Alex Cejka leads Tiger Woods and company by five

By Doug FergusonMay 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka could see chaos all around him at The Players Championship, or at least hear it through the groans of a scorching Saturday at the TPC Sawgrass that delivered so many meltdowns.
 
He was among the few to survive, taking on the flag with an 8-iron on the final hole that set up a 5-foot birdie for an even-par 72 and a five-shot lead, the largest after three rounds in the 36 years of this prestigious event.
 
Alex Cejka
Alex Cejka started the day with a two-shot lead and ended five up. (Getty Images)
Time to exhale? Not quite.
 
In a tournament full of surprises, the biggest of all might be his date in the final round Sunday: Tiger Woods.
 
Woods didnt look like a player who should be in contention, not after having to play one shot left-handed from the base of a pine, missing one shot by 40 feet with a wedge in his hand and looking increasing frustrated at birdie chances that slipped away.
 
But back-to-back birdies, followed by a huge break on the 18th hole, changed his fortunes.
 
His 2-under 70 turned out to be good enough to move up 20 spots into a six-way tie for second, in the final pairing Sunday with a 38-year-old who has never held a final-round lead on U.S. soil.
 
Its going to be tough, Cejka said. Hes the best player. Its going to be a good challenge for me. I know I have a lead, but its against not only Tiger but against the rest of the field. Ive got to play well tomorrow to win here.
 
Cejka was at 11-under 205 and doesnt seem to be all that intimidated.
 
He recalled beating Woods the last time they were paired in the final round of a big event ' that was the 1996 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, when Woods was a 20-year-old amateur. Cejka shot 67 to finish 11th; Woods had a 67.
 
And the Czech-born German is going with a familiar Sunday attire ' red shirt and black pants ' a tradition for Woods in the final round.
 
Hopefully, it works for me, too, Cejka said. Its nice to watch the best player in the world, but Ive got to focus again on my game tomorrow and let him work a little bit.
 
In Woods only victory this year since returning from knee surgery, he matched his PGA Tour best with a five-shot comeback against Sean OHair in the final pairing at Bay Hill.
 
Even so, Woods was not alone in his pursuit.
 
Henrik Stenson was two shots behind until he bogeyed three of the last five holes, nearly chipping into the water on the 16th. He wound up with a 73, and was in the six-way tie for second that included Woods, two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (71), Jonathan Byrd (71), Ben Crane (72) and Ian Poulter, who didnt make a single birdie on his way to a 75.
 
Woods got into the final group because he was the first to finish among the group at 6-under 210, and what a finish it was.
 
He had been struggling all day in temperatures that climbed into the 90s. He had to hit one shot left-handed from the base of a pine, missed his target by 40 feet with a wedge, and looked increasingly frustrated as he missed birdie chances.
 
Back-to-back birdies got him in range, and a huge break that followed on the 18th kept him there.
 
He was in the trees again, a few feet from the divot he left the day before when he made a tremendous escape. This time, a 6-iron came out hot and more left than he wanted, racing through the green and tumbling down a bank toward the pond. But a tuft of Bermuda grass grabbed the ball a foot from the water, and Woods managed to save par.
 
He had no idea where it would lead him.
 
You figured some of the guys would shoot 3 or 4 under par today, but its just not happening out there, Woods said.
 
Instead, everyone went the other direction.
 
  • Poulter took bogeys on two par 5s.
     
  • David Toms was making a run until he shot 42 on the back nine for a 77.
     
  • Kevin Na managed only two pars on the back nine for a 40.
     
    The good news for most was that they still had hope.
     
    Im still in pretty good shape, Stenson said. I would have liked to have finished better. Thats just the nature of this golf course.
     
    Mother Nature didnt help.
     
    After overnight rain on the eve of the tournament, the TPC Sawgrass has been in an oven set to broil. The putting surfaces are more yellow than green. The fairways are faster than ever. The slightest miss can lead to big trouble.
     
    No one had quite a wild day as Na. He was two strokes behind at the turn, then bogeyed the next two holes and put a tee shot in the water on the par-3 13th and took triple bogey. He got back in the mix with a birdie on the 15th and an eagle on the 16th, only to bogey the last two holes for a 74.
     
    He was in the group at 5-under 211.
     
    This course, its crazy, Na said. Youve got the greatest players in the world having trouble shooting par on this golf course. Theres a reason were shooting over par.
     
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

    You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

    Race to the CME Globe

    Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

    Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

    The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

    Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

    Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

    So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

    Rolex Player of the Year

    The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

    Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

    Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

    Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

    It’s simple math.

    The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

    1st - 30 points

    2nd – 12 points

    3rd – 9 points

    4th – 7 points

    5th – 6 points

    6th – 5 points

    7rd – 4 points

    8th – 3 points

    9th – 2 points

    10th – 1 point

    Vare Trophy

    Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

    Money-winning title

    Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking

    World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

    Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

    At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

    Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

    By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

    Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

    ''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

    Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

    ''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

    Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

    ''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

    ''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

    ''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

    He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

    ''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

    Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

    ''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''