Kirk, Baird share lead at McGladrey Classic

By Doug FergusonNovember 9, 2013, 10:35 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk and Briny Baird each made birdie on the 18th hole Saturday to separate themselves from the pack at Sea Island.

But not by much.

Kirk holed a 25-foot putt for a 2-under 68. Baird followed him with an 8-foot birdie putt for a 67. They were tied for the lead going into the last round of the McGladrey Classic, one shot ahead of Kevin Stadler (65), Brian Gay (66) and John Senden (68).

Twelve players were separated by four shots going into Sunday, a group that includes Sea Island resident Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson, the former U.S. Open champion who won last month in Las Vegas.

Asked what it would take to win, Baird flippantly replied, ''One less than the next best guy.''

Doing that remains the trick, and not just for Baird. This is his 365th event in his PGA Tour career, and he still hasn't won. Baird had a chance two years ago at the Frys.com Open when he had the first 54-hole lead of his career and wound up losing in a six-hole playoff.


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The top eight players on the leaderboard have combined for seven career wins on the PGA Tour, and that includes Gay's four victories.

Stadler is 0 for 235 in his PGA Tour career, and he wasn't even planning to play Sea Island until realizing he had nothing better to do this week and that after next week in Mexico, the PGA Tour goes into a short winter's nap until January.

Brendon Todd is winless going into his third full season on Tour. He had a 67 and was in the group two shots behind. Jason Kokrak has never won. He had a 69 and was three shots behind. The winner Sunday gets an exemption to the Masters. None of the top eight are exempt to Augusta National.

Baird boosted his chances with three straight birdies at the end - a short iron to 3 feet on No. 16, a 5-iron to about 15 feet on the par-3 17th and a shot that took a reasonable bounce toward the pin for the 8-foot birdie.

''It's a great way to finish and it puts me in a better position going into tomorrow than if I'd have just finished with pars,'' Baird said. ''That would have made the work tomorrow considerably harder.''

Baird and Kirk were at 10-under 200.

Kirk also had to rally late, though he made his three straight birdies in the middle of his back nine. Despite having a birdie putt on every hole, Kirk was 2 over for his round when he three-putted the par-3 12th. He hit it close on the 13th for his first birdie, and then caught a big break after an errant tee shot to the right on No. 14.

The ball was on a cart path, and two drops that rolled down a slope and back onto the path allowed him to place the ball on the slope. Aiming around a tree and into the wind, he used the slope to accentuate his draw and belted 5-iron from 176 yards to 12 feet for birdie. He followed that with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th.

Kirk was one of the early residents at Sea Island until moving to Atlanta, though he knows the Seaside course as well as anyone. He also knows what it takes when the leaderboard is loaded with possibilities, a similar situation to when he won in Mississippi two years ago for his only win.

''It's not like you can just go out there and play conservative and try to hold on to your lead,'' he said. ''It's sort of anybody's game. Obviously, I'm happy to be tied for the lead right now because that's one less shot that I've got to go get tomorrow. But I've got to go play a really good round tomorrow, and hope that nobody plays a really great round tomorrow.''

The forecast was for less wind on Sunday, which could add to the element of a shootout. There was no wind in the opening round and the average score was 69.1. With wind on Friday, the course played three shots more difficult.

Kuchar, at No. 8 in the world the highest-ranked player at Sea Island, had his third straight round of 68 and had the largest following after tournament host Davis Love III missed the cut. He made a 10-foot par save on the last hole to stay within four shots of the lead.

''Pretty amazing to do three straight rounds of 68,'' Kuchar said. ''But looks like I'm going to have to go a lot deeper tomorrow to catch these guys.''

Divots: Michael Putnam received a trophy Saturday even though he was 13 shots out of the lead. He was voted the Web.com Tour Player of the Year award for leading the money list on the junior circuit. ... Only one player from the top eight - Chris Kirk at No. 93 - is among the top 100 in the world ranking.

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.


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“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.


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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.''


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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.''