Who's in, who's out after emotional Web.com Finals?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 2, 2017, 7:45 pm

Those who miss the now-or-never vibe at Q-School must have enjoyed the tense final round of the Web.com Tour Championship. 

For every success story of a player moving inside the top-25 bubble to earn his PGA Tour card, there was a corresponding tale of frustration and disappointment Monday at Atlantic Beach Country Club. 

Five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd won the tournament title by four strokes, but as usual the more compelling action was found further down the leaderboard. 

In all, five players went from outside to inside the magic number, as the top 25 money earners after the four-event Web.com Tour Finals secured their playing privileges for next season (which begins Thursday in Napa, Calif.). 

Seamus Power earned the 25th and final card by $2,688 over Adam Svensson, who missed the cut this week. 

50 players who earned 2017-18 PGA Tour cards

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

One of the feel-good stories Monday was Steve Wheatcroft, who began the week at No. 23 on the money list but was projected at 29th after a third-round 73. It’s been a difficult year for the 39-year-old, who broke his finger in his first tournament and played through a chipped bone and torn cartilage in the back of his hand ... but returning to his home course helped calm his nerves. “I’m in the back nine of my career,” he said, “but man, I don’t want it to stop yet.”

Wheatcroft is guaranteed at least one more year on the big tour, after he shot a bogey-free 67 Monday. 

“It’s been a long year and it’s been a struggle,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”

There were plenty of other heroics, too. 

Chad Collins made eight birdies in the final round to lock up his card. 

Tom Hoge made the cut on the number, then came home in 31, including a 15-foot birdie on the last, to return to the Tour. 

“The feeling is really hard to describe,” he said. “In golf, there are so many downtimes, but it was a pretty cool day today.” 

Byrd, meanwhile, wasn’t even sure whether to tee it up this week. At No. 66 on the money list, he needed a pep talk from his wife earlier in the week just to enter the event, then shot 24-under 260 to head back to the big leagues. 

“I had nothing to lose this week,” he said, “and that helps.” 

Sam Saunders, who on Thursday became the seventh Web.com player to shoot a sub-60 score, tied for second to return to the Tour. He shared runner-up honors with Shawn Stefani, who broke down in tears afterward. 

“Just relief,” Stefani said. “Tears of joy.”

Most heartbreaking was the plight of Matt Harmon, who had worked his way inside the top 25 heading into the final round. With three early birdies Monday, he maintained his position, but he bogeyed the 13th, missed a 3 1/2-footer for birdie on 17 and then three-putted from long range on 18 for another bogey. That left him at No. 32, and he took out his frustration on his putter, bashing his club into the side of his bag and snapping it into two pieces. 

Also on the outside looking in after the Finals were Ryo Ishikawa, Cameron Percy, Matthew Southgate (who was hit with a four-shot penalty in the penultimate event) and Roberto Castro, who reached the Tour Championship in 2016. 

Ben Crane began the season finale in the 18th position, but he decided to skip the Web.com Tour Championship. Crane has been dealing with a back injury, his manager told GolfChannel.com, and he headed to New York City to see his doctor. (He also attended a sponsor outing at the Presidents Cup.) Crane is listed in the field this week at the Safeway Open, and he is hopeful to play about 20 events this year on Tour, after finishing 147th in FedExCup points. 

If the pressure to compete for a PGA Tour card wasn’t enough, the 55 players remaining at the Web.com finale needed to wait another day to learn where they’ll be playing next season, after inclement weather wiped out play Sunday

Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein topped the Finals money list. Here is the full list of the 25 players who earned their card via the Web.com Tour Finals:

1. Peter Uihlein

2. Jonathan Byrd

3. Nicholas Lindheim

4. Rob Oppenheim

5. Ryan Armour

6. Sam Saunders

7. Shawn Stefani

8. Jonathan Randolph

9. Bronson Burgoon

10. Keith Mitchell

11. Tyler Duncan

12. Denny McCarthy

13. Troy Merritt

14. Tom Lovelady

15. Martin Piller

16. Alex Cejka

17. Matt Jones

18. Cameron Tringale

19. Brett Stegmaier

20. Corey Conners

21. Steve Wheatcroft

22. Chad Collins

23. Tom Hoge

24. Joel Dahmen

25. Seamus Power

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

Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

Cook 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.

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.

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Park kept right on attacking.

The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

Leave that to the players chasing her.

Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

Does anything make her nervous?

''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.

Korda sisters poised to make a run at CME

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 9:47 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Jessica Korda wasn’t feeling well making her way around the CME Group Tour Championship battling congestion Friday, but the leaderboard walking to the ninth tee gave her a nice lift.

That’s where she saw younger sister Nelly’s name tucked right next to hers.

They were within a shot of each other amid hard charges up the leaderboard, with Nelly playing just in front of her.

“I was like, 'Dang!’ It was good to see,” said Jessica, 24. “It’s fun to see her playing this well. I know what she puts into it. I’m kind of jealous of the rookie year she’s having, because mine sucked.”

Nelly, 19, is looking to put a special ending on her first year on tour. She posted a 6-under-par 66, good for a tie for fourth, six shots behind Sung Hyun Park (65). Nelly has given herself a weekend shot at her first victory.

Just a year ago, Nelly was here as a spectator, watching her sister.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I found it funny,” Nelly said. “I was walking to the range on Tuesday, thinking just last year, people were asking me, 'When are you going to be out here?’ It seems surreal to be out here, playing alongside my sister and the best players in the world.

“Being in contention is really, really special.”

Jessica shot 68 and sits a shot behind her sister.

Nelly said seeing the leaderboard gave her a lift, too.

“Maybe it amps me up just a little bit,” Nelly said. “It’s a friendly competition. Even though we want each other to succeed, we also want to beat each other. I think she would say that, too.”

Jessica is seeking her fifth LPGA title. She’s coming off a tie for third at the Blue Bay LPGA last week.

Jessica is 35th on the LPGA money list this year, with $515,521 in earnings. Nelly is 51st, with $388,983 in earnings.

“I definitely look for Jess on the board,” Nelly said. “We’ve very supportive of each other.”