Notes Race to Augusta Players Hobbled

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Six players at the Mercedes Championship have to play well quickly if they want to get into the Masters.
 
Augusta National six years ago went away from its criteria that winning on the PGA Tour earns a trip down Magnolia Lane, preferring to put more emphasis on overall play by relying on the world ranking and money list.
 
Heath Slocum, Wes Short Jr., Robert Gamez, Jason Gore, Brad Faxon and Tim Petrovic failed to crack the top 50 in the world ranking or finish in the top 40 on last year's money list. But there's still time. The Masters will take the top 50 in the world and the top 10 on the current money list at the end of March.
 
'I'm going to hammer out a lot on the West Coast,' said Gore, who is No. 90 in the world. 'It's definitely a dream of mine to play there. I pretty much watched videotapes falling asleep, watching Augusta, for a long, long time.'
 
Faxon gave up a good chance to get back to the Masters by having knee surgery. His victory in Hartford put him inside the top 30 on the money list and the top 50 in the world ranking, but he didn't play the final two months of the season. He wound up 45th on the money list, and slipped to No. 67 in the world.
 
'I thought if I came back early and played well, I would have a chance to make points early,' Faxon said. 'That's still my goal.'
 
PLAYERS HOBBLING
Fresh out of surgery, Brad Faxon started counting the days.
 
It was a difficult decision to get the torn ligaments repaired in his left knee, coming off a victory in the Buick Championship at Hartford and a good showing at home in the Deutsche Bank Championship. The recovery was supposed to be between four and six months, which would knock him out of the Mercedes Championships at Kapalua.

'I was hopeful to be here,' Faxon said, in this winners-only field for the first time in four years. 'I was counting on my fingers what four months was, and my doctor told me that would be really pushing it.'
 
Faxon is among three players at Kapalua recovering from surgery on their knees, although his was the most severe. He injured it two years when he took an awkward fall working with a medicine ball, tried to avoid surgery and eventually found that while he could play golf, it was painful and limited other activities.
 
The recovery, clearly, was ahead of schedule.
 
Faxon went to California a week before Christmas and felt no pain. His first round before coming out to Hawaii showed some rust, as he shot 48 on the front and 32 on the back.
 
'Physically, I feel like I'm in good shape on a machine,' he said of his work in the gym. 'But hitting shots, walking, waiting, lining up putts, that will be tough this week.'
 
Walking is what worries Bart Bryant.
 
A two-time winner last year, including his wire-to-wire win at the Tour Championship, Bryant went ahead with a minor procedure to clean out some loose cartilage in his left knee. The surgery was two days after the Tour Championship, plenty of time to recover for the Mercedes.
 
But doctors found frayed cartilage underneath the knee cap, and decided to shave that down.
 
'That's something that we really hadn't talked much about before the surgery,' he said. 'That put me back a little bit more than I expected. ... Walking is not bad. Just walking downhill is what really is getting me right now. It gets really sore at the end of the day. If I start feeling some kind of sharp pain in there, I might need to consider what I'm doing, but I expect to be able to play this week.'
 
Peter Lonard had surgery he didn't expect, and it was perhaps the most minor of the three.
 
The 38-year-old Aussie felt occasional pain in his left knee over the last several months until it became unbearable at the Australian Masters last month.
 
The next day, Dec. 12, he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus.
 
'I went in at 9 a.m. and that afternoon, I hobbled out,' Lonard said. 'It's still a little uncomfortable, but it's pretty good. They said it would be six weeks to recover, three week before I could play.'
 
Lonard wasn't about to miss the Mercedes Championships, winning for the first time last year at the MCI Heritage. He wasn't sure how he injured his knee, and didn't even realize he needed surgery.
 
'Some days it hurt, some days it didn't,' he said. 'The day I went in for surgery, I said, 'We don't need to do this. It doesn't hurt.' But it's done now, so we'll start again.'
 
RANKING FILES:
One way to look at who had the best year is to consider only the points earned for the official world golf ranking. That not only is a reflection on players' most recent success, but shows how they did against the stronger fields.
 
Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods tops the list at 772.44 points, well ahead of Vijay Singh (514.53 points). Retief Goosen earned 386.2 points, followed by Phil Mickelson (369.93) and Sergio Garcia (296.4).
 
Rounding out the top 10 were Colin Montgomerie (282.9), Ernie Els (274.23), Jim Furyk (272.13), Michael Campbell (249.88) and Adam Scott (245.42).
 
Among top players, the biggest turnaround belonged to Campbell and Montgomerie, each of whom improved 73 spots in the world ranking. Montgomerie ended last year at No. 81 and finished 2005 at No. 8, while the U.S. Open champion went from No. 89 to No. 16.
 
One of the biggest falls belonged to Todd Hamilton, who went from No. 16 last year to No. 97. His best finish was a tie for 13th in the John Deere Classic.
 
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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).


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    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

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “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 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.”