Tiger Trails Stricker Badds at BMW

By Associated PressSeptember 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipLEMONT, Ill. -- The roar that shook Cog Hill on Saturday could only mean one thing -- an eagle from the fairway -- and it was loud enough that it could only belong to one player.
 
Even Tiger Woods turned around.
 
Steve Stricker holed out with a wedge for eagle on the eighth hole to keep pace with Woods, then he surged ahead with birdie chances on every hole in a tidy round of 7-under 64 that left him tied with Aaron Baddeley in the BMW Championship.
 
Baddeley birdied his final two holes for a 65 that allowed him to join Stricker at 15-under 198 and play in the final group.
 
The third round of these PGA TOUR Playoffs looks much like the first two events -- terrific golf by the top players, setting the stage for what could be more great theater in the final round.
 
Stricker, who won the first playoff event at The Barclays for his first victory in 6 1/2 years, might be the hottest player in golf and is wildly popular in these parts, having played golf at Illinois and grown up nearby in Wisconsin. Another victory would give him a commanding lead in the chase for the FedExCup, with Woods or the absent Phil Mickelson having to win the Tour Championship to catch him.
 
Baddeley, who won in Phoenix earlier this year, was a forgotten figure on the back nine even though he was always in range. Then came a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, followed by an approach into 5 feet at the last to get into the final group.
 
Woods never looked more subdued after a 65, but he missed only one fairway and two greens, and figured his putter kept him from one of his best scores of the year. Not that he was complaining after finishing the round a stroke back.
 
'I felt like 6 under was the highest score I could have shot,' Woods said. 'But I'm in a good spot going into tomorrow.'
 
Barring an amazing charge from behind, it appears to be a three-man race at the BMW Championship.
 
Woods will be playing with Justin Rose, who birdied his last two holes to salvage an otherwise ho-hum round of 69, leaving him five shots behind the leaders.
 
Jonathan Byrd, who was tied with Baddeley at the start of the third round, shot an even-par 71 and fell six shots behind.
 
'You make par out here you get run over,' Woods said.
 
Stricker usually had to settle for par. He hit all 18 greens in regulation and has not missed a green since the 13th hole of the second round. Despite making five birdies and his eagle, he missed five birdie putts from inside 12 feet.
 
'I had real good opportunities,' he said. 'But at this point, you can't be greedy. Nobody makes them all. And when you do, you have one of those '60' rounds.'
 
Woods felt like he was going to have one, also missing a number of good chances from short range. A three-time winner at Cog Hill, Woods spent most of the back nine atop the leaderboard, with impressive shots on the par 5s.
 
He wanted to go for the par-5 11th green with a 2-iron, hitting a draw that would bend left with the breeze. But he felt it shift to the right, so chose to hit a slice with his 3-wood that disappeared over the trees and settled onto the green.
 
The birdie on No. 15 was peculiar only until he reached the green.
 
Woods safely found the fairway with a 3-wood, then Camilo Villegas drive landed on Woods' ball and knocked it back. Under the rules, he had to drop it in the vicinity where it had been, and his drop bounced back about a foot into the front of a divot.
 
Needing to carry the bunker at 232 yards, Woods played a 3-iron back in his stance to about 35 feet for a two-putt birdie.
 
Stricker was in the group behind him, and matched him birdie-for-birdie, picking up a shot on the par-4 13th, from a bunker on the 15th and with his approach into 5 feet on the final hole that gave him the lead.
 
The applause was deafening as Stricker walked off the green, something he only hears in Chicago and Milwaukee.
 
'Any other part of the country, they don't even know who I am,' said Stricker, who had to scrounge up 50 tickets for Cog Hill.
 
The guy who lost his PGA TOUR card two years ago now is hard to miss. This has been an amazing rebirth for Stricker, who squandered three good chances to win from May through July, then cashed it at Westchester.
 
And he's not willing to stop until his season is over. He birdied the last three holes at The Barclays by hitting clutch shots and making big putts, 'and it seems to carry on to each and every event.'
 
Baddeley is 11th in the playoff standings, and a victory would give him a chance at the $10 million prize for the FedExCup. It will be his first time in the final pairing since the U.S. Open, where he shot 80 while playing with Woods, but the Australian only wants to keep giving himself chances.
 
That's one thing the top three guys on the leaderboard have in common.
 
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”