Spieth shares lead with DJ, Fowler, Vegas in N.Y.

By Doug FergusonAugust 25, 2017, 10:48 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – Two swings cost Dustin Johnson the lead. It wasn't long before Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler caught up to him in The Northern Trust, setting up a weekend of star power in the opening FedEx Cup playoff event.

Johnson, finally looking like the No. 1 player who looked unstoppable in the spring, appeared on the verge of building a big lead at Glen Oaks Club until consecutive tee shots wound up on the wrong holes and forced him to scramble just to escape with bogey.

Fowler made up a five-shot deficit in six holes playing alongside Johnson, making a 15-foot birdie on the last hole for a 66 to join Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas (65) atop the leaderboard. And then Spieth put together a stretch Friday afternoon reminiscent of his British Open victory, minus a shot from the driving range, in a 65.

Spieth began the back nine with five straight birdies, matching his longest birdie streak on the PGA Tour. It ended with a bogey on the par-3 15th when his tee shot rolled back into the water, but then he answered with a 40-foot birdie putt up the slope on the 16th.

Even without his best year with his best club, Spieth has won three times and captured the third leg of the Grand Slam. But his putter doesn't leave him for long.


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FedExCup standings entering the playoffs


''Putter has been streaky for me this summer, which is better than just kind of not-so-great, which it was before that,'' he said. ''So I've been able to mentally use one or two good putts to make me feel like I'm putting awesome.

''I got on the good side of the streak on the back nine today.''

Spieth made pars from the bunkers on the last two holes to join the others at 6-under 134.

He wasn't alone in running off a string of birdies. Matt Kuchar looked as though he might miss the cut until his caddie encourage him to try to get back to even par. Kuchar ran off four straight birdies and kept right on rolling, ending his round of 64 with eight birdies on the last 10 holes.

Kuchar and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (68) were one shot out of the lead.

Watson is at No. 113 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 100 after The Northern Trust advance to the next playoff event at the TPC Boston. Watson says he won't play the rest of the year once he is eliminating. A big finish this week could delay that another month, a nice problem to have.

Jon Rahm, who played with Johnson and Fowler, had a 68 and was two shots behind along with Justin Rose (68) and Russell Henley (72).

Seventy players made the cut at 2 over par. That included Geoff Ogilvy, who went bunker-to-bunker-to-bunker on his final hole and had to make a 4-foot putt for double bogey. If he had missed, then it would have let 11 players back into the tournament. Among those missing the cut were Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, who three-putted the last hole and missed by one.

The cut ended the season of 13 players, a group that included Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker and former PGA champion Jimmy Walker.

Johnson looked so sharp early on that he didn't have a birdie putt longer than 12 feet over his first six holes, though he converted just two of them. He reached 8 under when he hammered a driver and a fairway metal to the back of the green on the 629-yard third hole, two-putting for birdie.

But his tee shot on No. 4 was inches away from the third fairway, and his next shot struck a tree. He had to get up-and-down from 50 feet right to save bogey. The next tee shot was so far left it was in the rough on the fourth hole. He clipped branches, hit a poor chip and had to two-putt from 80 feet for his bogey.

''But other than that, I felt like it was a really solid day,'' Johnson said. ''I'm really pleased with the way the golf game is right now and I'm looking forward to this weekend.''

Fowler, meanwhile stuffed it on No. 4 and rolled in an 8-footer on the par-3 sixth over water, and just like that they were tied.

''Pretty stress-free,'' Fowler said. ''I've been driving it well this week, which is key around here. You don't want to play out of the rough.''

Phil Mickelson limited his mistakes and made four birdies in a round of 68, which left him six shots behind but gave him two more rounds at Glen Oaks to post the kind of scores that would make him a viable pick for the Presidents Cup. Rory McIlroy chipped in for birdie on the tough par-3 second and shot 68. He was seven shots behind.

The focus was at the top with so many popular players contending - Spieth, Fowler, Johnson at the top.

''That's what tends to happen in the playoffs,'' Spieth said. ''As less guys make the next tournaments, you start to get players that are playing very well, and to no surprise, those guys are toward the top. ... Should be an exciting weekend.''

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Park kept right on attacking.

The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

Leave that to the players chasing her.

Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

Does anything make her nervous?

''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.