Monday, December 18, 2017
Golf

McIlroy among five tied for lead at Abu Dhabi Championship

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Jordan Spieth paced onto the green and marked one of the six balls on or around the putting surface in near darkness at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saturday.

Minutes earlier and on the same ninth hole, Rory McIlroy rummaged — in vain — through one bush, then another, on some wasteland for an errant ball belonging to his playing partner and then-tournament leader, Andy Sullivan.

It was an extraordinary end to a fog-hit, third day's play at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

The final day promises to be just as dramatic.

Sullivan made triple bogey before the horn sounded to suspend play in the third round, falling out of the lead he had held all day and leaving a five-way tie atop the leaderboard among McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace and Joost Luiten. The quintet is on 10-under par.

"It's a really bunched leaderboard," said McIlroy, one of 60 players yet to complete their third round. "It will be a bit of a sprint to the finish."

There are 21 players within three shots of the lead — and Spieth finally found some form to be among them.

The top-ranked American started the third round seven shots back and finished it in the gathering gloom and in a six-ball — a career first — after barely beating the claxon on the ninth tee. Indeed, the horn sounded at the top of his backswing as he rushed to finish his round and avoid an early morning return today.

Spieth is three shots off the lead after 4-under 68 and in need of what he called a "crazy round" to take victory in his first regular European Tour event.

Sullivan is one of five players a shot behind, with 2012 champion Robert Rock, Henrik Stenson, Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello — after his nightmare on No. 9, when he went way right off the tee. He searched for his ball in two separate bushes — McIlroy came over to lend a hand — but had to reload.

Sullivan's second drive found the rough on the right. His approach was short and his chip onto the green poor, and he two-putted from 10 feet.

"It wasn't great to see," McIlroy said. "I was hoping he would have made that putt just to give him a little bit of momentum going into" today.

PGA: Jason Dufner had a good feeling when he made the turn at La Quinta (Calif.) Country Club in the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

"I told my caddie and my amateur partners, 'I'm about to do something good,' " Dufner said. "So, when you start thinking like that, good things happen."

He did something better than just good, birdieing seven of the final nine holes for 8-under 64 and a two-stroke lead over Jamie Lovemark with one round left at PGA West's TPC Stadium Course.

Winless since the 2013 PGA Championship, Dufner was at 23-under 193. He opened with 64 on Thursday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course for a share of the lead and had 65 on Friday on the Stadium Course to take a one-shot advantage.

"This is the way you want to play," Dufner said. "This is what we work to do."

CHAMPIONS: Duffy Waldorf made a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Tom Lehman by a stroke in the season-opening Mitsubishi Championship in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Waldorf, 53, shot 6-under 66 to finish at 18-under 198 at Hualalai Golf Course. He played all 54 holes without bogey, becoming the fourth player and second winner to accomplish the feat in the tournament. John Cook also was bogey-free in his 2013 win.

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