuesday after completing a practice round on the par-71 TPC Scottsdale layout.

“We golfers are really looking forward to this week and hopefully we will hit a lot of good shots and get the crowds here roaring even louder.”

Reed, aged 24 and already a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, made his debut at the Phoenix Open on Scottsdale’s Stadium Course last year and has vivid memories of the infamous par-three 16th, the noisiest hole in golf.

Thousands of spectators cram into the bleachers and sky boxes surrounding the 163-yard hole, many more swarming across the grassed hill that faces the green, and they loudly boo any golfer who fails to hit the green off the tee.

“I got booed three times because I missed the green three out of four days,” grinned Reed, who tied for 19th here last year. “But the one time I hit the green, I one-hopped it into the stick to about a foot so I played the hole in under par and that’s all you can ask for.”

Reed, who 15 days ago won the PGA Tour’s opening event of the year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, will tee off in a high-profile grouping for Thursday’s opening round at Scottsdale with fellow young gun Jordan Spieth and Woods.

Masters champion Bubba Watson, the world number four, heads a strong field this week in the Arizona desert where 10th-ranked American Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler (11th) and three-times former winner Phil Mickelson are also competing.

The Super Bowl is played on Sunday at the nearby University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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PREVIEW-Golf-Super Bowl, Tiger give Phoenix Open extra spark

Allenby stands by initial report of Honolulu ordeal

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) – The curious tale of Robert Allenby’s bruising ordeal in Honolulu has taken some unexpected twists but the Australian on Tuesday stuck by his original version of events.

On Jan. 17, Allenby reported that he had been abducted the previous day from a wine bar, robbed and then dumped from a car in a Hawaii park about six miles (10 km) away after failing to qualify for the Sony Open in Honolulu.

Conflicting reports have since emerged with witnesses claiming they saw the golfer passed out 100 yards from the wine bar but Allenby said he had told only the truth, though he had a window of two-and-a-half hours without any memory.

“Everybody should understand there is an investigation going on to what did happen on that Friday night,” Allenby told reporters at the TPC Scottsdale ahead of this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The authorities are doing their absolute best. We’re hoping in the near future that something will be reported and that we will definitely get to the bottom of it.

“There’s definitely been a lot of confusion, but I think the No. 1 thing that you should all remember is that my story stays exactly the same as the way I told it. I told you what I knew, and I told you what someone told me. I never lied to anyone.”

Allenby, 43, has said he went out for dinner and drinks in Waikiki on with his caddie and a friend, then became separated from his companions after the group had paid their tab.

He later told Reuters that the next thing he recalled was waking up groggy in a park to find he had been beaten and robbed of his wallet, cell phone, cash and credit cards.

Allenby, who was left with facial injuries, said a homeless woman he encountered in the park told him she had seen a few men drive up in a car and throw him out of the vehicle.

“From about 11:06 p.m. to about 1:27 a.m., I have no memory in my brain, I have nothing,” said Allenby. “I have been going backwards and forwards and there is just nothing.

“I can’t tell you how frustrating that is because we all want to know the truth, we all want to get to the bottom of it. My headaches have only just gone, two days ago.

“But there’s no way in the world what I drank could do what was done to me, not a chance in the world.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Allenby stands by initial report of Honolulu ordeal

Golf: Joint leader Grillo confident of breaking tour duck in Doha

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Golf: Joint leader Grillo confident of breaking tour duck in Doha

Garcia blows chance as four share Qatar lead

Doha (AFP) – Sergio Garcia blew his chances of becoming only the first man to win consecutive Qatar Masters titles as four players shared the lead after the third round in Doha on Friday.

Garcia shot a five-over par 77 in benign conditions at the Doha Golf Club – his aggregate of one-under 215 a whopping 12 shots behind the leading quartet of Bernd Wiesberger, Marc Warren, Branden Grace and Emiliano Grillo.

The Spaniard, who had expressed his fondness for the Doha course before the tournament and had hoped to claim a slice of history by winning the event for the second time in succession, saw his dream vanish over the back nine as he shot two bogeys, one double bogey and a triple bogey on what was a perfect day for golf.

Austrian Wiesberger and South African Grace were part of a trio that held an overnight lead of one shot, but on Friday were joined at the top by Grillo of Argentina and Warren of Scotland on 13-under par 203.

That gave the four a two-stroke advantage over England’s Eddie Pepperell, South African George Coetzee and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares, with first round leader Oliver Fisher a further two behind.

It was a neck and neck battle among the leaders for much of the day, with Wiesberger managing to edge ahead by a shot after the 12th hole before a bogey on the 16th allowed the others to catch up.

But it was Grace who produced the shot of the day after he drove the ball into the trees on the fifth hole.

