BMW is most important tournament in FedEx Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 5, 2012, 6:49 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – Marc Leishman remembers the nervous feeling as he stood over a short putt on the final hole of the BMW Championship. It was his first time in the FedEx Cup, and the stakes were so enormous that he had a hard time blocking out everything but getting the ball in the cup.

The $10 million bonus? No, that was still a week away.

''I was thinking to myself, 'Hole this putt, and you're in the Masters.' I wasn't thinking about $10 million,'' Leishman said. ''To get into the Tour Championship ... look, the money is awesome, but everything that came with it was better.''

That's what makes the BMW Championship, which starts Thursday at Crooked Stick, the most important playoff event in the FedEx Cup.

Only the top 30 from the 70-man field advance to the Tour Championship, and they are exempt for the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. That might not be a big deal to Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy. But it means everything to players like Leishman, who had never played a major in his life until a tie for second at the 2009 BMW Championship got him into all four of them.

And it's a big deal to someone like William McGirt.

In his second year on the PGA Tour, McGirt secured his card with a runner-up finish in the Canadian Open, and he has improved 35 spots in the playoffs to make it to Crooked Stick. He played in his first major last month at Kiawah Island, an even greater thrill because it was in South Carolina, the state where he lives. McGirt is No. 39 in the FedEx Cup, closer than ever to his goal of getting to East Lake – and beyond.

''It would be nice to have $10 million,'' said McGirt, who has just over $1.7 million in career Tour earnings. ''But I've played in one major. My No. 1 goal is to get to Augusta at some point. I just want to play Augusta. I've been watching that tournament forever. And if I play well next week, we'll see what happens.''

His wife Sarah, expecting their first child in January, was asked if she would rather have $10 million or a trip to Atlanta. She sweetly smiled at the misleading question.

The $10 million will come into view soon enough.

Anyone who plays in the Tour Championship has a mathematical shot at $10 million because the points are reset. The higher a player is on the list, the better the odds. The top five are guaranteed the big bonus simply by winning at East Lake, although everyone in the field now has reason to believe it could be them. A year ago, Bill Haas was No. 25 when a curious chain of events - including Haas saving par with his ball half-submerged in a lake - led to him winning the FedEx Cup.

The idea is to get there. And the final gateway is Crooked Stick, a Pete Dye design north of Indianapolis.

Crooked Stick is best known for John Daly winning the 1991 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate, where he introduced his ''grip it and rip it'' approach to golf. The course also has hosted the U.S. Senior Open and the Solheim Cup, but this is the first time in two decades it has had the very best players in the world.

McIlroy, firmly established now as No. 1 in the world after his win last week at TPC Boston, is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings. He's followed by Barclays winner Nick Watney, Woods, Ryder Cup pick Brandt Snedeker and Louis Oosthuizen.

Far more compelling in the 70-man field are the players trying to crack the top 30.

Jimmy Walker, for example, is at No. 46. He has never played in the Masters, the U.S. Open or the British Open. He missed qualifying for the U.S. Open by one shot this year. And he is four good rounds away from moving into the top 30 and getting into all three of those majors next year.

''From where I'm sitting right now, that's the carrot,'' Walker said. ''Getting there means getting in all the tournaments next year. It really helps, especially for guys in my position not playing in the big events. It will change your whole year.''

Of course, there's still the long odds of winning the $10 million, which comes with a five-year exemption on Tour.

Haas never imagined it would be him last year. All he really thought about was getting into East Lake. He had narrowly missed out in 2010 by finishing No. 31, and last year at the BMW Championship, he was perturbed at blowing a chance to qualify for the Presidents Cup when he shot a 42 on the back nine at Cog Hill. He was looking to make enough of an impression at East Lake to be a captain's pick when he saw a video board on the 17th hole in regulation.

''I look up and it says, 'Bill Haas is projected to win the FedEx Cup,''' he said. ''It's the first time I said, 'Oh, wow, maybe there's a little more on the line here.' That made me a little extra nervous.''

He made a bogey on the 18th, wound up in a playoff, saved par from the water two holes later and won on the third extra hole.

This year, Haas is in familiar territory. He won at Riviera in a playoff in February but has gone quiet since then and comes to Crooked Stick at No. 28. There is work left to reach the ultimate destination in the FedEx Cup, which is the Tour Championship.

And he is not the only one who thinks that way.

''This is the biggest one,'' said Pat Perez, who checks in at No. 55 and is somewhat of a long shot to get to East Lake. ''The biggest prize to me is top 30. The $10 million is nice, but it's only for one guy. I'd like to be in the top 30 because then I'm in everything. I'd have a chance to win majors. And that's what you need – a chance.

''If I could never win the FedEx Cup but knew I would be top 30 for the next 10 years? Sign me up.''

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.