Matt Every carded a blemish-free 65 to lead by one shot from fellow former champion Rory McIlroy after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

American Every overcame high winds as one of the late starters to record seven birdies on a Bay Hill course he knows well, having triumphed at the tournament in 2014 before defending his title the following year.

His performance was even more impressive considering he missed the cut at the Honda Classic a week ago after an 85 on the Friday.

The 36-year-old edged clear at the top of the leaderboard with a three at his penultimate hole after McIlroy - winner in 2018 - had overcome a sluggish start to set the clubhouse target.

Starting on the back nine, world number one McIlroy found water as he bogeyed his second hole but managed to still be under par at the turn thanks to a pair of birdies.

McIlroy then produced some blistering golf on his way back in, including an eagle at the fourth where he overcame finding a fairway bunker off the tee with a stunning shot out of the sand.

"I made a couple of unforced errors starting off. I hit it in the water at 11 and actually made a good bogey in the end, and then missed a little one on 12," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"I think with the start, then turning in under par with the birdie at 16 and 18, I had a bit of a pep in my step going to the first tee. I played some great golf after that.

"I got a bit of a momentum and kept it going until the end."

Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler sat tied on five under, a shot ahead of a six-man group that included Graeme McDowell, who was victorious at the Saudi International last month.

Patrick Reed posted a two-under 70 and Brooks Koepka signed for an even-par 72, while defending champion Francesco Molinari pulled out before starting his round due to a back injury.

Teenager Nicolai Hojgaard lit up the back nine on day one of the Qatar Masters to take a one-shot lead.

The 18-year-old Dane, runner-up behind Sergio Garcia at the KLM Open last season, started with a seven-under 64 to hit the front at Education City Golf Club.

Hojgaard hit the turn in 35, then birdied seven of the next eight holes before a second bogey of a stunning opening round ensured he had to settle for the slenderest of advantages.

Joost Luiten is hot on Hojgaard's heels after signing for a six-under 65 in Doha.

The Dutchman dropped just one shot at the eighth in a promising start to the tournament.

Hojgaard's compatriot Jeff Winther is among six players two shots off the lead along with Lorenzo Gagli, who finished in a share of 10th place at the Oman Open last week after being withdrawn before the first round prior to a negative coronavirus test.

Andy Sullivan, Carlos Pigem, Thomas Pieters and Jorge Campillo also carded 66s on Thursday.

Defending champion Justin Harding and Sami Valimaki, winner of his maiden title in Oman last weekend, are six strokes adrift of Hojgaard.

 

Defending champion Francesco Molinari has been forced to pull out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to a back injury.

The Italian carded a spectacular final round of 64 to come from five shots back and win the tournament last year, finishing two clear of Matt Fitzpatrick.

However, Molinari will not be in action this week after withdrawing ahead of his opening round on Thursday - he had been due to tee off in the morning alongside 2018 Ryder Cup team-mates Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.

The 37-year-old has not won a tournament on either the European Tour or PGA Tour since his triumph at Bay Hill 12 months ago, admitting ahead of his title defence this week that the season so far had not gone to plan.

"I'm a little bit behind where I was planning to be at this time," Molinari told the media. "The start of the season has not been as good as I hoped for, but it's only the start.

"There's been a few physical things and technical things, but I'm working through it.

"I think I've got some good planning for the next few weeks building up to Augusta and some good direction to work towards."

Lee Kyoung-hoon has taken Molinari's place in a 120-man field that also includes Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Patrick Reed.

Tiger Woods is among the 10 finalists put forward for the 2021 World Golf Hall of Fame.

All-time great Woods is one of four male candidates, with three-time major Padraig Harrington also nominated alongside American duo Johnny Farrell and Tom Weiskopf.

Woods won his 15th major title at last year's Masters, which ended an 11-year drought to win one of golf's big four.

Susie Maxwell Berning, Beverly Hanson, Sandra Palmer and Dottie Pepper are the female candidates put forward, while Tim Finchem and Marion Hollins complete the 10 in the contributor section.

A player or contributor requires 75 per cent approval of the selection committee to make the Hall of Fame.

The age of eligibility was lowered from 50 to 45, meaning Woods qualifies in December.

"The nominating committee has selected 10 finalists who represent the highest caliber of golfers and contributors," said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of World Golf Foundation. 

"The recent enhancements to the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction criteria provide a great process to ensure the most worthy of candidates are being considered. 

"We are grateful to the nominating committee for their work and anticipate the class of 2021 being one of our strongest to date."

Former world number one Dustin Johnson will skip the Tokyo Olympics to focus on the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Golf at the Olympic Games in Tokyo will get underway at Kasumigaseki Country Club on July 30, but 2016 U.S. Open champion Johnson will not be there.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin on August 13 – 11 days after the golf event at the Olympics ends – while Johnson is set to feature at the Open Championship (July 16) prior to the Tokyo Games.

"Dustin gave the Olympics a great deal of thought and we discussed the pros and cons of him participating at length," Johnson's manager David Winkle told Golfweek.

