Beemer beaming at FedExCup chances

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
the Barclays Logo 2007Rich Beem, as much as anyone, knows how quickly fortunes can change in golf.
This is the guy who went from selling car stereos in Seattle for $7 an hour to rolling in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole at Hazeltine to beat Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship. That was over the course of seven years.
His most recent reversal happened over two days.
Beem had yet to crack the top 20 all season. He was at No. 166 in the FedExCup standings. Equally dire was his standing in the Wyndham Championship, where he was even par on the 15th hole of the second round, three shots below the cut line. Four more holes and he was out of golf for the next four weeks.
And now were talking about a chance to win the FedExCup, he said. Its amazing how it can turn around.
Beem made eagle on the 15th, birdie on the 16th, finished with two pars and made the cut on the number. He followed that with rounds of 63-63 ' both times tying his career-low round ' to finish alone in third and breathe some life into his season.
Crazy game, he said.
Such is the nature of the PGA TOUR Playoffs, which starts Thursday at The Barclays.
Beem made the biggest move in the final regular-season tournament, going from No. 166 to No. 114 in the FedExCup standings. He was 21,562 points behind Woods last week, and now starts the playoffs only 6,730 out of the lead.
Better yet, Woods isnt even playing.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen also made a late push, with birdies on four of his last seven holes and getting up-and-down for par from 60 feet away in a bunker on the 18th to grab the 144th spot by a mere 20 points. Justin Bolli, Martin Laird and J.J. Henry also qualified.
Beem, however, is the poster boy for the TOURs version of a postseason.
He was the example of how the playoffs offered so little hope for so many last year. Beem was No. 134 when the playoffs began, and his tie for seventh at The Barclays got him thinking Cinderella until he checked the standings and realized that midnight came awfully early for those who started so far down the list.
Beem was one of only two players who climbed into the top 120 to reach the second round at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he had to finish no worse than second to keep going.
Of those 120, only two cracked the top 70 to reach the BMW Championship for the third event. And of those 70, only three advanced to the 30-man field at the Tour Championship. Only four players had a realistic chance of winning the $10 million prize.
With some major changes, the playoffs this year could be wide open'and that doesnt even account for Woods absence.
Heres the simple math:
  • The reset of points have bunched the 144 players closer together. A year ago, the gap between No. 1 and No. 144 was 15,300 points. This year, the gap between first and last is 7,930 points.
  • An additional 2,000 points are available at every position in the playoff events. That means the player at No. 44 could win The Barclays and move up to No. 1 in the standings. Last year, the highest No. 144 could improve with a victory was to No. 27.
    Now, the odds of that happening are about the same as Woods kissing the FedExCup. The reason guys like Janzen and Beem have such low seeds is they havent come close to winning in their 20 previous tournaments.
    But at least theres hope, giving these playoffs a chance to look like other postseasons.
    The TOUR said they wanted more volatility, but are they setting themselves up for a guy like me? Beem said. Have I had a better year than Kenny Perry or Padraig Harrington? No. But the playoffs arent all about who had the best year, its who is playing well in the playoffs. The New York Giants certainly were not the best team in the league, but they won the Super Bowl.
    The Giants first had to win road games against Tampa Bay, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. That might be easier than Beem, Janzen or anyone else outside the top 70 suddenly finding their game and sustaining it for the next month.
    And it makes it harder for those who dont play.
    Woods, who played only six times this year and still earned the No. 1 seed, isnt the only player on injured reserve. Luke Donald (44) is done for the season after wrist surgery, joined by Alex Cejka (91), Jason Bohn (96) and Roland Thatcher (140). Bob Estes (124) is getting married this weekend, Justin Rose (78) is playing in Holland to bolster his Ryder Cup bid and Lee Westwood (50) is on holiday.
    Only 136 players will tee it up Thursday at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
    That Beem is among them is still hard for him to fathom.
    I seem to be the biggest procrastinator in the world when it means something, Beem said. Its a wonder I ever got married and had kids. But you know, they give you 42 weeks. Just because I waited until the last week doesnt bother me. Im elated to be where Im at.
    Instead of going home to Austin, Texas, for the next month, Beem had to rearrange his travel schedule. He found a hotel for The Barclays, and was thinking about making hotel reservations in the Boston area for next week.
    Then he changed his mind.
    Maybe I should wait until Sunday, he said.
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”