Sunday of Wyndham spotlights heartbreak on Tour

By Will GrayAugust 17, 2014, 11:57 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Wyndham Championship is positioned on the calendar as the ultimate lifesaver.

It’s the PGA Tour’s final get-rich-quick opportunity, the place where one week can absolve the mistakes of 10 months and where one good round can change the outlook for the following year.

In the span of a few hours Sunday, though, the field of dreams expected at Sedgefield Country Club transformed into a minefield, with casualties scattered across the fairways as players at every level of the Tour’s hierarchy suffered heartbreak after heartbreak.

While Camilo Villegas left with the trophy, a deserving champion after a final-round 63, those left in his wake exited with scars that may take months – if not years – to heal.

The player with the most to gain Sunday was Heath Slocum, though he became the one who lost the most after stumbling to the finish line. At No. 158 in the FedEx Cup standings, Slocum knew to begin the week that he needed a big result, and through 70 holes he was where he needed to be. An eagle on the par-5 15th was followed by a birdie on No. 16, and Slocum quickly emerged from a pack of contenders to join Villegas and Nick Watney atop the standings at 17 under.

But Slocum hadn’t cracked the top 10 since his win at the 2010 McGladrey Classic, and he played the final two holes like a man with something to lose. A stubbed chip on the 17th hole dropped him one shot off the pace, then he found himself 42 feet away for birdie on the final green.

What played out next required an abacus and perhaps a FedEx Cup currency conversion chart, as Slocum’s playing partner, Freddie Jacobson, was in the process of bogeying the 18th to ruin his shot at the title. When he stood over his lengthy birdie putt, Slocum’s scenarios were simple: make it to tie Villegas and head to a playoff, or two-putt for par and tie for second, locking up a spot in the playoffs and a PGA Tour card for next year.

Slocum played for the win, racing his putt 6 feet past. The par attempt never had a chance, and in the span of two holes he plummeted from co-leader to a spot in the Tour Finals.

Afterward he regretted the outcome, but not the execution.

“I mean, how many times are you going to get that situation, a chance to maybe win a golf tournament?” Slocum said. “I hit it too hard obviously, but I was trying to make sure I got it there and I hit a poor putt on the second one. … Obviously, I’m terribly disappointed.”

Slocum’s tale was one of high-stakes disappointment, but he was not the only one leaving Sedgefield wondering what-if.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Like Slocum, Brad Fritsch had plenty to play for Sunday: his first win, his highest PGA Tour finish, and oh yeah – a card for next year.

Fritsch struggled under the pressure of a spot in the day’s final pairing, shooting an even-par 70 that left him in a tie for eighth. It means another trip to the Tour Finals for the Canadian, but after exiting the scoring trailer he had a more pressing question.

“Am I 151?” he asked.

Indeed he was, as Webb Simpson’s 72nd-hole birdie put a charge into the FedEx Cup calculators that left Fritsch at No. 151 in the final standings. While Nos. 126-150 aren’t fully exempt for next season, they do retain some conditional PGA Tour status.

Instead, Fritsch is left with no status on the main circuit as he readies for a trip to Fort Wayne, Ind., in two weeks.

“I was uncomfortable,” Fritsch said. “Didn’t have it today. Too many downhill, 35-footers that broke 4 feet, trying to get the right speed. It was tough. I just didn’t put myself in great position to make birdie putts.”

As a non-member, Jason Allred wasn’t thinking playoffs, or even FedEx Cup points. Allred’s approach was focused simply on making cash, as he began the final round in a tie for 18th and likely needed a top-14 finish to make enough money to earn his card for next year via the non-member money list.

An underdog tale that began with a T-3 finish at the Northern Trust Open and included a tie for sixth last month at Reno ended suddenly on the fourth hole Sunday, as Allred put his tee shot out of bounds on the right. He re-loaded, but yanked his next shot left.

O.B. again.

It led to a quadruple bogey, a blow from which he could not recover. Even though he eagled the following hole, Allred posted a 3-over 73 to tie for 47th and now will join Slocum and Fritsch in the fight for one of 25 cards available at the Tour Finals.

“I felt like everything was right there,” Allred said. “I’m certainly disappointed, and I’m sure I’ll be more disappointed once it sinks in a little.

“I hope so much I can learn from today, because I want to be back out here so bad. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Perhaps the day’s cruelest blow, though, was reserved for little-known Kevin Foley. A rookie who hadn’t played in a PGA Tour event before the Sony Open seven months ago, Foley entered the week at No. 208 in the FedEx Cup standings, needing to crack the top 200 to earn a return trip to Finals. He was 1 over on the day when he pulled his approach into a greenside bunker at No. 18, but his blast left just 4 feet for par.

The putt failed to drop, and Foley finished at No. 201 in the standings.

For players like Foley, the difference between Nos. 200 and 201 is especially steep. While those who just miss the top 125 receive conditional status and a chance at redemption during the four Finals events, Foley has no such consolation prize. The next time he’ll tee it up will be at the second stage of Tour Q-School, and even full-time status on the developmental circuit is now far from a sure thing.

“I felt like I did a lot of good things all week, today just wasn’t the greatest,” he said. “Just hit the putt with too much pace for that line.”

Too much pace. Not enough chances. A mis-read putt.

The area behind 18th green at Sedgefield was littered with regret, as over the course of the final round, the promise of the Wyndham turned into the heartache of what-might-have-been. 

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''