"At the end of the day, it's a matter of personal preference and priority. As much as he would be honoured to be an Olympian, the FedEx Cup Playoffs are also very important to him.

"Having had a few close calls in the Playoffs, he really wants to win them before his time is done and feels that he wouldn't be giving himself the best opportunity to do so if he added a lengthy international trip just prior to their beginning [and shortly after returning from two weeks in Europe]."

Johnson, who was part of the United States' Presidents Cup triumph in December – has two top-10 finishes this year via the Tournament of Champions (T7) and the Genesis Invitational (T10).

The world number five was tied for 48th at the WGC-Mexico Championship in his last event.

Im Sung-jae claimed his maiden PGA Tour title after winning the Honda Classic by one stroke.

A four-under-par 66 saw Im make his breakthrough, with the South Korean golfer finishing ahead of Mackenzie Hughes on Sunday.

Im won three trophies across the Web.com and Korean Tours, while he lost a play-off to Sebastian Munoz at the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship last year.

But Im – involved in December's Presidents Cup in Melbourne – ended his wait after reigning supreme at PGA National Golf Club.

The 21-year-old had seven birdies and three bogeys as he rose four positions to six under overall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Canadian Hughes also surged up the leaderboard to earn the runner-up cheque following a final-round 66, ahead of England's Tommy Fleetwood.

Fleetwood – the overnight leader – needed a birdie to force a play-off but his approach landed in the water, resulting in a bogey to finish solo third at four under.

Byeong Hun An (67), Daniel Berger (69), Lee Westwood (70) and Brendan Steele (71) finished tied for fourth and three shots off the pace.

Sami Valimaki prevailed in a play-off with Brandon Stone at the Oman Open to claim a maiden European Tour title in just his sixth start.

Both players had been part of a six-way tie for the lead going into the final round, with windy conditions at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat making for an eventful Sunday finish to proceedings.

Frenchman Adrien Saddier set the clubhouse score on 12 under, with Stone then seizing top spot when he sunk a birdie putt from off the green at the 18th.

However, the South African was soon joined on 13 under when Valimaki found the cup with a long-range effort of his own at the same green, meaning a play-off was required to decide who would be crowned champion.

Following successive pars at the 18th from both, Stone's wayward approach on the third attempt at the same hole handed his rival the advantage. The Finn duly held his nerve, a final four good enough for glory.

"It's awesome," the 21-year-old said. "There are not many words to say, it's unbelievable."

Saddier finished alone in third place, with Italian Guido Migliozzi - who had held the lead after the opening round - and Valimaki's compatriot Mikko Korhonen a further shot back on 11 under.

Tommy Fleetwood will take a one-stroke lead into the Honda Classic final round as he eyes his first PGA Tour victory.

The Englishman carded a three-under 67 at PGA National on Saturday to get to five under as players struggled in the wind in Florida.

Fleetwood's round was one of just 11 under par in the third round, with Mackenzie Hughes' 66 the best.

A five-time winner on the European Tour, Fleetwood is yet to taste victory on the PGA Tour, but holds a one-shot lead over Brendan Steele (71).

Fleetwood was just one under through nine before mixing four birdies with two bogeys on the back nine.

Englishmen Luke Donald (71) and Lee Westwood (71) are tied for third at three under.

The top of the leaderboard remains congested, with Daniel Berger (69), Charl Schwartzel (70) and Im Sung-jae (70) tied for fifth at two under.

The other players under par heading into the final round are Hughes, Rory Sabbatini (69), Mark Hubbard (69), Robby Shelton (70), Russell Henley (70) and J.T. Poston (73), who are tied for eighth.

Grayson Murray, who is at one over, produced one of the moments of the day, celebrating wildly with the fans after a hole-in-one at the 17th.

Six men were at the top of the Oman Open leaderboard after Saturday's third round, with former champion Joost Luiten and teenager Rasmus Hojgaard among the half a dozen.

Luiten, winner of the inaugural event two years ago, had a blemish-free 18 - having carded four bogeys on Friday - and his five-under-par 67 left him in a congested group at 11 under.

Hojgaard was one of the joint-overnight leaders but he had to battle back after a double-bogey seven at the sixth, while Stephen Gallacher, who also began the day on five under, dropped four shots across the last four holes to slip four shots off the leaders.

England's Callum Shinkwin had a chance to take the outright lead into Sunday but he dropped a shot at the 18th to sign for a six-under 66.

Finnish pair Sami Valimaki and Mikko Korhonen produced the best two rounds of the day to move themselves into the tie at the top, the former making eight birdies in his 64, one better than his compatriot's third-round score.

South African Brandon Stone completed the sextet at the summit following a bogey-free 67.

Brendan Steele moved to the top of the Honda Classic leaderboard as star pair Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler missed the cut.

Steele carded a three-under-par 67 to earn a one-stroke lead after the second round of the PGA Tour tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Friday.

A three-time Tour champion but seeking his first title since 2017, Steele holed five birdies and two bogeys to move to five under through 36 holes at PGA National Golf Club.

