BMW win gives Zach Johnson shot at $10 million

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 16, 2013, 8:37 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Zach Johnson isn’t one to be bogged down with rankings and projections, not even in this FedEx Cup era of up-to-the-second updates.

When he skipped the opening playoff event, The Barclays, to be the best man in his brother’s wedding, he didn’t know it would so greatly jeopardize his playoff chances.

When he buried a 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole in the last round in Boston, he didn’t know it knocked good friend Webb Simpson off the Presidents Cup team, at least for two days.

And so this week, Johnson didn’t stare at the massive electronic leaderboards and run through various scenarios. He kept his head down, as is his wont, and now finds himself with a very simple equation heading into Atlanta, one even he can comprehend:

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Win, and you collect a $10 million bonus.

On Monday, Johnson shot a bogey-free 65 to rally from three shots back to win the weather-delayed BMW Championship. At 16-under 268, he was two shots clear of Nick Watney (64) and three ahead of 54-hole leader Jim Furyk (71).

The $1.44 million first-place paycheck moves Johnson from No. 27 to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup standings, and now he has a clear shot at an even more lucrative prize.

“This week provided me a great opportunity for next week,” Johnson said. “The beauty of what I have now is that I control my destiny next week. If I play really, really good, I can win it.”

It shouldn’t surprise if he does.

After beginning the season with just one top 10 in 16 starts, Johnson has been one of the hottest players on Tour in recent months, recording six top 10s in his last seven events.

Said Johnson, “I didn’t need to win to know that I’m going in the right direction.”

Maybe so, but something has clearly clicked this summer.

Caddie Damon Green attributed the recent hot streak to Johnson’s ongoing work with swing coach Mike Bender. They’ve been “tightening” Johnson’s action through the hitting area, and now he has once again become the driving machine who is annually near the top of the Tour’s driving statistics.

On Monday, Johnson hit all but one fairway, turned in 3-under 32, and added three more birdies on the back nine to build a comfortable cushion.

Most impressive was his birdie on the 16th hole, where he had 179 yards to the flag, uphill, into the wind. He pulled 4-iron – normally his 210-yard club – and his second shot “never left the pin the whole way.”

Alas, the ball settled in the uneven rough just behind the green, but Johnson “chopped” down on the ball with his putter and judged it perfectly. Birdie.

The very next hole, his 6-iron tee shot flew 12 feet right of the cup, and he poured it in the middle to build a two-shot cushion he wouldn’t relinquish.

“He played one of the best rounds I’ve seen in a long time today,” said Brandt Snedeker, who was paired with Johnson in the final round.

With the victory, the short-and-straight Johnson joined the 10-win club. Since 2004, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Adam Scott also have both 10 PGA Tour wins and a major.

“I’m not so sure I even understand what that is and what that means, especially considering whose era I’m playing in,” said Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion. “I’m not wanting to be a prideful guy, but I certainly take pride in that fact that I’ve done what I’ve done.”

Said Green, “He’s just got a lot of guts. He’s not afraid to win. When he gets in this situation, a lot of guys might back up. He wants to keep going, put the pedal to the metal.”

Where’s that mentality come from?

“He gets it from his daddy,” Green said. “When you’re down, he wants to stomp on you. He doesn’t want to let you up. That’s just the way he is. You can’t learn that; you just have to have that in you.”

Johnson’s macho finish stands in stark contrast to what happened to 54-hole leader Furyk. Not even a Monday finish could help the 43-year-old end nearly three years of final-round futility. The front-runner, who slept on the lead for two nights, made three bogeys in the last eight holes and finished in solo third, three shots behind.

That second-round 59? Rendered a mere footnote now, as Furyk becomes the third player to shoot a sub-60 score and not go on to win the tournament.

Worse, he has now failed to win the last six times he has been staked to at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

“I don’t know if I used them all up on Friday and knocked them all in or what,” he said, “but I just wasn’t able to get the putts to go.”

There have been so many near misses in the past two years, it’s difficult to pinpoint which was the most crippling: Tampa, Olympic, Firestone, McGladrey, Oak Hill and now this. Each time he held at least a share of the lead, and each time he walked away searching for consolation, congratulating someone else. In his career, he’s now a 9-for-23 closer.

This time, Furyk led by two shots with eight holes to play, but he three-putted from the front edge on No. 11, missed a 5-footer on 13 and bogeyed 16 after finding a fairway bunker off the tee.

It’ll also be another what-could-have-been week for Woods, who saw Conway Farms for the first time on Wednesday but climbed his way into contention after two rounds. Or so he thought, as he was pencil-whipped in the scoring trailer late Friday when a rules official determined that his ball moved, not oscillated, behind the first green.

Woods disagreed, adamantly, but it nonetheless was the third high-profile rules snafu this season. A Saturday 66 – alongside longtime nemesis Sergio Garcia – made up the two-shot penalty and moved him within four shots of the lead, but any thought of a final-round comeback was all but erased early Monday, as a wincing Woods added to his three-putt total (five for the week) and never seriously challenged.  He finished in a tie for 11th, seven shots behind, but returned to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings.

Like Woods, Johnson will now head to East Lake with his sights on landing the biggest prize in golf. Johnson’s journey into the top five was a bit more circuitous, however.

He had long planned to skip the opening Barclays to be the best man in his brother’s wedding. “I had zero intentions of missing that wedding,” he said, “especially if I’m going to get along with my new sister-in-law.”

Then came Boston, where he tied for 27th, but became a story afterward when he birdied the final hole to lock up his spot on the Presidents Cup team and, as a result, knock out Simpson, with whom he was playing.

“I had zero indication as to what that meant,” said Johnson, who adopted that same mentality this week at Conway Farms, where everyone is playing for position, whether that is the top 30 or the top five.

“It’s hard to grasp the last two weeks of golf because I was trying to make that Presidents Cup team without trying to make it. I was trying to get in the top 30 this week without trying to make it.”

Is he going to try to win the FedEx Cup?

“No,” he said, “I’m not going to try to win that $10 million. I’m going to try to play good rounds of golf Thursday through Sunday.”

Then he smiled: “But I like the momentum I have for next week.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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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 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.

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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.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.