Notes Couples Back Skins Power Gone
The star power is gone, but Couples says that was bound to happen.
'A hundred years ago, we had Watson, Palmer, Player and Nicklaus,' he said, referring to the first field at the Skins Game in 1983. 'You're never going to get any better than that. We're going to have a good time, and we're going to play some golf and enjoy it.'
What to expect from Couples?
He has been taking baby steps since trying to return from a severe back injury that has kept him out of competition since the Masters, and it sounds as though he took one giant step over the weekend by shooting 60 at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas to tie the course record held by a certain Tiger Woods.
This is the ideal place for Couples to return.
'I've made a lot of bonehead shots and a lot of brilliant shots,' he said. 'And that's really what you want to do in these things.'
Along with deciding on a schedule, booking flights and hotel rooms and working on their swings, most LPGA Tour players spent a good chunk of the 2007 season studying up on drugs.
The next time they play on tour, some of them will be tested under a new policy that starts next year. And while they believe they are clean, some of them are leaving nothing to chance.
'I'm going to have my doctor apply for medical waivers for everything he has ever prescribed for me,' U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr said. 'Not necessarily any medication I'm taking now, but anything I've ever needed -- like antibiotics. The closer we are to testing, you just want to be safe.'
Otherwise, Kerr said she's not worried about what a test might reveal 'unless there's something in red wine I don't know about.'
Paula Creamer said she spent a lot of time reading this year.
'You have to be aware of what goes in your body,' she said. 'We've already learned a lot about what's in protein bars.'
The LPGA Tour will be the first golf organization to embark on a drug policy, and the penalties are severe -- one-year suspension for the first offense to a lifetime ban for the third offense.
There will be no difference in punishment for positive tests of performance-enhancing drugs or recreational drugs. Jill Pilgrim, the LPGA Tour general counsel who is administering the program, said marijuana would constitutes a downer and cocaine works like an upper.
'Technically, they are enhancing your performance,' she said.
The LPGA Tour would not say at which tournament the random drug testing would begin, although the first opportunity will be the Women's World Cup in South Africa that starts Jan. 18.
Like many players, Karrie Webb is most concerned about supplements, knowing exactly what's in them. For someone who has been around a dozen years on the LPGA Tour, she expects the veteran players to be the most uneasy.
'It would be one thing for the next generation who grows up with drug testing when they start playing a sport,' Webb said. 'But here we are in the middle of our careers.'
One year after he beat Tiger Woods to win the HSBC Championship, Y.E. Yang captured another tournament that was meaningful in a much different way. Yang was the medalist by one shot over Bob May at Oak Valley, one of six qualifiers in the second stage of Q-school on the PGA TOUR.
That puts him in the final stage, which begins Nov. 28 in Orlando.
Other notable players who advanced to the 108-hole final were U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Colt Knost, former Ryder Cup players Chris Riley and Steve Pate, and Notah Begay, who had European Tour membership last year. Also advancing to the final stage was Casey Wittenberg, who has toiled the last two years in minor leagues like the Hooters Tour.
Former PGA champion Mark Brooks failed to get past the second stage and will have to rely on his status as a past champion. Also failing to advance to the finals were Pablo Martin of Spain, former U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes and Tripp Isenhour, who had a chance to avoid the second stage until closing with a 75 at Disney in the final PGA TOUR event of the year.
The U.S. Open is considered the toughest test in golf, and it sure played like it this year. Along with the highest winning score to par this year on the PGA TOUR -- 5 over by Angel Cabrera -- Oakmont had seven of the 20 hardest holes.
Augusta National, where Zach Johnson became the first Masters champion in 51 years to finish over par, had four of the top 20.
The toughest hole was No. 18 on the Blue Monster at Doral, which averaged 4.625 shots for a par 4. Tiger Woods made bogey, hitting iron off the tee to protect his two-shot lead.
The top three toughest holes were all the last one. The second-toughest was No. 18 at Carnoustie (4.611), where Padraig Harrington made double bogey and still won the British Open. That was followed by No. 18 at Oakmont (4.602).
The four majors accounted for 13 of the 20 toughest holes.
Oakmont played as the toughest course with an average score of 75.7 on the par 70.
One of the classiest evenings of the year is the Rolex Awards on the LPGA Tour, held at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach.
The highlight belonged to Angela Park, the rookie of the year.
Halfway through a humble and gracious speech in which she thanked her family and supporters, she paid tribute to her parents and her heritage by speaking in three languages -- Korean, Portuguese and English. Park's family is from South Korea, she was born in Brazil and grew up in California.
Her mother wiped tears from her eyes during the speech, and later took pictures, including one of the Donald.
Indianwood Golf and Country Club outside Detroit will host the U.S. Senior Open in 2012. ... The Nationwide Tour Championship will move next year to the TPC Craig Ranch in Dallas and offer a $1 million purse, the largest in the tour's history. ... Alena Sharp became the first Canadian to finish higher than Lorie Kane on the LPGA Tour's money list since 1996. 'My goal is to be the best in the world, not just the best in Canada,' said Sharp, 26, who finished at No. 57 on the money list. ... The winning U.S. Solheim Cup team is headed to the White House next week for a visit with President Bush. ... Sergio Garcia at least set one PGA TOUR record this year. He earned $3,721,185, the most of anyone without winning a tournament.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
With her $4,364,994, Lorena Ochoa would have finished No. 7 on the PGA TOUR money list.
'I wish like hell I could have played for this kind of money. But if not for me, they wouldn't be playing for it, either.' -- Louise Suggs, 84, one of the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai
SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.
Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.
Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.
''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''
Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).
Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.
''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''
Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.
Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).
The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.
Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him
Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.
Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.
As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.
"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."
Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.
"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."
Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.
"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."
Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1
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.
"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, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"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."
Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp
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), Piercy (-9), 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 off the lead 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: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.
Best of the rest: 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.
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.