Notes GatorNation Choi WDs Big 3 Feud

By Associated PressAugust 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- Camilo Villegas isn't letting the PGA TOUR's playoff race distract him from a chance at his first victory.
 
Nope, he's got his eye on another sport entirely.
 
The 25-year-old Colombian is eager for the college football season to start. His sixth-ranked Florida Gators, the defending national champions, play Western Kentucky on Saturday, when Villegas will start the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship with a two-stroke lead.
 
'The football team's been doing pretty good. The basketball team's doing great,' he said of the defending national football champions and two-time defending basketball champions. 'It's time for a golfer to step it up.'
 
Villegas, who played golf at Florida before turning pro in 2004, birdied the last two holes to finish with an 8-under 63 at the TPC Boston, two strokes ahead of Mike Weir and Ryan Moore.
 
Although he's yet to win a tournament on the PGA TOUR, he's finished in the top three seven times and has a streak of three consecutive top-25 finishes.
 
Currently 46th in the playoff standings, Villegas has locked up a spot in the third round of the playoffs in Chicago next week. But he needs at least one strong finish to make it into the top 30 and qualify for the TOUR Championship.
 
'I don't think it's going to change much the way we play, at least the way I play,' he said. 'I mean, we have the same objective every week: Try to tee it up, try to focus on every shot, try to win a golf tournament. And I can't be thinking about points and stuff.'
 
SECOND CITY
K.J. Choi will take his chances in Chicago.
 
Choi, who finished second in The Barclays last week and is second in the playoff standings by 2,050 points, withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship because of lower back pain after shooting 73 in the first round. He expects to be back next week when the playoffs makes the final cuts before the TOUR Championship.
 
'He will definitely play the next two weeks. He just needs the time off now,' agent Michael Yim told tour officials. 'He wants to put himself in the best condition for Chicago and the TOUR Championship.'
 
Yim said Choi, who has had only one week off in the last month, pulled a muscle in his back while picking up one of his children in March.
 
'After he teed off today, on one of the first two holes, he felt the pain again in his lower back,' Yim said. 'The pain wasn't severe, but he didn't want to force it. He didn't want to play when he wasn't physically at his best.'
 
Choi was treated in a fitness trailer before leaving the TPC Boston, then headed home to Houston.
 
'His body has told him he needed some rest,' Yim said.
 
PROVISIONAL DISPUTE
Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot on No. 9 well to the left and into the trees, then declared he was hitting a provisional tee shot for a lost ball.
 
Vijay Singh didn't appear comfortable with that ruling, believing that provisional shots -- which are used if the original is not found -- can't be used for a ball going into a hazard.
 
Mickelson eventually called for a ruling to clarify, although it became a moot point. He found his original shot in the trees, punched out to the rough, hit into more trees and made double bogey. But while waiting on the ruling, Singh became fairly animated talking to Tiger Woods about the provisional shot.
 
Part of the discussion involved Greg Norman, who was disqualified in the 2004 Honda Classic for hitting a provisional tee shot on a ball believed to have gone in a water hazard.
 
'I think they were just a little confused from past occurrences,' Mickelson said.
 
IN THE SWING
Ryan Moore has ditched the abbreviated backswing he was forced to adopt after hand surgery last year, but he may be reaping the benefits from the time he spent in pain.
 
Moore had an operation to repair a broken bone in his left hand last March, and by the 2006 PGA Championship he was still unable to hit the ball without pain. One day in practice he found it didn't hurt when he started his backswing with his club parallel to the ground.
 
'I honestly could not start with the club down on the ground,' he said after a 65 to finish two shots out of the lead. 'Something about that just relieved the pressure and the strain and made me able to swing the golf club. For a while last year that really helped.'
 
The technique was familiar to him because it's one of the drills he uses to keep his swing in line.
 
'I think it's definitely helped me swing. In the long run it's definitely helped it,' Moore said. 'It makes me have a good shoulder turn, not pick it up with my hands too much, do some really good things for my swing. I had a comfort with it, struck the ball really well when I practiced that way.'
 
Moore played that way for about three months, picking up three top 10 finishes and a 12th place at last year's Deutsche Bank. After resting during the winter, his hand was all better.
 
DIVOTS
FedExCup points leader Steve Stricker shot 67 in the first round and has broken 70 in seven of his past eight rounds. ... Fred Funk also withdrew after an opening-round 76. He was the only player in the field to hit all 14 fairways in regulation. ... Steve Elkington needed just 20 putts in his round of 66, two shy of the tour record shared by six players. ... Vijay Singh had a 74, the ninth consecutive round in which he has failed to break par.
 
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    HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

    Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

    Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

    That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

    "We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

    There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

    Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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    Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

    By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

    Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

    His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

    That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

    For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.


    1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

    Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

    Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

    2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

    It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

    3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.



    4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

    While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

    Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

    5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

    He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

    6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

    Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.



    7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

    The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

    No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    “I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

    8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

    9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

    “Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”


    Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

    Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

    It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

    This week's award winners ...  


    Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

    Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

    Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

    Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.



    The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

    Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

    That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Web.com Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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    Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

    There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

    Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

    "I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

    Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

    "That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

    When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

    "I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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    Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

    As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

    Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

    Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

    Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

    With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.