Tiger Train Rolls into Firestone

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAfter the first three majors of the year, the following week on tour is somewhat of a letdown, with most of the world's top players forgoing the event to wind down.
 
The PGA Championship, however, is a different beast due to the fact that right on its heels is the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, one of the four WGC events that offers up prize money in excess of all four if the major championships.

Formed back in 1962 as a four-man 36-hole exhibition, the tournament didn't become an official PGA TOUR event until 1976. Having been played every year at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, (except in 2003) the event was then added as one of the four World Golf Championships in 1999.
 
And ever since that year Tiger Woods has seemingly owned the place.
 
Phil Mickelson
How will Phil Mickelson respond after his disappointing finish at the PGA Championship?
His stats in the event are staggering - four wins, including three straight starting in '99, a runner-up in 2004 and a pair of fourth-place showings in 2002 and 2003. And yes, he comes in this year as the defending champion after holding off a feisty Chris DiMarco last year.
 
After winning his third PGA Championship last week, Tiger will attempt to win the PGA-WGC combo for a remarkable third time. He won both events in 1999 and 2000 and is looking forward to the prospect of keeping his momentum moving forward.
 
'That's a challenge. It's a challenge for all of us as players. Sometimes you play great one week and you don't have it the next. Welcome to golf. But I'm going to a place that I've had some success at, and I'm looking forward to going there to Firestone, and it's a World Golf Championship, another big event,' said Tiger after his win in Medinah.
 
The other big story line this week outside of who can stop the Tiger train is the jostling for position in terms of the European Ryder Cup squad.
 
A bit unlike the U.S. points list, European players have two ways of qualifying for the squad. The top 5 players on the World Points List as of Sept. 3rd will automatically qualify, as will the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the Ryder Cup Points List.
 
Here are five players, besides Tiger, to keep an eye out on at Firestone:
 
Phil Mickelson
Could go in two directions this week: get back in the saddle after a disappointing showing at Medinah and challenge for the title; or finish well down the leaderboard with thoughts on getting back home to the family. Was runner-up to Woods in 1999 but recent performances have been lackluster, not a top-20 in his last three starts. The three years prior to the event becoming a part of the WGC format, Mickelson had a win in 1996 followed by two straight runners-up.
 
David Toms
Started off year strong with a win at the Sony and then a runner-up and a third at the Ford Championship at Doral and the Honda Classic, respectively. Was in the mix at the halfway point at Medinah before ho-hum weekend left him in a tie for 16th. Last two starts at Firestone were a T-6 in 2004 and a T-9 last year.
 
Stewart Cink
Could take his game up a notch after receiving confidence boost on being named one of captain Tom Lehman's Ryder Cup picks. And Lehman had good reason to pick four-time PGA TOUR winner: four top-5 finishes in his last 10 starts. Throw in the fact that Cink won the title here in 2004 - holding off Tiger in the process - and Cink may very well find himself challenging the King of Firestone once again.
 
Brett Wetterich
Could be inspired by talk in the media proclaiming him to be the weak link on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Having quite a rollercoaster year as seen by a four tournament stretch earlier this spring: missed the cut at the Wachovia Championship; won first career PGA TOUR title at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship; missed cut at Bank of America Colonial; runner-up finish at The Memorial Tournament.
 
Luke Donald
Perhaps a bit overwhelmed in his final round pairing with Tiger at Medinah, Donald had shown beautiful form to his game through the first three rounds. Tenth on the PGA TOUR's money list, Donald has six top-10s for the season including his win at the Honda Classic in March. Finished sixth here last year.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC - Bridgestone Invitational
  • 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.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    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.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    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).


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    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.