Lewis in prime position for $1 million jackpot

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2014, 11:13 pm

 NAPLES, Fla. – No, Stacy Lewis doesn’t have a CPU or motherboard in her head, but her peers all know she is practically a human calculator.

She graduated with an accounting and finance degree from the University of Arkansas, and she loves running numbers in her head. Even Lewis, though, is unsure exactly how all the complex point scenarios set up for her Sunday bid to win the inaugural Race to the CME Globe and the $1 million jackpot that goes with it.

She knows this, though. If she wins the CME Group Tour Championship, she’s guaranteed she will also win the Globe. And that’s a $1.5 million payday, the richest in the history of women’s golf.

“I've been thinking about all these awards and the Race to the Globe, that kind of stuff, for three or four weeks now,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, that's not going to go away overnight. I’ve just got to go hit some greens tomorrow. That's all I'm going to try to do.”

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With a 2-under-par 70 in wind and rain Saturday at the CME Group Tour Championship, Lewis assured she is the player to beat Sunday in the battle for the $1 million jackpot that goes to the winner of the season-long competition for the Globe. With Lewis, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko taking turns atop the projected points standings on Saturday, Lewis ultimately walked away in the best position to win the jackpot.

Lewis, though, had to take a peek at an LPGA spreadsheet in the back of the media room to figure out who is best positioned to challenge her.

“I don't know exactly how it all works, but I can tell you there are people on the leaderboard I'm definitely cheering for over others,” Lewis said. “I'm not going to wish any bad on anybody else, but there are definitely some people I'm cheering for. I’ve just got to take care of business tomorrow, more than anything.”

Julieta Granada continued her strong play in the Tour Championship as she seeks to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She shot a 70 Saturday, moving to 9-under 207, good for a one-shot lead on Morgan Pressel (70) and Carlota Ciganda (71), a two-shot lead on Sandra Gal (70) and a three-shot lead on Lydia Ko (68) and So Yeon Ryu (70).

Michelle Wie (72) is four behind with Angela Stanford (67), who shot the round of the day.

Lewis is six shots back.

In a multi-layered battle for big prizes this week, Lewis is in terrific position to become the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to sweep the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the official money title in the same season. 

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park is the only player who could prevent that sweep, and she struggled to a 73 Saturday, falling five shots behind Lewis. Park sits tied for 38th on the Tour Championship leaderboard.

Basically, Park must finish at least T-8 to have a chance to win Rolex Player of the Year, must beat Lewis by 15 shots to win the Vare Trophy and must win the Tour Championship to take the official money title.

Though Lewis didn’t win a major championship this year, she could put an exclamation mark on a dominant season by walking away with all the big prizes Sunday, including that $1.5 million payday.

The battle for the $1 million Globe appears to be down to Lewis, Ko, Ryu and Wie.

With all the complex scenarios, winning the Tour Championship is the common focus. With wind and rain making for tough conditions, the difficulty of the golf course helped keep players honed in on making good swings and scores.

“I'm just going to go out there tomorrow like I did today and not think about the big money that comes at the end of tomorrow,” Ko said. “Everybody is playing pretty good in this condition. All I can do is really try my best out there, because I know it's going to be tough again tomorrow.”

Ko and Wie both wrestled away the projected top spot in points from Lewis before giving it back. At one point, Ko and Lewis were tied for the projected points lead. Wie led by herself before getting in an awkward spot in a bunker at the 11th hole and making double bogey.

“Overall, it was a tough day out there, and I still am not too far away, which I am really glad about,” Wie said. “There is a lot on the line, but you kind of just have to play golf.”


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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."