Slocum, Loupe familiar with extra pressure

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2014, 9:03 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Two-minute drill. Bottom of the ninth. Crunch time.

Whichever sports metaphor you prefer, it can be applied to this week’s Wyndham Championship.

Players have one final chance to jockey for FedEx Cup playoff position, although many in the field are simply trying to secure playing privileges for next season.

Given only 72 holes to improve their season-long standing, some will wilt under the pressure. Others, though, have been under a similar spotlight before and continue to thrive.

Heath Slocum knows what this feels like. It was only two years ago that Slocum came to Sedgefield Country Club at No. 128 in the FedEx Cup standings, on the outside looking in. He tied for 31st, which was enough to propel him to No. 124 in points and punch his ticket to the playoffs. He remains the most recent player to crack the top 125 in the final regular-season event.

Slocum also knows the value of simply earning a spot at the dance. It was five years ago that he entered the postseason at No. 124, only to hold off the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker to win The Barclays at Liberty National. The win vaulted him up the standings, and he went on to make the 2009 Tour Championship.

This week, Slocum’s hole is a bit deeper. At No. 158 in points, he likely needs a top-three finish to make it to The Barclays, but he’s halfway there after rounds of 65-65 put him atop the leaderboard with Scott Langley in Greensboro.


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The key for dealing with do-or-die pressure, according to Slocum? Just let go.

“That’s been one of my biggest things, sometimes it’s just getting out of my own way, just stop trying to do too much,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to take a step back and just go, ‘Have fun with it. Go play.’”

Slocum has done just that through two rounds at Sedgefield, grabbing the pole position heading into the weekend as he looks to win on Tour for the fifth time, and first since the 2010 McGladrey Classic. He missed the cut in each of his last two starts, but the 40-year-old claims to have found a spark during practice last week.

“I said, ‘You know what? It’s all here. See if you can’t go play golf and enjoy it,’” he said. “I mean, sometimes you just go and enjoy yourself and you play some of your best golf.”

Like Slocum, Andrew Loupe is in familiar territory. Loupe has become a poster child for last-minute comebacks in recent years, a trend that began when he holed a 6-foot putt to make it through the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School in 2012. After a debut season on the Web.com Tour in 2013, Loupe needed to hole a putt of similar length at the final regular-season event to qualify for the inaugural Web.com Tour Finals.

Drained it.

Then after missed cuts in each of the first three Finals events, he came to the Web.com Tour Championship in dire need of a big result. After four straight rounds in the 60s, he left with a T-6 finish and a PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.

Now he’s at it again, entering the week at No. 145 in the FedEx Cup standings and likely in need of a top-six finish to crack the top 125 and sew up a PGA Tour card for 2015.

“I’ve been in this position before. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty similar,” Loupe said. “That’s something I tell myself to remind myself, for security and confidence. You have to believe in yourself, and do your best to stay in the present. I know people say that all the time, but it’s true.”

Loupe has had no trouble staying in the present this week, and after rounds of 65 and 68 he sits three shots behind Slocum. The pressure-cooker that causes trouble for so many players is one that Loupe is comfortable with, and as a multi-sport athlete growing up he enjoys competing when the stakes are high.

“It’s an enjoyable stress level, I guess,” he said. “There’s nothing better than playing in front of a bunch of people with something on the line. It’s a great feeling.”

For Slocum, the goal is still maintaining his full-time status with a high finish this week, but the Web.com Tour Finals serve as a suitable back-up plan. Last year, he joined Loupe as one of 25 players to survive the four-event gauntlet and earn cards for this season.

His plan, then, is to build momentum – whether his destination beyond this week is New Jersey for the playoffs, or Fort Wayne, Ind., for the Finals – and enjoy the opportunity to be back in the mix over the weekend.

“No matter win, lose or draw, I will go have fun the next two days,” he said. “I do miss this feeling of being in contention. So not being in contention for a while, I’m going to savor it.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry