DJ, Ryder drama, FedEx points set up wild Sunday

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 11, 2016, 12:50 am

CARMEL, Ind. – The final round of the BMW Championship might be the only time all year that the most compelling action isn’t at the top of the leaderboard.

Brace yourselves, because there’s a lot to keep tabs on Sunday at Crooked Stick.

Sure, there’s the actual tournament, where Dustin Johnson surged to a three-shot lead after four birdies in his last five holes Saturday. But even tighter races are playing out for the Ryder Cup captain’s picks, as well as the top five and top 30 in the FedEx Cup.

U.S. captain Davis Love III will make three of his four wildcard picks on Monday morning. Phil Mickelson suggested last week that the picks were “fairly obvious,” but that’s news to just about everybody else.

Matt Kuchar seems the most logical choice, with an Olympic bronze medal and nine top-10s this season. (He is also tied for fifth through three rounds here at the BMW.) But after that, you can make a case for – and just as easily against – as many as a dozen other Americans.

J.B. Holmes is making the strongest statement, likely moving into position to secure a spot with his strong play at Crooked Stick. Ranked 10th in Ryder Cup points, he now has shot three consecutive rounds in the 60s and is in solo third, four shots behind Johnson.

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“Winning takes care of a lot of things,” Holmes said. “I’m going to go out there, play the best I can and let things happen as they may.”

There aren’t many other standout contenders.

Rickie Fowler has had three chances to win this season, most recently at the Barclays. But he’s projected on the FedEx Cup bubble, No. 30, after another pedestrian showing.

Bubba Watson is ranked seventh in the world, but he doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour in six months. Jim Furyk has the most losses in Ryder Cup history (20) and, because of a wrist injury earlier this year, didn’t even reach the third leg of the playoffs.

Hoping to add the hottest player heading into the biennial matches, Love will make his final selection on Sept. 25, after the Tour Championship and five days before the first tee shot is struck at Hazeltine. It’s possible that no other American will step forward before then, leaving Love to sort through a handful of unimpressive candidates.

The race for the top 30 might be even more unpredictable.

Every player in the 69-man field began the week with a mathematical chance to advance to the Tour Championship, but the picture has focused only slightly after three days.

According to the projections, Fowler trails No. 29 Daniel Berger by one FedEx point. Jason Kokrak is the odd man out, 69 points behind, but the player stinging most Saturday night should be Roberto Castro. He shared the halfway lead with Johnson and was projected to rocket to sixth; after a no-birdie 74, he is projected at 32nd.

“I still have a very obvious objective,” Castro said, “which is to play really well and try to win the tournament or come close.” 

Every year, the final round of the BMW offers thrills and spills in equal measure as players jockey for position. Last year, Harris English and Justin Thomas swapped top-30 positions when they were in the scoring trailer. It’s usually that close. 

Not that the players usually keep an eye on all of the fluctuations, mind you.

“It changes so much it’s just really hard to watch,” Berger said. “You can’t really pay attention to it.”

Even the top five players have something to play for Sunday. Finishing the event in that position would allow them to – all together now – control their own destiny at East Lake. Those in the top five can take the $10 million prize if they win the season finale.

Adam Scott, who already has a pair of top-4 finishes in the playoffs, is currently projected to finish fourth in points, while Paul Casey, who will be in the final group Sunday with Johnson, is fifth. Just outside are Rory McIlroy (T-35) and Jordan Spieth (T-9), respectively.

“You would be pretty unlucky if you were sixth and won East Lake and didn’t win the FedEx Cup, but it’s possible,” Scott said. “So if you rule out one variable, that’s a good thing. I would like to stay in the top five, and good play takes care of that.”

Seems that's the proper mindset for this day, because it’ll also take care of the BMW, Ryder Cup decision and top-30 race, too.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.