Donald, Simpson are life of the party

By Jason SobelOctober 20, 2011, 8:19 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Let’s say there’s a big game on TV tonight. Let’s say you invite a few buddies over to your place. Let’s say you’re all enjoying some adult beverages while intently watching the action in your mandated man-cave.

And let’s say the entire night is interrupted when a pair of supermodels come barging through the door.

Hey, it happens.

So, what do you do? Kick ‘em out and post a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the entrance? Or welcome the unexpected surprise with open arms – literally – and crack open a few cold ones for the bewitching beauties?

It’s a conundrum every man should have the pleasure of dealing with at least once in his life, but more importantly in this case, it’s an analogy for what’s taking place at this week’s PGA Tour season finale.

You and your buddies represent the rank and file of the game’s most elite tour. The journeymen. The rookies. The tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. You are the players who don’t want to play well at this event; you need to play well here.

Maybe it’s to jump into the top 30 on the final money list and gain entry into next year’s Masters. Or the top 70 to qualify for invitationals. Or even – gulp – the dreaded top 125, ensuring status for next season and a week of vacation when others are sweating it out at Q-School.

The players who need to play well at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic are accustomed to enjoying the festivities with like-minded competitors. You know, just a bunch of guys in their man-cave.

This week, though, their shindig has been interrupted by a pair of supermodels in Webb Simpson and Luke Donald – although in reality, they’re simply super models of consistency.

The top two players on the money list crashed the party on Thursday and it doesn’t appear anybody is going to kick them out anytime soon. Paired together, Donald posted a 6-under 66 to grab an early share of the opening-round lead while Simpson was only two strokes further back as the playing partners combined for a bogey-free morning at the Magic Kingdom.

At stake between them is the season-long money title. Once thought to be the most prestigious statistical honor for a PGA Tour pro, its importance has been diluted since the implementation of the FedEx Cup. Just ask the Tour, which has chosen to focus its efforts more on the points race than the money.

Until now. With the annual playoffs already a month over, the battle for greenback supremacy has once again taken priority, which is a little like NFL teams still vying for the Lombardi Trophy long after the Super Bowl has been decided.

With his runner-up finish at last week’s McGladrey Classic, Simpson leapfrogged Donald on the list, taking a $363,029 advantage entering the finale. It means that in order to claim the title, Donald needs to win if Simpson finishes tied for second; he needs to finish solo second if Simpson is tied for eighth; or he needs a two-way tie for second if Simpson is inside the top 21.

It also means the two men had plenty to discuss while spending 18 holes together on Thursday.

“We joked around earlier on about it,” Simpson said with a smile. “He shook my hand and told me it was great to see me. We went back and forth a little bit.”

“He asked when I was having my offseason,” Donald revealed. “I said, ‘Well, it was going to be this week. Thanks for playing the last two weeks.’ But, yeah, just some lighthearted banter out there.”

As well there should be. While the money title and, potentially, the Player of the Year award remain up for grabs, it’s not as if a poor week from either player would tarnish his accomplishments.

Exactly a year ago, Simpson was ranked outside the top 200 in the world and had yet to even secure his playing privileges for this season, needing a few strong Fall Series results in order to clinch a card. Now he’s No. 12 on the Official World Golf Ranking and a two-time champion with three other runner-up finishes.

Donald, meanwhile, has parlayed doubts as a career-long underachiever into a turn as the top-ranked player and clearly the most consistent performer in the world. His low opening round at Disney not only shouldn’t be considered a surprise, at this point it should be expected.

All of which accentuates their presence at the year-end event. Simpson and Donald have gone from party crashers to the life of the party. This isn’t their bash, but they’re hardly being bashed for showing up.

You know, just like those supermodels barging into your place tonight.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''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 and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''