Leishman (62) leads Day, Spieth, Phil after BMW Day 1

By Doug FergusonSeptember 14, 2017, 11:11 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Marc Leishman left his golf clubs in his garage during his weeklong break from the FedExCup Playoffs and it didn't change anything. He made 10 birdies in the opening round of the BMW Championship for a 9-under 62 to build a two-shot lead.

Jason Day made the biggest change of his career and had a 64, his best start in 16 months.

The race to the FedExCup finale got off to a blistering start Thursday at Conway Farms, and no one could top Leishman. The Australian finished third at the TPC Boston two weeks ago, did nothing last week except practice putting in the room above his garage, and then ran off seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of his round and matched his best score on the PGA Tour.

''When you play golf and all you're thinking about his making birdies, it's a lot easier than trying to not make bogeys,'' Leishman said.

Day made five birdies on the back nine to atone for a sluggish start in a tournament where his expectations were up in the air. He decided last week that Colin Swatton, the most meaningful figure in his golf career, would no longer caddie for at least the rest of the year. Day instead used an old roommate from his school days in Australia, Luke Reardon. If that wasn't enough, he also changed putters.

That might not have been nearly as significant as the good vibes from a six-shot victory at Conway Farms two years ago. Whatever the case, he had no complaints about his lowest score since a 63 in the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and his best opening round since a 63 at The Players Championship a year ago, which was the last tournament he won.

''A good step in the right direction, especially with having Luke on the bag,'' Day said. ''Obviously, not having Colin on the bag is something different and I just didn't know how I was going to play. I think Luke did a fantastic job out there. We worked well together and hope we can keep that going.''

Charley Hoffman, picked for the Presidents Cup a week ago, birdied his last two holes for a 64. Jamie Lovemark also had a 64 with a little more style, drilling a fairway metal over the creek to 8 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th.


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Jordan Spieth, a runner-up in the last two FedEx Cup playoff events to take over the No. 1 spot in the standings, turned a wild tee shot into a birdie on the opening hole, added a 30-foot birdie from off the green at No. 5 and settled down the rest of the way for a bogey-free 65.

''I felt like I really stole a few shots out of this golf course, which is rare to feel like you scored better than you played,'' Spieth said.

Also at 65 was Rickie Flower, who showed a streaky side. Fowler birdied the first hole. He bogeyed the second hole. He followed with nine straight pars. And then he ran off six straight birdies, capped by a 65-foot pitch from short of the 17th green.

Fowler had a chance to match a career best with seven straight birdies, but he chose not to take on the stream at the par-5 18th and laid up. He hit wedge to 12 feet and missed the birdie putts, with no regrets.

This was only Thursday, and he saw no need in ruining a big finish with a shot he would have had to hit flush.

''Come Sunday, if I'm in good position, that will be a go, and see what happens,'' he said.

Tony Finau, Keegan Bradley and Rafa Cabrera Bello also were at 65, while Phil Mickelson played bogey-free and opened with a 66.

The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after this week make it to the Tour Championship at East Lake for a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus, with odds significantly higher depending on the position in the standings. The top five players - Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson already are assured that position - would only have to win at East Lake to claim golf's richest prize.

Thomas hit a tee shot into the water on the par-3 11th and made double bogey, though he still shot 67. Johnson had a three-hole stretch at 4 over early in his round and recovered for a 71.

For players like Mickelson, Finau and Bradley, they need to play well over the next three days to get into the top 30.

Mickelson found something a few weeks ago, whether it was medication or his diet as it relates to psoriatic arthritis, but it has given him great clarity of the shots he sees and more energy to keep his mind from drifting. He tied for sixth two weeks ago outside Boston and was sharp again at Conway Farms.

Lefty already is assured of competing in his 23rd consecutive team competition as a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup. Now he'd like to make it back to East Lake.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.