McInerney ends chaotic month with PGA Tour debut

By Nick MentaNovember 1, 2017, 12:47 am

LAS VEGAS – In a span of one month, from the first to the 31st of October, A.J. McInerney has run a physical and emotional gauntlet.

On Oct. 1, McInerney was one of thousands who attended the Route 91 Harvest music festival, an event that turned into the deadliest mass shooting in American history when a gunman killed 58 people and injured 500 more as he fired into the outdoor crowd from his hotel room, overlooking the site on the city’s famed Strip.

As bullets rained down on the crowd, McInerney laid on top of his girlfriend, Alyssa, to shield her from the spray. During a pause in the shooting, McInerney and his friends took off running, jumping over barricades, fences and walls to evacuate the area.

“It was a crazy mess. It was so gruesome to see,” he said in an interview with Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte two days later, on Oct. 3. “We could hear the bullets hitting the ground next to us. We could see the spark and the smoke. You could hear that thump of a bullet hitting somebody. When you’re running through that, you’re praying. You’re just trying to get as far away as you can.”

Once he reached his vehicle, which was parked at the MGM, McInerney invited random people – total strangers – into his car and drove them to safety. He then returned to the festival, hoping to help even more of the festival’s attendees get out of the area, but by that point the area was blocked off, and first responders were on the scene.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Articles, photos and videos

Thirty days later, on Tuesday, Oct. 31st, McInerney found himself seated in the media center at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, about to make his PGA Tour debut, taking stock of the last month of his life.

McInerney is a 24-year-old Las Vegas native and former UNLV Rebel who finished 97th last year on the Tour money list. After failing to secure his card via the Finals, McInerney thought he would spend the intervening time preparing for next week’s second stage of Q-School.

Instead, via a sponsor’s exemption, he’s going to play the PGA Tour event he’s attended as a spectator every year for roughly the last decade.

“To have this opportunity here this week in Las Vegas, my hometown, where I was born and raised, is an opportunity that I’ve been looking forward to since I was 15 or 16 years old,” he said. “In the midst of everything that has happened over the last month or so, to get the chance to play here, and kind of play for Las Vegas, and to see all these people out here in the Vegas community come together, it’s an opportunity I’ll never forget, for sure.”

But after a harrowing and chaotic month, it will be back to life as planned next week.

Although a top-10 finish here in Vegas would earn McInerney a spot in the field at next week’s OHL Classic in Mayakoba, he won’t accept the invite to Mexico. He’ll be in Texas, instead, trying to play his way back onto the

“Having a good finish here this week would be great for my career,” he conceded.

That said ...

“I’m still going to be at the second stage of Q-School in Texas that starts Tuesday,” he followed. “So unless I were to get a win here this week and get that two-year exemption to become a member of the PGA Tour I’d need to go to second stage. So even with a top-10, I’d still go to second stage.”

That’s a smart play, but that’s also next week.

This week, McInerney gets to make his Tour debut in his hometown, where has been inundated with ticket requests from his friends and family, which he is letting his mom sort out while he prepares for the most important opportunity of his life.

Just about everything that has happened to McInerney in October was unthinkable only in September.

In that aforementioned interview with Golf Channel on Oct. 3, McInerney began his remarks saying he was “just lucky to be here.”

On Thursday morning, at 8:45 a.m., “here” will be the 10th tee at TPC Summerlin.

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 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.