Notes: Toms' tiny bubble; Els' performance peaking for playoffs

By Doug FergusonSeptember 14, 2011, 2:24 am

LEMONT, Ill. – David Toms has been around long enough to realize that good play takes care of everything. That’s especially true at the BMW Championship, where a strong week could pay big dividends.

Toms, whose win at the Colonial was his first PGA Tour title in five years, is No. 20 in the FedEx Cup standings. He is all but assured of returning to East Lake for the Tour Championship, but needs to move up to have a better shot at the $10 million prize.

And then there’s the Presidents Cup.

Toms is at No. 10 in the standings - the top 10 after this week automatically qualify - but this is one tiny bubble. His lead over Brandt Snedeker (No. 11) is a mere $28,000. That would be the difference of finishing 19th and 23rd at Cog Hill. Then again, Toms is only $15,810 behind Jim Furyk, who is ninth in the standings.

And remember, U.S. captain Fred Couples essentially has only one pick because the other has been promised to Tiger Woods.

Even at this stage in his career, Toms wants to be part of the team that goes to Australia.

“I had planned on being part of that team. I was in good position,” he said. “Then I was hurt for a little while in the summer, had a couple of good finishes, got hurt again the first week of the playoffs and Boston is not a good course for me. Neither is this one, to be honest with you.

“I’m in a spot where I have to play well,” he said. “I’ll probably put extra pressure on myself. But I feel like I have to play well to get in the chase for the FedEx Cup and for the Presidents Cup.”

The Presidents Cup scenario is too much math for Toms. He just knows it’s extremely close with Furyk ahead of him and Snedeker behind him. Bill Haas, at No. 12, is $185,899 behind Toms.

“There’s a lot of guys right behind me,” said Toms, who last played on a U.S. cup team in 2007. “It’s all about playing well. If those guys have a great week, they’re going to pass me. So I need to have one myself.”

PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE: Only 70 players made it to Cog Hill for the BMW Championship, the third leg in the FedEx Cup playoffs. For those who didn’t have good years, they still can make up ground by performing well in the playoffs.

Ernie Els has done just that.

He is the only player at Cog Hill who has yet to register a single top 10 this year. The Big Easy barely made it to Boston with a tie for 32nd at the first playoff event. Then, he tied for 16th to barely advance to the third stage of the playoffs.

The streak will have to end if Els is to advance. He needs at least a top 10 finish to get to the Tour Championship.

Four other players - Johnson Wagner, Chad Campbell, Sean O’Hair and Lucas Glover - also made it to Chicago with only one top-10 finish during the regular season. O’Hair, Glover and Wagner all won tournaments.

BUSY FALL: Masters champion Charl Schwartzel skipped the first FedEx Cup playoff event because he needed rest - not for the rest of the playoffs, rather the rest of the year.

Once the Tour Championship is over, the traveling begins for the South African.

Schwartzel goes straight to Scotland for the Dunhill Links, then halfway back across the Atlantic to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. After that are two tournaments in China, the Taheiyo Masters in Japan, then four straight weeks of the Presidents Cup in Australia, the World Cup in China, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and the Dubai World Championship.

“I think that’s eight tournaments in six different countries,” Schwartzel said.

Schwartzel plans to stay closer to home to start the year. Instead of coming to Hawaii for the PGA Tour’s season opener at Kapalua, he said he will be in South Africa for two European Tour events. The Africa Open and the Volvo Golf Champions, which had been in Bahrain. Schwartzel said that event will move this year to Fancourt, which hosted the 2003 Presidents Cup.

PACE OF PUTTING: Dustin Johnson rarely takes more than about 20 seconds when it’s his turn to play. Get him on the putting green, however, and Johnson has learned to slow down.

His 10th hole in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship was a good illustration. He crouched from the other side of the cup for some 10 seconds. Then he looked at his 20-foot putt from a side angle, before crouching behind the ball for the longest time, then bringing in caddie Joe LaCava for an opinion.

Why the extra time? Johnson struggled with his putting earlier this year, and simply wants to make sure he pours everything into it.

“The more comfortable I get with line, the more comfortable I am over the ball,” Johnson said. “I’ve been trying to get good reads, get as much confidence as I can going into the putt. I can’t control if the ball goes in the hole, but I can control how I hit it.”

Not to worry. Johnson is as efficient as ever with the rest of his game.

“The only time, I take a lot of time is on the putts, to make sure I’m reading it right,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t take any time at all.”

FAXON THEORY: While talking about the rage over long putters, Brad Faxon wondered if players needed to change their attitude instead of their equipment or their style.

Faxon long has been a believer that players should putt like they don’t care - in other words, stop getting so uptight about the result that it prevents them from having a fluid stroke or a swing

“When people start changing their style, they immediately feel a freedom,” he said. “It’s kind of like, `This is so different that if I miss, it doesn’t matter as much.’ It’s a new way of trying. When you see someone else’s club, you take a couple of strokes with his putter. Inevitably you hit good strokes, because you’re not thinking about making or missing. You’re hitting it to see how it feels.

“Rather than thinking, `Oh my gosh, I should think like this with my putter,’ you think it’s the style or the putter that makes it better.”

DIVOTS: Bob Verdi, a longtime columnist for the Chicago Tribune and later for Golf Digest, has been selected to receive the 2012 Memorial Golf Journalism award. He will be honored next year at Muirfield Village. … The USGA has hired Sarah Hirshland as its senior managing director of business affairs. She completes the USGA’s new senior leadership team that includes Mike Davis (executive director), John Bodenhamer (rules and competition), Mike Butz (championships) and Rand Jerris (public services). The USGA also hired Joe Goode as head of communications. Goode previously worked at Bank of America.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Yani Tseng is No. 1 on the LPGA in earnings, scoring, driving distance, greens in regulation and birdie average. She is No. 3 in putting.

FINAL WORD: “They’re a very young team - besides me.” - Juli Inkster, 51, on the U.S. Solheim Cup team.

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 tied for 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, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson 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 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 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.''