Thomas tops Leishman in CJ Cup playoff

By Jason CrookOctober 22, 2017, 7:15 am

After another up-and-down day at the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas had just enough left in the tank to outlast Marc Leishman in a playoff and take home his first win of the new season. Here's how things shook out on Sunday during the thrilling conclusion of South Korea’s first PGA Tour event:

Leaderboard: Justin Thomas (-9), Marc Leishman (-9), Cameron Smith (-8), Whee Kim (-6), Anirban Lahiri (-5), Pat Perez (-5), Jaime Lovemark (-5), Brian Harman (-5), Luke List (-5), Scott Brown (-5)

What it means: After a season in which he won the FedExCup title and earned PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, Thomas hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. While his win Sunday was the just his first of the new Tour season, it was the 24-year-old’s sixth victory in his last 25 starts and he’s projected to move to a career high No. 3 in the new world rankings.

Round of the day: No one played a spectacular final round, but the nod has to go to Thomas, the first-ever CJ Cup winner, who hit the clutch shots when he needed to. Thomas got off to a rocky start with a double-bogey 7 on the third hole and made a couple more bogeys on the back nine, but he balanced those out with four birdies, including one on the final hole of regulation to shoot an even-par 72 and force a playoff. Thomas and Leishman split the first playoff hole with pars before JT closed it out with a birdie on his second try.

Best of the rest: Leishman was two shots better than Thomas on the day (2-under 70), but couldn’t capitalize when he needed it most. The three-time PGA Tour winner made a costly mistake with a bogey on 17, but got it right back at 18 to get into the playoff at 9 under. He was ultimately done in after finding the hazard with his second shot on the second playoff hole, finishing with a double-bogey 6. Other than the tournament runner-up, Pat Perez snuck inside the top 10 with a final-round 68. His bogey-free 4-under round was the best in the field on Sunday and the 41-year-old continued his career resurgence after his CIMB Classic win last week.

The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges

Biggest disappointment: With a share of the 54-hole lead, Scott Brown was in prime position to pick up his second career PGA Tour win and first since 2013. Instead, the Augusta, Ga., native coughed up his position on top of the leaderboard after back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5 and never recovered. Brown went out in 40 and although he did get a couple of birdies to drop on the back nine, the 34-year-old finished T-5 after a 4-over 76.

Shot of the day: Thomas' approach on the second playoff hole after Leishman was already in the hazard:

Both Thomas and Leishman hit very similar shots into 18 during regulation, setting up the playoff.

Quote of the day:  “I just know I’m so excited to not do anything, I officially have nothing left in the tank at the moment.”  – Thomas

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.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

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 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.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

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.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

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.