Big Five Now the Big Two

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
The record indicates that Tiger Woods is having a big year.
He already has won three times, including the Masters for his first major since 2002, and he has finished in the top three in seven of his 13 starts on the PGA Tour. He has returned to No. 1 in the world. And when Woods says his game is coming together, no one rolls his eyes.
Still, this is a year in which nothing is what it seems.
The lasting image of Woods is not of him slipping on a green jacket at Augusta National for the fourth time, but making a mess of the final two holes at the Masters and having to sweat out a sudden-death playoff. True, he has given himself a chance to win just about every other time he has played, but he also missed a cut for the first time in seven years.
And while he nearly staged dramatic comebacks from a six-shot deficit at the U.S. Open and a five-shot deficit at the Western Open, his rallies ended with errors he rarely makes.
I guess thats the one negative of being the best. Everyone expects you to be perfect, Jim Furyk said after ignoring Woods charge and winning the Western Open. If he makes a mistake, it sticks out more than anything else. People pay notice to it. People will mention it to him. He has to relive those moments a little bit more critically than everyone else because the spotlight is on him.
Hes human. But sometimes, it doesnt seem that way.
Woods is not alone.
With so many players poised to do so many great things, the spotlight on the first half of the year seems to shine as much on their shortcomings as anything they have achieved.
Six months ago, the stars were aligned for a blockbuster season. Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson have done their part, each winning three times. In fact, 15 of the 27 tournaments have been won by players ranked in the top 10.
But heading into the British Open, the Big Five is more like the Big Two.
Ernie Els has won in faraway lands'twice in the Middle East, once in China'but the Big Easy has had a tough time on the PGA Tour. He squandered two great chances to win at the start of the year in Hawaii, and his only decent opportunity since then was at Congressional. He shot 72 in the final round of the Booz Allen to finish five shots back.
Whether he can turn it around remains to be seen, although history is not on his side.
Els is coming off a devastating year in the majors'a playoff loss in the British Open to journeyman Todd Hamilton; a bogey on the 18th hole that cost him a spot in the playoff at the PGA Championship; a great round that went unrewarded when Mickelson beat him at the Masters, and an 80 from the final group at the U.S. Open.
The last time he felt so empty was when he was runner-up in the first three majors of 2000. He went through the motions in 2001, failing to win on the PGA Tour for the only time in his career.
Retief Goosen also has laid an egg.
He was a forgotten figure at the start of the year, only making news when he didnt play. Goosen overslept and missed his pro-am time by 10 minutes at Riviera, making him ineligible to tee off in the Nissan Open. Then, it looked like he slept through the final round of the U.S. Open.
Described as unflappable and nearly unbeatable, Goosen lost a three-shot lead in three holes at Pinehurst No. 2 and wound up with an 81. Turns out he was unflappable in defeat, taking in stride the worst final-round score by a 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open since Gil Morgan shot 81 in the final round at Pebble Beach in 1992.
Everybody else seems to be more worried about it than I am, Goosen said last week. It was a disappointing day, but nothing like that is going to bother me.
Despite three trophies, Mickelson hardly could be considered a threat to No. 1.
None of his victories this year came against more than one other member of the Big Five'Singh was at Phoenix and Pebble Beach, Goosen was at the rain-shortened BellSouth Classic. Lefty gets high grades for the best round of the year'not his 60 in the FBR Open, but his 10-under 62 at tough Spyglass Hill that sent him to a wire-to-wire victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He was so hot in February that he was atop the leaderboard for 10 consecutive rounds of stroke play going into the last day at Doral. Mickelson practically begged for Woods best game on the Blue Monster and got every bit of it, losing by one shot in the only head-to-head battle by any two members of the Big Five.
But he hasnt been the same since.
Mickelson won in Atlanta, but only because Jose Maria Olazabal twice missed 5-foot putts on the 18th hole. His preparations for the majors are just as calculating, but the game hasnt been there, and his only tussle on the weekend has been over spike marks.
Singh has top 10s in both majors, although he was an afterthought in the Masters and U.S. Open. He still leads the PGA Tour money list, but thats more a product of playing 20 times'seven more tournaments than Woods.
Woods and Singh have swapped spots atop the world ranking six times this year, and No. 1 could continue to be a revolving door through the end of the year.
But for all the talk of a Big Five, the first half of the year has narrowed it down to two.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).

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Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

Who’s the best at their best?

In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

And he’s far from done.

“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”