Phil highlights FedExCup bubble boys at BMW

By Will GraySeptember 16, 2017, 11:04 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – There’s a trophy at stake at the BMW Championship, a nice piece of silver that will look great in pictures and, in all likelihood, will belong to Marc Leishman by Sunday night.

But whether or not the Aussie converts his five-shot lead, another tournament will play out in a different section of the high-definition leaderboards lining Conway Farms Golf Club.

Each stop along the FedExCup Playoffs brings with it a bubble watch, but nowhere is the cut more dramatic than here. Players talk all season long about hoping to make it to the season-ending Tour Championship and giving themselves a shot at a $10 million bounty.

In the case of Phil Mickelson, it could provide a satisfying conclusion to a tumultuous year.

Mickelson hasn’t made it to East Lake since 2013, and earlier this season it appeared he would end that drought with ease. The southpaw continued his winless run but amassed a string of high finishes, stockpiling points along the way.

But then he switched caddies, and missed the cut in the season’s final two majors. Suddenly Mickelson entered this week’s event outside the bubble at No. 34, still with work to do.

Saturday’s round served as a bit of a microcosm for Mickelson, as he raced out with three birdies over his first six holes to move comfortably inside the top-30 projections. He then played his next 12 holes in 2 over and watched his name drift back to the wrong side of the bubble.

“It was a little disappointing,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got a good round in me. [I'm] playing too well not to go out and shoot a number and get in the top 10 to make it to next week.”

Mickelson will start the final round in a tie for 15th, 32 projected points behind Gary Woodland, who clings to the 30th and final spot. He will be one of several players whose postseason fates will be determined by the permutations of the final-round leaderboard.

Some will stay glued to the standings with each projected change – but not Mickelson.


BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


“I just kind of set a number,” he said. “I know I’ve got to shoot probably 4, 5 under par. Like I said, I’m playing well enough to do that with ease. I let a lot of shots slide today.”

The final-round stakes extend far beyond a bigger piece of the prize pool in Atlanta. Make it to East Lake and you’re in the first three majors of 2018, not to mention the WGC-Mexico Championship.

It’s an enticing prospect for rookie Mackenzie Hughes, who has worked his way from 31st to 24th in the projected standings through three rounds, as well as Patrick Cantlay, who started the year on a major medical extension but will still tee off Sunday inside the top 30.

But young and old, the benefits of making the season’s final event are unmistakable.

“If you’re in the top 30, your schedule is just different,” said Stewart Cink. “You’re just in all the tournaments you want to be in, and you can look ahead to things.”

Cink knows full well the spoils of making the Tour Championship. He was there each of the first three years of the FedExCup, and the former Georgia Tech standout relished an opportunity to play in front of partisan crowds. But he hasn’t been back since 2009.

Now 44 years old and eight years removed from his last win, Cink bogeyed the final two holes of his third round to drop from inside the projected top 30 to No. 44. So there’s work to be done, but he’s not shying away from the stakes.

“There’s no point in trying to hide from it, because there’s no way you’re not going to see it or hear it, or something’s going to alert you to it. And then what are you going to do?” Cink said. “You can’t un-know it or un-hear it. So I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to ignore it. You have to embrace it.”

It’s an interesting dynamic here in the season’s penultimate event. The top 20 or so players have already booked hotels for Atlanta, while most of those who started the week outside the top 50 know full well that they are heading into their final competitive round until next season.

But for the handful of players in the middle, those with realistic aspirations of either staying inside the top 30 or crashing the party at the last minute, there’s everything still to play for and only 18 holes left to make a move.

“Where I am, and the season so far and my career, and my age and all that stuff, I’ve got nothing to lose except to go out there and try to go all out tomorrow,” Cink said. “One good round might just be enough to get me in the Tour Championship.”

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."