McIlroy, Mickelson begin BMW outside bubble

By Will GraySeptember 12, 2017, 1:51 pm

At each of the first two playoff events, the cuts for the next round come near the bottom of the field.

Eighty percent of postseason participants made it from The Northern Trust to the Dell Technologies Championship, while 70 percent of players advanced from TPC Boston to this week's BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club. But the next cut will go much deeper, as only 30 of the 70 remaining players will make it to the Tour Championship.

It's a mathematical certainty that several big names will see their season end this week outside Chicago, and chief among those candidates is defending FedExCup champ Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy lifted two trophies last year at the Tour Championship, but he's an outsider to make a return trip to East Lake. The Ulsterman missed the cut during his title defense at TPC Boston, and now will likely need at least a top-5 finish at Conway Farms to make the season finale as he starts the week in 51st place.

BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings

But McIlroy is not the only marquee player starting the week outside the top-30 bubble. Phil Mickelson made the Tour Championship every year from 2007-13, but he currently sits at No. 35 in the points race and is in danger of missing East Lake for the third time in the last four years unless he's able to contend at Conway Farms, where he finished T-33 and T-32 in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Bill Haas begins the week on the bubble, although he and Gary Woodland are nearly in a dead heat at Nos. 29 and 30. Rookie Mackenzie Hughes is on the outside looking in at No. 31 thanks in part to his win at the RSM Classic, while fellow rookie winners Xander Schauffele (No. 32) and Wesley Bryan (No. 37) are close behind.

While making the Tour Championship grants players a chance to win the season-long title, it also comes with some tantalizing incentives - namely spots at the Masters, U.S. Open, The Open and WGC-Mexico Championship next year.

It's a big cutoff for Charles Howell III, who starts this week at No. 35 and has not played the Masters in his hometown since 2012. Tony Finau didn't get to play Augusta National after his win at last year's Puerto Rico Open, but he will make his Masters debut next spring if he's able to crack the top 30 this week from his current spot at No. 39.

There's also another bubble at the top of the standings, as the top five players heading into the Tour Championship will all win the FedExCup with a win at East Lake, just as McIlroy did a year ago. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson appear to be locks to maintain their spots within the top 5, while No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama and No. 5 Jon Rahm will battle for the other two spots against a group of contenders that includes Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman, Paul Casey and Brooks Koepka.

Making the third leg of the playoffs is the mark of a solid season, but for more than half the field this week outside Chicago, it's where the road stops.

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."