The stars are once again aligning in the playoffs

By Rex HoggardSeptember 3, 2017, 11:39 pm

NORTON, Mass. – A decade in, it’s not as though the PGA Tour’s postseason needs validation, at least not to those who pull the strings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

In May, FedEx re-upped to sponsor the season-long race with a new 10-year deal, and the circuit is well downrange with a plan to condense the season and playoffs in order to finish before football overtakes the sporting landscape.

But in the event a refresher was necessary, Sunday at the Dell Technologies Championship was a testament to what playoff golf can do for the game for those not already lost to the first weekend of meaningful football.

Last week, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth dueled down the stretch at the playoff opener on Long Island, with DJ taking the title in overtime.

This week is shaping up to be a similar clash of the game’s biggest and brightest.

Justin Thomas, who closed the major championship season with a victory at the PGA Championship, moved into the lead with an 8-under 63, cruising past second-round leader Jon Rahm and into a familiar position.

What’s next? Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler squaring off at the BMW Championship in two weeks? Mickelson and Rahm head-to-head at the finale? The possibilities are endless.

This is nothing new to 2017. The list of champions at the TPC Boston stop includes Fowler, Mickelson and Rory McIlroy (twice).

While playoff golf has never been a perfect fit for a game that counts the majors above all else, consider Sunday’s third-round leaderboard at TPC Boston. Labor Day will feature a cast that includes Thomas, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Jordan Spieth, Fowler and Mickelson all within five strokes of the lead. And as we learned last week at The Northern Trust, when Spieth squandered the same margin, five shots is akin to a dead heat in the postseason.

“I just think that we treat these four events and Atlanta as a major,” Thomas said. “We are trying to be peaking at this time. We are trying to be peaking come Atlanta. We try to take time off before the majors. I took a week off before the playoffs to try to get my game ready to get rested and kind of get going.”

Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings

To Thomas’ point, perhaps postseason events wouldn’t hold the same zeal if they were regularly won by little-known players. But that hasn’t happened.

“Look at the winners of these playoff events. Last year, Rory [McIlroy] won here. You see these names, just the names that have won many times, come through and win in these style of events or major championship-type events,” Spieth said. “There is a heightened something to these playoff events that bring out certain champions, for the most part.”

That trend doesn’t appear to be in danger of ending this year.

Thomas – who would likely secure the Tour’s Player of the Year Award with a victory on Monday for his fifth title this season – will begin the final round tied with Marc Leishman at 12 under par. They're followed by Paul Casey a stroke back. From there, it’s a who’s who of Tour winners this season, with Johnson tied for seventh with Rahm.

Another made-for-the-highlight-reel shootout among the game’s biggest names isn’t guaranteed. Rookie Grayson Murray is tied at 10 under with third-year Tour player Adam Hadwin. Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the circuit this season after being slowed in recent years by a back injury, is at 8 under and could crash what is poised to be a heavyweight title bout.

But there’s no denying the stars are aligned, just as they were last week when Spieth and Johnson set out in the day’s final group.

“It's going to be a throw-down tomorrow,” said Spieth, who climbed into contention with a third-round 66. “It's going to be a completely different style of golf than we saw last week on Sunday.”

Although the names remain largely the same, this week’s venue, even with the controversial redesign of the 12th hole, is not Glen Oaks, the monster that hosted last week’s playoff opener.

Even Sunday’s blustery conditions that included periodic downpours and swirling winds, did little to slow scoring, with just one player (Rahm) within the top 10 failing to break 70.

“The scores were great today,” said Casey, who finished fifth last week in New York. “With the rain we had, it probably sets up for a complete shootout tomorrow with a soft golf course, which could be fun.”

Thomas made the most of the softer course, posting a playoff record 12 threes on Day 3 on his way to the week’s best round despite not making birdie on any of TPC Boston’s three par 5s.

“It's crazy to think I did that and parred all the par 5s. Played them even par,” Thomas said. “That's a little bit of a bummer, if I could somehow have a downside to the day.”

Although his ball-striking was solid on Sunday (16 of 18 greens in regulation), it was Thomas’ putter that allowed him to move into a share of the lead. He rolled in three putts of 25 feet or more, including a 49-footer at the 12th to record one of just six birdies on the hole Sunday. Thomas needed just 26 putts in total.

He’ll likely need a similar performance on Monday to hold off the star-studded pack that looms, but then history has proven that’s simply playoff golf.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."