English trio play themselves into contention at US PGA Championship
Tommy Fleetwood fired a brilliant second round of 64 to lead a three-pronged bid for an extremely rare English success in the US PGA Championship in San Francisco.
China’s Li Haotong held the halfway lead at Harding Park on eight under par, with Fleetwood sharing second place with compatriot Justin Rose, defending champion Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Daniel Berger and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
Fleetwood’s fellow Englishman and Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey was a shot further back on five under, while Rory McIlroy lies seven shots off the pace after a frustrating 69, a stroke ahead of playing partner Tiger Woods.
Jim Barnes (1916 and 1919) is the only Englishman to have lifted the Wanamaker Trophy, but Fleetwood, Rose and Casey will have high hopes of ending the 101-year wait for an English winner on Sunday.
“Yesterday I had a decent score going and had a bad couple of holes on 12 and 13 which halted progress,” Fleetwood said. “Level par wasn’t a bad score and today I feel like my game is improving day by day since I’ve come back.
“Today I hit a lot of fairways and that clearly makes it easier from there round this golf course.”
Fleetwood is seeking his first major title after finishing runner-up to Koepka in the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills and second in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
“I’m the same person. I’ve got a little bit more experience,” Fleetwood added.
“If you look at it, was I playing better at Shinnecock? Maybe. But that might only be because I’ve only played two weeks since coming back.
“I feel the same, I guess, with a few more majors under my belt of experience. Hopefully they stand me in good stead over the weekend. Any time you’re in contention for a major, it’s an experience, and I feel like I’ve done it a few times, so every time you learn.
“Every time these weeks come about you just hope – you prepare for it to be your week, and today was a great day. Got a weekend of golf left. We’ll see.”
Casey has a best finish of 32nd from four starts since the PGA Tour returned to action and admitted he had struggled to adapt to playing without fans.
“I’ve really missed it, plain and simple,” Casey said. “I’ve felt I’ve not been able to sort of just get the excitement going. I felt very flat.
“Life away from the golf course here is also quite flat. You’d go out and have dinners and hang out with people and none of that exists now as we know it, so I’ve not really enjoyed being out playing golf.”
Li, who finished third in the 2017 Open Championship after a closing 63 at Royal Birkdale, admitted his performance had come as a surprise after missing the cut in the Memorial Tournament and finishing 75th in the 78-man field in WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational since returning to action.
“I’ve got no expectation actually because of staying at home doing nothing. I just want to go out there and have fun,” the 25-year-old said.
“I didn’t even think I could play like this this week, especially, like you said, got no confidence. Probably it helped me clear my mind a little bit this week.”
Koepka, who is seeking an historic hat-trick of victories in the event, is ominously poised on the leaderboard, although the four-time major winner needed treatment on the course for a hip problem during his 68.
Four birdies in a row from the seventh briefly got McIlroy within five of the lead before a deflating triple bogey on the 12th, while Woods failed to hole a putt of any significance in a 72 which left him on level par.
Open champion Shane Lowry is on the same score after also struggling to a 72 and was so frustrated that he snapped a club over his knee on the 13th.
Hideki Matsuyama hopes Masters victory can inspire youngsters back home in Japan
Matsuyama became the first Japanese male to win a major at Augusta.
Justin Rose relishing packed major schedule after taking positives from Masters
Rose signed for a closing 74 which included a birdie on the 18th.
Hideki Matsuyama hopes Masters win ‘opens the floodgates’ for Japan
Historic win was seen around the world.
Jon Rahm ready for baby duties after finishing with a flourish
The new father was left wondering might have been at Augusta on Sunday.
Masters day four: Hideki Matsuyama makes history for Japan
Matsuyama became his country’s first male major winner while new dad Jon Rahm produced the round of the day.
Hideki Matsuyama survives nervy final round to win Masters green jacket
A one-shot win over Will Zalatoris made Matsuyama the first Japanese winner of a men’s major.
Hideki Matsuyama remains on course for maiden major title at Augusta
Matsuyama steadied the ship after a shaky start to his closing round.
Hideki Matsuyama enjoying ‘less stressful’ Masters as he eyes landmark moment
The 29-year-old holds a four-shot lead heading into the final round at Augusta.
Masters day three: Hideki Matsuyama out in front after weather-affected Saturday
The chasing pack on seven under includes Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama four shots clear headed into final round at Augusta
The 29-year-old completed the first bogey-free round of the week on Saturday.