Catch him if you can: Spieth leads by three in N.Y.

By Rex HoggardAugust 26, 2017, 11:08 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – You know the deal, in the playoffs things can change faster than a New York minute, although to be accurate it took the better part of 20 minutes on Saturday to completely shake things up at the Northern Trust.

In consecutive groups, co-leaders Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Jhonattan Vegas bogeyed the opening hole at Glen Oaks. Just like that, Dustin Johnson went from absolute gridlock to gliding along like he was heading east on the Long Island Expressway after a long holiday weekend.

That solitude didn’t last. It never does in these parts.

Spieth tied Johnson with a 21-footer for birdie at the fifth and pulled away with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 7 and 8 on his way to a 6-under 64 which tied for the day’s lowest round and set him three strokes clear of Johnson and a cool five shots ahead of everyone not named Dustin.

Glen Oaks has proven to be a formidable first-time test, particularly the club’s outward loop that has played nearly a stroke harder than the closing nine, but unless there’s a similar early shakeup like the one that highlighted Saturday’s round this could quickly turn into a walk-off for Spieth.

“There's a lot of bogey, birdie, two-, three-shot swings on holes out here because if you're in the fairway, a lot of them become birdie holes versus in the rough they become really difficult pars,” Spieth said. “So anything can happen tomorrow.”

Of course Spieth would say that, it’s what he’s supposed to say and of all the 24-year-old’s attributes humility is by far his most endearing, but some of those who will begin Sunday chasing didn’t share his optimism.


The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos

FedExCup standings entering the playoffs


When Tiger Woods donned the black and red on Sunday in his prime with a field goal advantage there was a general sense of admiring acceptance that everyone else was playing for second place. Spieth isn’t that guy. Maybe he’ll get there when he wins 11 more majors, but there is something about the Golden Child that gives the field pause.

“You didn't see Tiger hitting it off the practice ground at an Open Championship and making errors, and then amazing come backs,” said Paul Casey, a reference to Spieth’s historic scrambling victory last month at Royal Birkdale. “Jordan's got something very special. What he did at the Open Championship was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, after the start. He has something.”

Casey will begin the final round in a large group at 7 under that includes Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm and Matt Kuchar; with Johnson at 9 under thanks to a closing birdie that helped narrow the gap on Speith.

That’s not exactly a group that lacks either experience nor firepower, nor are they the type of players who shrink from a challenge, but given Spieth’s track record this season, having won The Open and Travelers Championship in dramatic fashion, it should be no surprise that they would gauge their title chances with a dollop of realism.

“You're going to have to ask for some help from the guy at the top who doesn’t normally give much help,” said Reed, a likely partner of Spieth’s in a few weeks at the Presidents Cup. “If he goes out and shoots even par and gets to 12 under, that means a lot of us are going to have to shoot 4 or 5 under just to catch him.”

Spieth’s track record is rather clear on this front. He’s 5-for-5 with a 54-hole lead of two shots or more in his career, and he’s converted nine of his last 10 54-hole leads.

Although there have been some high-profile stumbles this season, he’s always seemed to emerge unscathed.

At the Travelers Championship in June, he began the final round a stroke clear of the field and stumbled to a closing 70 only to beat Daniel Berger in a dramatic playoff; and at The Open he turned a three-stroke 54-hole lead into a deficit late on the back nine only to play his last five holes in 5 under and win his third major.

While those victories were memorable, Spieth admitted he would much rather enjoy a Sunday like the one he had in February when he began the final lap six clear of the field at Pebble Beach and cruised home to a 70 for a four-stroke victory.

“I think that's what anyone would prefer. I don't expect it, though,” Spieth said. “I've got DJ within three and Rahm, Paul Casey, some guys who have been playing extremely well this whole year. So you expect them to shoot 4 or 5 under rounds; and therefore, I need to go out and do what we've been doing.”

Although the Pebble Beach scenario would be ideal, he’ll take a victory any way he can get it. Just don’t expect him to have the same impact on the field as Woods did in his prime, when his name atop a leaderboard was worth a stroke a side.

“I imagine it's not like guys that were chasing Tiger where you almost felt hopeless,” Spieth said. “I've shown that, you know, things can get a little off and have to get back on track.”

Things can happen quickly when players are this talented, the rough is this thick and the stakes this high, but those who wish to make Sunday something other than a stroll for Spieth will have to make an early move if they don’t want this tournament to be over in, well, a New York minute.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

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 made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player 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.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

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 at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''