Schauffele one back, Thomas six back at CIMB

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 12, 2017, 7:12 am

Xander Schauffele shot 7-under 65 in the opening round of the CIMB Classic and trails Australian Cameron Smith by a shot in Malaysia. Here’s how the first round played out at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Leaderboard: Smith (-8), Schauffele (-7), Poom Saksansin (-7), Keegan Bradley (-7), Kevin Na (-6), Gary Woodland (-6), Pat Perez (-6)

What it means: The PGA Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year outplayed the reigning Player of the Year – at least for one round. Schauffele was grouped with Justin Thomas and was five shots better than the two-time defending CIMB champion. Schauffele ended last season (just a few weeks ago) with a win at the Tour Championship, where Thomas was crowned the FedExCup winner. Thomas, in his first start of the new season, had five birdies and three bogeys. He also used his manager, Lance Young, on his bag as regular caddie Jimmy Johnson fell ill during the round in the oppressive heat.


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Full-field scores from the CIMB Classic


Round of the day: Schauffele’s bogey-free 65 earned style points, coming alongside the Tour’s POY, but Smith’s 64 earned the first-round lead. Smith, who teamed with Jonas Blixt to win the Zurich Classic in April, had eight birdies and no bogeys. Smith has seven missed cuts in 10 Tour starts since earning his maiden victory.

Best of the rest: After starting on the back nine and turning in 1 under, Saksansin shot 6-under 30 on the front. The 24-year-old Thai earned a spot in the 78-man field – his first PGA Tour start – via his seventh-place standing on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit. Bradley, who also shot 65, had six birdies, one eagle and one bogey. Meanwhile, recent Hall of Fame inductee Davis Love III shot 5-under 67, despite a bogey and a double. Love had five consecutive birdies on Nos. 2-6 and tallied eight for the round.

Biggest disappointment: Graham DeLaet (T-5), Bud Cauley (T-7) and Grayson Murray (T-9) fared well last week at the Safeway Classic. But their games didn’t travel. DeLaet and Cauley both shot 5-over 77 on opening day in Malaysia. Murray had the worst first-round score, shooting 10-over 82. There is no cut this week.

Shot of the day: After going birdie-birdie on Nos. 14 and 15 to tie for the lead, Na took a two-shot advantage with a hole-out eagle on the par-4 16th. He would bogey 18 to finish one back.

Quote of the day: “I haven’t really reset any goals yet. I was supposed to make a list of goals before I came out here and I failed to do so, which might be a good thing – my head is still in the clouds,” - Schauffele

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.