Former teammates now in a battle at PGA Championship

By Associated PressAugust 14, 2010, 2:49 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Bryce Molder watched in awe as Matt Kuchar birdied hole after hole during their practice rounds together this week in preparation for the PGA Championship.

Kuchar is the one that’s still shocked – that Molder hasn’t found more success on the PGA Tour.

The two highly touted college prospects during their time at Georgia Tech kept chasing each other on Friday at Whistling Straits, just like they’ve done over the past 12 years and the more than 100 rounds they’ve played with each other.

It just so happens this time it’s for the PGA Championship, with Kuchar at 8 under after a 69 on Friday and Molder three shots behind following a 67 in his second round.

Gone are the expectations that came with the powerhouse Yellow Jackets program when they were together from 1998-2000. Kuchar, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion, has two Tour wins and Molder has yet to break through despite a stellar collegiate career of his own.

“We thought it might happen a little sooner. Things happened. This game’s tough,” Molder said. “There’s a lot of really good players. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out how to play your best, how to maximize your efforts out here. I feel like he’s just hitting his stride and I feel like I’m doing the same.”

Kuchar turned pro a year earlier than Molder and watched his teammate’s game continue to develop, believing Molder would ascend rapidly in the pros.

“I thought Bryce had no chinks in the armor. I thought out of school, he was hands-down the best player in college golf. I thought, there was a guy that’s going straight to the big leagues and going to do well out there,” said Kuchar.

It hasn’t happened, though the 32-year-old Molder is taking it in stride.

“It’s funny, everybody, we’re finding out, has trouble throughout their career at some point or another,” Molder said. “I think 15 years from now, I’ll feel like I was fortunate to do it early and learn and be humbled by the experience.”

Molder’s brilliant collegiate career included receiving All-American honors four straight years, joining Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Gary Hallberg as the only players to do it. He seemed on a fast track to PGA Tour success.

“I think most people would have expected the two of us to be doing this earlier on in our career,” Kuchar said. “But I remember talking to some guys when I was fresh on Tour, talking to them about a 10-year learning curve out here. It didn’t make much sense.”

The pair played 27 practice holes together this week, and Molder said Kuchar birdied 13 of them while he struggled and missed putts. While Molder said he owes Kuchar some money from those rounds, it committed him to staying patient and wait for opportunities.

Molder needed 22 holes before building momentum on the par-5 fifth on Friday, with the blustery winds at his back.

“You have to assume at some point you’re going to get hot and trust yourself that you are, and I did. I’m sitting at even par through 20-something holes and it can go one way or the other,” he said. “You just kind of keep playing, and suddenly I’d birdied three holes in a row.”

He’d birdie three more over the 10-hole stretch before a bogey on No. 18. In the background, Molder heard the cheers for Kuchar, who made a run of his own on the back nine and nearly holed out at No. 13 for the second straight round.

“I told the guys in my group if it was anybody else, I wouldn’t believe it. But it’s Matt, so that was yesterday and then he almost did it today,” Molder said. “I knew he was playing really well.”

Molder finally believes he is, too – and that his breakthrough will come soon.

“I feel like I’m just on the way to where I can play, should play, expect to play,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trying to find what you need to get there. It took me a little while, but it’s been a really, really fun journey.”

Getty Images

Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, given how his career has unfolded, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

Getty Images

Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One behind overnight leader Scott Piercy to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.

Getty Images

Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

Getty Images

Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.