J.T. Poston (69) and English pair Luke Donald (66) and Lee Westwood (69) are a stroke off the pace at the halfway stage of the event, while Gary Woodland (67), Nick Watney (66), Sepp Straka (67) and Cameron Davis (67) complete the top five.

Harris English and Tom Lewis were co-leaders following the opening round, but both players struggled on day two.

A second-round 74 saw English drop down into a share of 24th, while Lewis's five-over-par 75 saw him slip to one over for the tournament.

It was a forgettable round for former world number one Koepka and Fowler, who failed to make it to the weekend.

The cut line was three over and four-time major champion Koepka finished eight over following back-to-back 74s – Friday's round featuring two double-bogeys and a bogey.

"I struck it really well," said Koepka, who missed December's Presidents Cup due to a knee injury. "Really pleased with how I'm hitting it… Everything is good. No complaints. It has nothing to do with my knee.

"Just need to pick it up a little bit, pick up the pace, give it maybe a little bit more touch around the greens, a little bit more feel. But the way I'm striking it, I'm very pleased. I feel very happy with it."

Fellow American Fowler posted a 68 but he still missed the cut at four over, while Justin Rose (74) and defending champion Keith Mitchell (72) also failed to qualify for Saturday and Sunday.

Tiger Woods will skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the second consecutive year, his agent has confirmed.

Woods, who pulled out shortly shortly before the 2019 tournament with a neck strain, is dealing with a stiff back and will not travel to Bay Hill next week.

The 15-time major champion finished last among those to make the cut at the Genesis Invitational earlier in February and subsequently missed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

"He is not going to play [at Bay Hill]," Woods' agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN. "Back [is] still stiff and [he is] just not quite ready."

Woods has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on four occasions, but his focus should now turn to the Players Championship on March 12.

Teenager Rasmus Hojgaard moved into a share of the lead with Stephen Gallacher at the Oman Open.

The Danish youngster, who claimed his first professional win at the Mauritius Open in December, surged to nine under at the halfway stage with a four-under score of 68.

Gallacher – who turned pro in 1995, six years before Hojgaard was born - carded a five-under 67 to move into tied first after 36 holes, with Nicolas Colsaerts and Kalle Samooja a stroke behind the pair.

Guido Migliozzi, the overnight leader, could only manage a level-par 72, leaving him in a five-way tie for fifth on six under.

Lorenzo Gagli, restored to the field having been quarantined amid fears he may have contracted the coronavirus, is five-under after a second-round 70.

His compatriot Edoardo Molinari, who was isolated as a precautionary measure, is two-under going into the weekend.

 

William Knibbs held his nerve in the face of stiff competition from 15-year-old Rocco Lopez to win the SMS (Scientific & Medical Supplies) Golf Classic, by one stroke at the Caymanas Golf Club on Sunday.

Tom Lewis and Harris English share a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Honda Classic, where Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler endured a difficult start.

Englishman Lewis and American golfer English – both competing on sponsor exemptions – carded four-under-par 66s in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Thursday.

Lewis, a two-time European Tour champion seeking his first PGA Tour title, was flawless with an eagle and two birdies at PGA National Golf Club.

English, who has won two PGA Tour trophies but last tasted success in 2013, had an eagle to go with four birdies and two bogeys.

Zach Johnson, Cameron Tringale, J.T. Poston, Lee Westwood and Brian Stuard are three under heading into the second round of the PGA Tour tournament.

Former world number one Koepka and fellow star Fowler, however, struggled on day one.

Four-time major champion Koepka shot a woeful first-round 74, which included a triple bogey, a double bogey, two bogeys and three birdies.

Koepka is tied for 103rd at four over alongside the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Erik van Rooyen, and two shots worse off than Justin Rose.

Defending champion Keith Mitchell is a stroke further back, while Fowler ended the round six over the card following seven bogeys and just one birdie.

Guido Migliozzi holds a one-shot lead after the first round of the Oman Open and Lorenzo Gagli is well poised despite a coronavirus scare on Thursday.

Migliozzi has missed the cut in all three tournaments he has entered this year, but the Italian should be in Muscat for the weekend after starting with a six-under 66.

The 23-year-old, a winner of two European Tour events in his rookie year on the Race to Dubai last season, made birdies at the 10th and 12th after starting on the back nine and reeled off three gains in a row following the turn.

Migliozzi picked up another shot at his final hole of the day to complete a first bogey-free round since the Turkish Open in November.

Brandon Stone, Dane Rasmus Hojgaard and Lee Taehee share second place, while English duo Andy Sullivan and Ross Fisher are among six players a further stroke back at Al Mouj Golf.

Gagli was withdrawn from the tournament along with Edoardo Molinari amid fears they may have contracted the coronavirus, with the former having exhibited flu-like symptoms.

The Italian duo, who had shared a hotel room, entered self-isolation but were reinstated in the tournament after a test showed Gagli did not have the virus.

Gagli put that episode behind him to move to three under when play was suspended with one hole to finish on his opening round, while Molinari was two under through 17.

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