McIlroy shares BMW lead; Woods 1 back

By Doug FergusonSeptember 6, 2012, 11:45 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy seem to be spending a lot of time together lately. That includes the top of a busy leaderboard at the BMW Championship.

The biggest star in golf and his heir apparent put on a dazzling show Thursday at Crooked Stick, where the gallery caught a glimpse of the best players in the world for the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship.


Round 2 tee times moved up; Golf Channel to broadcast from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. ET


McIlroy, flawless with his irons, birdied his last two holes for an 8-under 64 and was part of a four-way tie for the lead with Indiana native Bo Van Pelt, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Graham DeLaet, the Canadian who is quietly becoming the Cinderella of these FedEx Cup playoffs.

Just three days after McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank Championship, he looked just as impressive in the opening round at Crooked Stick.

''He hits it great, putts it great and top of that, he's just a really nice kid,'' Woods said in some of his strongest praise ever for another player. ''The game of golf is in great hands with him, and he's here to stay.''

Woods, who finished two shots behind Monday in Boston, isn't going away quietly. He was only sharp when it came to scoring, making enough birdies to stay in the game, including a 30-foot chip-in on his last hole for a 65.

McIlroy had every reason to be a little flat because of the short turnaround from the Labor Day finish. But that wasn't the case at the BMW Championship, not with fans lined three-deep down the entire 10th hole to see him and Woods in the same group for the second time in three weeks.

''It definitely gives you a little more of a lift, especially coming off a win and maybe being a little flat,'' McIlroy said. ''You're focused from the get-go, and you want to go out and shoot a good number, and I was able to do that today.''

They made it look easy, and Crooked Stick was every bit of that on a broiling afternoon north of Indianapolis.

Because of heavy rains earlier in the week - so fierce on Wednesday that the course was briefly evacuated - players were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the short grass before firing at the flags. Really, there was no other option in such soft conditions.

Sixty players in the 70-man field were at par or better. Forty players were in the 60s. All but five holes played under par, and the average score was 69.47.

''I think we all knew it was there for the taking today,'' said Justin Rose, who opened with a 67 and was tied for 10th.

Vijay Singh had a chance to join the leaders until he drove into the water on the 18th hole, though he escaped with par and was at 65. Luke Donald was in the group at 66. Phil Mickelson was at 69, worth noting because it looked as though he might quadruple bogey on his last hole. Instead, he made birdie.

His second shot from the fairway on the par-5 ninth sailed toward the corporate tents, and Mickelson feared it was out-of-bounds. He hit a provisional that went onto the driving range, which definitely was out-of-bounds. Before he could hit again, Mickelson discovered the first one was in play. Mickelson had a clear enough shot at the green, and he hasn't lost his magic with the short game – his wedge settled 2 feet away for a birdie.

''I got lucky,'' Mickelson said.

Mickelson played in the group in front of Woods and McIlroy, a dream for any gallery. Even so, cheers could be heard from all ends of Crooked Stick, a testament to how many people were on the course for a Thursday afternoon.

But the biggest crowd followed the two biggest stars at the moment.

''I definitely felt left out for a while,'' said Nick Watney, the Barclays winner who played with Woods and McIlroy. ''But it was fun to watch. Those guys ... they're really good. Rory swings so aggressively, but he never looks uncomfortable. I wish I could have kept up.''

Watney, who rallied for a 70, opened with four pars and coming off the 13th green said, ''I'm playing like the Giants' offense.'' He was talking football, not baseball.

Woods and McIlroy got after it from the start. Woods hit into about 10 feet on the opening hole, and McIlroy hit next to 12 feet. McIlroy made his putt, Woods followed that with his birdie putt. There was a two-shot swing for Woods when he hit 8-iron to 4 feet on the 13th hole and McIlroy went long of the green. There was a two-shot swing for McIlroy when he hit 6-iron to 6 feet on the next hole, and Woods came up short and missed his par putt.

Woods even popped up a tee shot – just like McIlroy did in the final round at Boston – on the fourth hole. It went only 186 yards, so short that marshals came running back down the fairway trying to figure out where it went.

There was a stretch in the middle of the round when on just about every hole, one player would hit it close and the other would match him. They made it look as though they were playing at their home club on a Saturday morning, chatting on the tee and down the fairway, Woods playfully shoving him after an exchange behind the 12th green.

''I've always enjoyed playing with Tiger, and every time that we're paired up, we seem to have a good time,'' McIlroy said.

It was the sixth time they played in the same group this year - three times in Abu Dhabi, twice at Barclays and Thursday.

For Woods, he didn't need the No. 1 player in the world – and the only player besides him in the last half-century to win two majors by at least eight shots – to concentrate on posting a good score. It was the soft ground beneath their feet, the gentle breeze and a 70-man field that meant the greens wouldn't be chewed up by spike marks.

''We just couldn't afford to have a bad start today,'' he said.

The surprise was DeLaet, the Canadian who started these playoffs at No. 106 until he tied for fifth at The Barclays. Now he's No. 60 and facing elimination – only the top 30 go to East Lake for the Tour Championship – but with an eagle on his last hole, he's tied for the lead.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


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Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “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.”


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Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”


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Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.