Els Clings to Lead at American Express

By Sports NetworkOctober 2, 2004, 4:00 pm
KILKENNY, Ireland -- Ernie Els shot a 4-under 68 Saturday to maintain his two-shot lead through three rounds of the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship. He is at 15-under-par 201 at Mount Juliet Conrad and is two strokes ahead of Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.
 
Bjorn carded a 6-under 66 to come in at 13-under-par 203. European Ryder Cup teammates David Howell and local favorite Padraig Harrington posted matching rounds of 66 on Saturday and are tied for third with reigning British Open champion Todd Hamilton, who shot a third-round 69. The trio is knotted at minus-12.
 
The wind was heavy at times on Saturday and weather is expected to be a problem on Sunday. The forecast calls for rain and significant wind gusts in the morning.
 
Tiger Woods, who battled back problems in the first round, continued to improve physically and fashioned his second consecutive round of 2-under 70 on Saturday. He is part of a group tied for eighth place at 8-under-par 208.
 
'Certainly it's still sore, but at least I can now move and make a golf swing at it,' said Woods, the two-time defending champion. 'I'm still six shots back, which is a long way back, especially when Ernie is playing the way he is.'
 
By the time Els teed off on Saturday, several players were in the midst of low rounds. Els did not get off to a great start with four pars to open his round, but broke into red figures with a birdie at the fifth.
 
Els ran home an 18-foot birdie putt at the eighth to reach 13 under par and go ahead by one. He missed the green with his second at the ninth, and his pitch came up nine feet short. Els' par putt came up short, so the South African fell into a tie for the lead with Bjorn and Harrington.
 
But Els rebounded. His second at the par-5 10th hit the green, but bounced into the back bunker. Els blasted out to four feet and converted the birdie putt. He got to 14 under for the tournament with a birdie at No. 11.
 
None of his closest pursuers could wrestle the lead from Els late on the back nine. Els extended his margin at the par-5 17th with a birdie and had a decent look at birdie at Mount Juliet's demanding closing hole. His approach landed 20 feet from the pin on the fringe, but his birdie putt caught a piece of the hole, but never fell.
 
Still Els has the 54-hole lead in a WGC event and can lock up his first individual victory in this series. Also, if Els can make his way to the winner's circle on Sunday, he will go past Woods into second in the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
'I worked hard to get to where I am, so I've got a two-shot lead and it's good to be in that position again,' said Els. 'I've got good goals that I still want to achieve in my career and I want to just start working hard again.'
 
This was a most-unexpected round for Bjorn, who walked off the course the last time he played in Ireland at the European Open. He was frustrated with his game, but is now in position to win.
 
'I'm very well aware that tomorrow is a big day for me, but nobody can take away the first three days from me, and my golf is certainly going in my direction at the moment,' said Bjorn, who served as one European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer's vice-captains. 'I'm going to go out and try and enjoy this tomorrow, because when you go through a hard time, this is where you want to be.'
 
Bjorn came out strong on Saturday with birdies at one and two. He eagled the par-5 fifth, but did not card his next birdie until the 10th, when he sank a 10-footer.
 
Bjorn added a 12-foot birdie putt at the 13th that briefly tied him for the lead. He failed to add any more birdies on the way in, but will play with Els and Howell in Sunday's final threesome.
 
'I played some good golf,' said Bjorn. 'There was a couple of iffy shots in there, but I guess that's to be expected when the weather is like this. I'm very happy with what I did today.'
 
Howell mixed three birdies and a bogey on his front side, but it was his play at the beginning of the second nine that vaulted him up the leaderboard. He two-putted from 20 feet for birdie at 10, sank a 22-foot birdie putt at the 11th and knocked a 6-iron to 3 feet to set up birdie at 12. Howell, who went 1-1 in the Ryder Cup, tapped in a 3-footer for birdie at 17 to get within three.
 
Harrington was flawless in his 66 on Saturday, but did most of his damage on the front side. He made a 15-footer for birdie at one, then drained a 25-foot par save at the second. The Irishman made a 15-footer for birdie at three and made it two in a row at four with a short putt.
 
The Irishman holed a pair of 15-foot birdie putts at eight and nine, then collected his third straight birdie with a 3-footer at No. 10. Harrington will be in search of his first win on home soil, and the crowd is definitely pulling for him.
 
'I've gotten some great support,' said Harrington. 'Thankfully I started the right way and it gave some momentum to that crowd. There were some really, really good moments out there.'
 
Reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen carded a 4-under 68 and is alone in sixth place at 11-under-par 205. Sergio Garcia fired a 5-under 67 and has seventh by himself at minus-10.
 
Woods was joined in eighth by Darren Clarke (65), the only other player beside Woods to win multiple WGC crowns, Zach Johnson (69) and Lee Westwood (71).
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - WGC-American Express Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-American Express Championship
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

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    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

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    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

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    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

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    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


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