The South African, however, still managed to snap-hook a wedge within about six feet of the hole for a birdie on the way to a fine 68 and a 13-under par total.

“I actually didn’t hit that bad a tee shot. I thought I was just in the rough on the right and must have had a big bounce to the right. Where it finished, I thought, this is going to take some magic,” Grace said.

“I could only hit a big, snapping hook with a wedge and when I hit it, I couldn’t see the ball. We heard the claps and next thing you know, managed to make a nice little five footer for birdie – that definitely got it kick started.”

Wiesberger said he was happy to stay in contention although he rued a bad swing on the 16th hole that led to a bogey.

“It’s nice to start the day in the lead and hang on to keep it,” said the Austrian who has won two titles so far.

“Everybody seems to be playing really well and I enjoyed it out there. It was just that bad swing on 16 which cost me a bogey there, so it’s really a two shot swing on a short hole like that. I finished nicely with a birdie and it gives me a bit of momentum for tomorrow.”

Warren was also pleased with his effort.

“The last few years I’ve shown a lot of progress again. Came close a couple times. Didn’t quite go over the line and that was something that came quite easy, I suppose at the start of my career. Every time I was in contention, I seemed to win,” said the Scot.

“I’m confident in my ability to do that and it was nice to actually prove it again. It’s one thing to be confident and to actually do it is another thing. Definitely a spring in the step.”

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Garcia blows chance as four share Qatar lead

Golf-European Tour Qatar Masters scores

Jan 23 (Infostrada Sports) – Scores from the European Tour Qatar Masters at the par-72 course on Friday in Doha

203 Marc Warren (Britain) 71 65 67

Branden Grace (South Africa) 67 68 68

Emiliano Grillo (Argentina) 67 69 67

Bernd Wiesberger (Austria) 69 66 68

205 George Coetzee (South Africa) 68 67 70

Eddie Pepperell (Britain) 69 71 65

Alejandro Canizares (Spain) 67 70 68

207 Oliver Fisher (Britain) 65 73 69

208 An Byeong-Hun (South Korea) 67 69 72

Darren Fichardt (South Africa) 67 70 71

Matthew Baldwin (Britain) 70 68 70

Renato Paratore (Italy) 69 69 70

Johan Carlsson (Sweden) 74 65 69

Gregory Bourdy (France) 70 68 70

209 Andy Sullivan (Britain) 71 68 70

Thomas Pieters (Belgium) 73 68 68

Benjamin Hebert (France) 72 68 69

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spain) 66 73 70

Pablo Larrazabal (Spain) 71 71 67

Ernie Els (South Africa) 67 72 70

Michael Lorenzo-Vera (France) 70 70 69

210 Soren Kjeldsen (Denmark) 73 70 67

Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) 70 73 67

Shiv Kapur (India) 70 68 72

Alexander Noren (Sweden) 67 71 72

Kristoffer Broberg (Sweden) 67 71 72

Anders Hansen (Denmark) 71 69 70

Seve Benson (Britain) 70 71 69

Mark Foster (Britain) 67 73 70

Magnus Carlsson (Sweden) 71 69 70

Justin Rose (Britain) 68 73 69

211 Felipe Aguilar (Chile) 71 68 72

Edoardo Molinari (Italy) 71 70 70

Julien Quesne (France) 70 72 69

Peter Lawrie (Ireland) 70 68 73

Eduardo De La Riva (Spain) 70 69 72

Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) 69 73 69

Dawie Van der Walt (South Africa) 72 69 70

212 Maximilian Kieffer (Germany) 71 68 73

Alvaro Quiros (Spain) 70 70 72

Henrik Stenson (Sweden) 70 71 71

Tommy Fleetwood (Britain) 73 65 74

Tom Lewis (Britain) 72 71 69

Ricardo Gonzalez (Argentina) 69 70 73

213 Jeev Milkha Singh (India) 70 70 73

Scott Jamieson (Britain) 68 73 72

Edouard Espana (France) 70 73 70

Richard Green (Australia) 70 67 76

Ross Fisher (Britain) 70 70 73

James Morrison (Britain) 68 70 75

Paul Lawrie (Britain) 67 73 73

Peter Uihlein (U.S.) 69 73 71

214 Wade Ormsby (Australia) 74 69 71

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand) 68 71 75

Brett Rumford (Australia) 69 72 73

Andrew Johnston (Britain) 69 73 72

Michael Hoey (Britain) 71 69 74

Jason Barnes (Britain) 72 70 72

Gregory Havret (France) 70 69 75

Thomas Aiken (South Africa) 69 73 72

Damien McGrane (Ireland) 68 72 74

215 Stephen Gallacher (Britain) 68 75 72

Sergio Garcia (Spain) 69 69 77

Jorge Campillo (Spain) 72 70 73

Jake Roos (South Africa) 75 68 72

216 Robert Karlsson (Sweden) 70 73 73

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Britain) 68 71 77

Mark Tullo (Chile) 69 74 73

Adrian Otaegui (Spain) 73 70 73

217 Matthew Nixon (Britain) 72 71 74

218 Paul Waring (Britain) 70 72 76

Moritz Lampert (Germany) 67 74 77

Richard Finch (Britain) 71 72 75

220 Mikko Korhonen (Finland) 73 70 77

Continued here:

Golf-European Tour Qatar Masters scores

Birdie blitz gives Putnam lead at PGA Humana Challenge

La Quinta (United States) (AFP) – Michael Putnam fired 10 birdies in a nine-under-par 63 to grab the lead after the first round of the US PGA Tour’s $5.7 million Humana Challenge.

His one-stroke advantage came thanks to a blistering birdie run Thursday that included six straight from 12, with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and fellow Americans Mark Wilson, Blake Adams, John Peterson and Scott Pinckney sharing second on 64.

It was a further stroke back to defending champion Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Jason Kokrak and Steve Wheatcroft.

Putnam, 31, a three-time winner on the Web.com developmental tour, is seeking his first US PGA Tour win.

His assault came on the PGA West’s Nicklaus Course, one of three in use for the first three rounds of the tournament in the southern California desert.

With birdies sure to abound all week, Putnam said he knew he couldn’t afford to rest on the first-round lead.

“You have to mentally throw this one away because you’re not going to play the Nicklaus (again),” Putnam said.

“The focus for me is on the Palmer tomorrow and then La Quinta on Saturday. There’s a lot of birdies going to be made in 54 holes by a lot of guys. So I have to make a lot of birdies.”

Playing in his first US PGA Tour event since withdrawing from last season’s BMW Championship, 42-time Tour winner Phil Mickelson carded a one-under 71 that left him tied for 89th.

Mickelson had three birdies in his first nine holes on the La Quinta course, but had three bogeys and a birdie coming in to lie eight shots off the lead.

“I got off to a pretty good start, and then I just stalled,” Mickelson said, adding that he was looking forward to trying to improve on Friday.

“I can’t wait to get started again because I feel like I played a little tight today, kind of steered it a little bit,” said Mickelson, who lifted the trophy here in 2002 and 2004 but hasn’t finished in the top 35 in his past two appearances.

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Birdie blitz gives Putnam lead at PGA Humana Challenge

Journeyman Putnam goes low to set Humana pace

(Reuters) – The “light switch” clicked for journeyman Michael Putnam as he piled up nine birdies in his last 12 holes to seize a one-shot lead in Thursday’s opening round of the $5.7 million Humana Challenge at La Quinta in California.

Still seeking his first victory on the PGA Tour, the 31-year-old American fired a sparkling nine-under-par 63 in ideal scoring conditions on the Jack Nicklaus Private course at PGA West, one of three venues hosting the pro-am event.

Putnam covered his back nine in a sizzling seven-under 29 to finish a picture-perfect day a stroke in front of compatriots Blake Adams, John Peterson, Scott Pinckney and 2012 champion Mark Wilson, and Italian Francesco Molinari.

Holder Patrick Reed, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii 10 days ago, launched his title defense with a 65 while twice former winner Phil Mickelson, playing his first competitive round since late September, carded a 71.

“It was like a light switch,” Putnam told Golf Channel about the transformation in his game from the seventh hole onwards. “I said I needed to make some birdies, so I did.

“I played decently solid before that, just made a few mistakes to make bogeys, but I just lit it up coming in.”

Putnam, a three-times champion on the lower-tier Web.com Tour who has never finished better than fourth in a PGA Tour event, was not planning to dwell on his opening round for long.

“You’ve kind of got to forget about it because we are playing a totally different golf course tomorrow … so kind of put that out of my memory and now I am focused on the Palmer (course) for tomorrow,” he said.

“There were a lot of low scores shooting out there too so you’ve still got to make birdies because 25, 27 under (par) wins this thing.”

Five-times major winner Mickelson, who has not played competitively since the United States lost to Europe at the Ryder Cup, mixed four birdies with three bogeys at La Quinta Country Club.

“Even though this feels like the worst day I’ve had in months, I am excited about my game and getting back out tomorrow,” the left-hander said after totaling 31 putts.

“I feel like I played a little bit tight today, kind of steered it a little bit. I’ll loosen up and hopefully the way I am playing will show in the score. Today it just didn’t.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Journeyman Putnam goes low to set Humana pace

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