Scott Regains Control at TPC

By Sports NetworkMarch 27, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Australia's Adam Scott posted a 3-under 69 on Saturday to jump into the third-round lead of the Players Championship. He stands at 10-under-par 206 and owns a two-shot lead over Frank Lickliter and overnight co-leader Kevin Sutherland.
Lickliter birdied four of his last five holes en route to a 4-under 68 while Sutherland bogeyed his last to shoot a 1-over-par 73 at the TPC at Sawgrass.
There are some of the top names in golf tied for fourth place at 7-under par. Kenny Perry (69), Phil Mickelson (70), Ernie Els (72), Paul Stankowski (66) and the other leader midway through the championship, Jerry Kelly (74) are knotted at 209.
Tiger Woods was flirting with the cut line on Friday but ultimately made his 120th consecutive weekend. His play improved dramatically on Saturday despite a shaky finish.
He carded a 4-under 68 thanks to eight birdies and four bogeys and sits in a tie for 16th at minus-4.
'Overall I played really well today,' said Woods, who won this event in 2001. 'I hit so many good golf shots. Things are starting to come together, and each and every day is starting to get a little better.'
Woods mixed five birdies and a bogey on the front side, capped off by a chip-in birdie at the ninth. He collected three more birdies and a bogey through 16 holes but things fell apart for the top player in the game.
At the famed 17th, Woods barely made it over the water and left with bogey. On the final hole, Woods sprayed his approach into the grandstands and picked up his second bogey in as many holes.
'I had a not-so-good finish,' said Woods.
If Woods is to visit the winner's circle on Sunday he will have to erase Scott's six-shot margin.
Scott, the first-round leader whose swing is often compared to Woods', began the third round two behind Sutherland and Kelly. Things got off to a rocky start for Scott as he bogeyed No. 1 and thanks to a birdie by Kelly, fell four off the pace.
'It took me a few holes to get used to the greens,' said Scott. 'It was a bit of a shock. They were good in the end. It got me ready to go for the rest of the round.'
Scott clawed back in with a birdie at the sixth but a run at the start of his back nine sent him to the top of the leaderboard.
He birdied the par-4 10th, then two-putted from 40 feet at the par-5 11th to match Sutherland in first. Scott took the lead at the next hole when his approach stopped three feet from the hole.
Scott had a great look at a fourth birdie in a row at 14 but his seven-footer lipped out. He was not able to reach the green in three at the par-5 16th and his fourth ran nine feet past the cup. Scott drained the big par save and it was off to one of the most daunting par-3s on tour.
Scott hit a pitching-wedge to 18 feet at 17 but missed the putt. He had a shorter putt for birdie at the closing hole but that putt stayed above ground.
The young Australian has won five times worldwide, including last year's Deutsche Bank Championship on the PGA Tour. In all five of those victories, Scott has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
'Maybe it's experience from the past,' said Scott, looking for an explanation for his front-running success. 'I'm far from winning this event. I've got a whole leaderboard full of the best players in the world right behind me.'
Lickliter, whose home course is the Stadium Course at Sawgrass, was only even-par through 13 holes but the two-time winner on tour caught fire down the stretch.
He birdied the 14th and par-5 16th. At 17, Lickliter hit a 9-iron to 12 feet to set up birdie. His approach at the last stopped inches from the cup and the tap-in birdie gave him a chance at the biggest win of his PGA Tour career.
'Walking to the 16th tee, I was just kind of thinking about how many times I've birdied the last three holes just playing out here and it put me in that not-forcing-it mode, and it just kind of relaxed me,' said Lickliter. 'I'm going to go out and do what has got me to this point.'
Sutherland was even on his round and one back of Scott when things unraveled at 16. His third came to rest in a sand-filled divot and after much deliberation with rules officials, he was told he could not ground his club in a large clump of sand.
His shot from 106 yards came up short of the green in another bad lie. Sutherland stabbed at his fourth and the ball ran through the green onto the fringe. He made bogey to fall two back of Scott.
Sutherland rebounded nicely from the bad break at 16 with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17th. His drive at 18 landed in the right rough and he was forced to lay up with his second at the par-four hole. Sutherland's third landed 17 feet from the hole and he missed the putt to lose sole possession of second place.
When Sutherland signed his card after the round, he was told that he received a bad call on the ruling. He should have been able to ground his club but Sutherland was philosophical about the incorrect decision.
'I was told I couldn't improve my lie. I kept asking if I can ground my club and they kept saying, 'no you can't do it,'' said Sutherland. 'It's the way it goes. I guess I wasn't able to articulate what I wanted in the ruling.'
Craig Parry, the winner of the Ford Championship at Doral earlier this month, fired the lowest round of the day on Saturday with an 8-under 64. He is tied for ninth with Duffy Waldorf (71) and Vijay Singh (72). The trio is knotted at minus-6.
Davis Love III, the 2003 champion, shot a 2-under 70 and is tied for 30th at 1-under par. John Daly struggled to a 4-over 76 and is part of a group in 66th at 2-over-par 218.
Related links:
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  • Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

    The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

    Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

    The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

    Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

    Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

    Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

    A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

    With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

    And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

    “I have no idea,” he laughed.

    Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

    The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

    The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

    “So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

    While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

    Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

    Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

    The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

    All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

    Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

    Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

    After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

    If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

    You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

    On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

    Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

    But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

    On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

    Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

    To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

    His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

    Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

    Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

    After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

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    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    “It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

    Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

    “Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

    Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

    By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

    Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

    “A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

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    Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

    It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

    “My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

    Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.