Simpson puts on show in scrapped first round at Hyundai

By Jason SobelJanuary 5, 2013, 2:15 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Matt Kuchar stood in the player locker room holding up a piece of paper as a few of his fellow competitors huddled around, marveling at it like a winning lottery ticket. Close. It was Webb Simpson’s scorecard, showing him at 3-under through seven holes in blustery, drenched, brutal conditions during what was supposed to be the opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“Is he really?” “Let me see that!” “Is that net?”

That piece of paper was rendered nothing but an obsolete souvenir when Friday’s play was suspended after just 131 minutes, then wiped off the books completely.

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That’s right. It never happened. Just one giant mulligan.

The PGA Tour wanted to put on a show for Opening Day. Well, this one was kind of like Seinfeld. A show about nothing.

As far as ominous signs are concerned, wiping away the first round of the season might be akin to breaking a mirror while walking under a ladder with a black cat crossing your path.

Instead, the 30-player field will return Saturday for a scheduled 36 holes on the Plantation Course, with impending weather predicted to be even worse than the day that was just deemed irrelevant. More on that later. First let’s get to a few reactions from players about the notoriously un-Maui-like conditions on Friday.

“This isn’t golf; it’s goofy golf,” said Bubba Watson, who never teed off.

“It was really bad. I mean, it was gusting 35. It was real borderline from the first tee shot,” Ian Poulter opined.

“That rain and wind combination, that was about as bad as I’ve seen. I couldn’t even get the umbrella up straight – and I’m pretty strong,” deadpanned Kyle Stanley.

This was the first time the PGA Tour declared a round and void since the second round of the 2005 Players Championship – and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player not named Webb Simpson who wanted to remain on the course.

“It stinks for me,” he said. “I got off to a great start but that's the way it goes. I'm sure they made the decision that's best for all the guys.”

While Simpson may have been left screaming toward the heavens like the Bishop from “Caddyshack,” the rest of the players in the field will be more than happy to start anew.

“[Thursday] we were joking with our amateurs [in the pro-am] that we really didn’t need to play,” Zach Johnson explained. “Then after six or seven holes, I wasn’t beating around the bush at all. I was like, ‘Guys, we can go have lunch and just converse.’ But they wanted to play. Long story short: That was one of the worst experiences I’ve had on a golf course in terms of weather, but today would have been even worse.”

He continued: “You can’t use an umbrella, because it’s too windy. When you combine it with the rain, it’s just tough. You can’t get the ball to stay on the greens – and they’re slow. … I saw some of the pin placements. A ball would get to three feet, look like it was going to stop, then all of a sudden it’s off the green. Those kinds of things should be taken care of tomorrow with a level playing field.”

So now the PGA Tour season will officially begin at 7:30 a.m. local time on Saturday, with players starting on two tees and theoretically playing two full rounds. Theoretical because the forecast calls for 25-35 mph winds with gusts of up to 40 mph.

While the plan makes sense on paper, it was enough to leave a few players snickering due to the fact that Friday’s eventual delay was caused by a 41 mph gust and the biggest wind of the day was 45 mph. What it means is that we could be doomed for a long weekend through the scheduled Monday finish, one in which some more severe decisions could still loom.

“I can honestly say the forecast isn't real good but maybe we'll get lucky,” PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition Slugger White said. “That's the hope.”

Usually the most difficult decisions here on Maui involve choosing between the beach or pool and whether to hit the buffet line for another helping of pineapple.

Of course, Maui doesn’t often feel like a preheated version of Scotland, with violent winds ripping through the course. Much like the players who will attempt to slog it out for 10 hours on Saturday, it appears those windy conditions aren’t going anywhere for a while, either. All of which renders the season-opener little more than an open-ended question right now.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

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.