Koepka relishes chance to prove himself

By Rex HoggardFebruary 1, 2014, 3:26 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – He’s had to add more pages to his passport, while stockpiling enough sky miles to buy his own airline, and along the way he has side-armed the status quo with a trailblazing spirit that would make both Lewis and Clark blush.

All things considered, it’s been pretty standard stuff for Brooks Koepka.

“He didn’t have much of a junior record, and I told him I would be limited as to what I could do for him with a scholarship,” Florida State golf coach Trey Jones recently told your scribe. “He told me, ‘Don’t give me anything, I just want a place to play.’”

And play he has.

Koepka blazed his way through the Challenge Tour last year, winning three times on the secondary circuit to earn status on the European Tour. He also took a two-stroke lead into the final round of last fall’s Frys.com Open, the opening PGA Tour event for the 2013-14 season.

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Although he closed with a 1-over 72 to tie for third at the Frys, the long-hitting American didn’t spend much time lamenting his loss. He got back to work in December at the Thailand Golf Championship and set out this week on the back end of a month in the Middle East at the Dubai Desert Classic.

A second-round 65 pulled him to within one shot of the lead held by Rory McIlroy and midway through his round on Saturday he held a share of the lead for a time on a windy afternoon, but Koepka bogeyed three of his last seven holes to finish with a 2-under 70.

He will begin Sunday’s final turn tied for third and four strokes behind frontrunner Stephen Gallacher. Or, put another way, pretty much exactly where he wants to be.

If nothing else, Koepka is a gamer. He shares a house in south Florida with fellow European Tour standout Peter Uihlein and, on the rare occasions they are home together, the duo go head-to-head at every turn.

“Everything is competitive in that house,” he smiled.

It’s in Koepka’s DNA. Winning is the ultimate goal, but primarily he is driven to compete, which is why Sunday’s deficit in Dubai, or his late struggles in Round 3, didn’t seem to bother him.

“He loves to compete,” said Claude Harmon III, Koepka’s swing coach. “Anything, he just likes it. He goes out today and he played with Rory (McIlroy) and he’s freewheeling. He drives the green at the (par-4) second hole. It’s what he lives for.”

Koepka’s road less traveled motors down familiar lanes following Sunday’s final round, however the birdies and bogeys may fall.

According to his manager with Hambric Sports, Koepka will head home to south Florida and, depending on his finish on Sunday, is hoping to play the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

He is currently 93rd in the Official World Golf Ranking and would likely need a victory to crack the top 64 and earn a trip to Tucson. Ironically, if he does land a spot at the year’s first World Golf Championship he could bump Uihlein, who is 66th in the world but missed the cut in Dubai, out of the field.

After that he plans to play the Honda Classic and Puerto Rico Open, both on sponsor exemptions, before returning to the European Tour in Asia after the Masters.

It’s also worth noting that even his vagabond ways are a bit of a competition. By his best estimates, he figures he's played in 21 different countries since leaving Florida State. He’s eaten horse in Kazakhstan - cue the Borat jokes - hoisted trophies in Scotland, Spain and Italy; and has no intentions of trading in his European Tour card for the safer confines of the PGA Tour.

“No, I’m going to stay out here. I want to do it like Adam Scott did it,” Koepka said.

But make no mistake, Koepka is not a natural road warrior. Without a hint of hyperbole, he admits he struggles with jet lag, so much so he’s been in the United Arab Emirates for nearly a month to acclimate to the time zone.

“I do,” he smiles. “It’s so bad. You laugh, but I really do have a hard time with jet lag.”

Golf, on the other hand, has appeared amazingly easy to him, even under the most intense lights. Saturday in Dubai, for example, being paired with McIlroy was almost second nature. It’s a lesson he learned while paired at last year’s PGA Championship with Tiger Woods in the final round.

“When I was playing with Tiger I got caught watching him. I’d watched him my whole life; it was just natural,” he said. “But I learned from that. I learned just to focus on my own game and not pay attention to anyone else.”

And his next lesson is just a day in Dubai.

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.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.''