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Ko looks to end title drought at New Zealand Open

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2017, 11:44 pm

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Lydia Ko's return home for the New Zealand Women's Open will give the former world No. 1 a chance to sustain her recent improvement in form and perhaps collect her first LPGA title in more than a year.

Ko has won her home open in three of the last four years - 2013, 2015 and 2016. However, she faces a stronger challenge when the latest edition starts Thursday, as the tournament has become part of the LPGA Tour for the first time.

The strongest field in the tournament's history includes seven major winners; an eighth, American Paula Creamer, withdrew Tuesday with a wrist injury.

The 20-year-old Ko will endeavor to become the first non-American to win an LPGA tournament in their home country since South Korea's Kyu Jung Baek in 2014.

Ko has gone 29 tournaments since her last win at the 2016 Marathon Classic. Her world ranking has dropped to No. 8 during a 2017 season in which she has had nine top-10 finishes in 20 starts without adding to her list of wins.

She comes into the New Zealand Women's Open in good form after finishing second at the Indy Women in Tech Championship in Indianapolis and third at the Evian Championships in which she missed a playoff by a shot.

Ko's earlier slump this season followed her decision to make changes to her swing, clubs, caddie and coach. She remains confident that those changes will bear fruit.

''I really feel like all changes were good changes and there are no regrets,'' she said. ''Sometimes you might not see results right away but you have to keep with it and find what's best for you. It felt like there were a lot of positives but I was just not able to execute it when I was playing... You just have to be patient, and patience is the hardest thing.''

Ko's main challenges this week are expected to come from Canada's Brooke Henderson, American Danielle Kang, Australian veteran Katherine Kirk, who tied Ko for third at the Evian Championship, and 15-time tour winner Yani Tseng of Taiwan.

World No. 22 Kang has the advantage of local knowledge after securing Tiger Woods and Adam Scott's former caddie, New Zealander Steve Williams, to carry her bag this week.

''I needed a local because my caddie isn't able to be here so I said 'okay I'll just hire a local','' Kang said. ''Somehow someone said 'would you mind having Steve Williams on the bag?' I thought it was a joke at first.

''He's as local as it gets so I think I did pretty well there. He's a really cool guy. He knows all the numbers, he knows everything. He is like a walking yardage book. I don't even need to ask, he just tells me what I am thinking.''

Henderson said weather conditions would be critical at the newly-established Windross Farm course east of Auckland.

''It's playing very firm, which is partly because it's so new of a golf course,'' Henderson said. ''I think if the wind stays up like it is right now, it is gonna be a challenge for the girls.

''If the wind dies and the conditions are still suitable, then the scores might be very low.''

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods has a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Tour Championship and is alongside Rory McIlroy in the final group. We're tracking him.

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.

Projected FedExCup standings

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“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.