Past champs Stricker, Johnson headline John Deere

By Associated PressJuly 10, 2013, 9:39 pm

SILVIS, Ill. – Steve Stricker might be the only golfer on the PGA Tour who isn't peeking ahead to Muirfield and next week's British Open.

Stricker's single-minded focus on TPC Deere Run, combined with his recent dominance of the course, makes him the man to beat at this weekend's John Deere Classic.

Stricker, 46, is playing a reduced schedule this season – and he's skipping the Open Championship to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife Nicki in Wisconsin.

But Stricker won the John Deere Classic three times from 2009-11. He's not about to pass on a shot at a fourth title just down the road in Illinois.

''I owe a lot to this place. It's a special place for me,'' Stricker said.


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Stricker and Zach Johnson, who grew up about 100 miles across the Mississippi River in nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are the unquestioned headliners this week.

That's largely because most of the world's top golfers are already concentrating in Scotland.

There's no Tiger, Rory or Phil in this field. In fact, the only golfer ranked in the top 10 in the world that'll play Deere Run is Louis Oosthuizen – and he's 10th.

Just eight of the world's top 50, including Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney and Johnson, have committed to the tournament. But what the field lacks in star power it should make up for somewhat in depth, as nearly half of the top 100 on FedEx Cup points list will tee off on Thursday.

''It doesn't matter where we're playing or what the field looks like. They're all good,'' said Johnson, who also serves as an executive board member for the tournament. ''If you don't know the names, you're going to know them at some point because they're all too good.''

Johnson broke Stricker's three-year winning streak here in 2012. But he enters his hometown event in a bit of a slump.

Johnson followed up a third-place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in late May by shooting 13-over par at The Memorial Tournament and missing the cut at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

Johnson said that although his putting remains ''up and down'' – a worrisome sign because of how many birdie chances Deere Run presents – he's feeling more and more confident in his driver.

Johnson also notched top-5 finishes at Deere Run in 2009 and 2011 before beating Troy Matteson on the second hole of a playoff last year.

''My golf game is in a much better form than it was at the beginning of the year. I've said it a couple of times and I hate to admit it, but my golf game was not where it needed to be early on in the year,'' Johnson said. ''That was just a process to kind of get where I am now.''

But not even Johnson can approach the run that Stricker has had at the John Deere.

Stricker's reduced schedule also appears to be doing wonders for his game in 2013.

Stricker has four top-10s in seven events – including a memorable eighth at the U.S. Open.

''My attitude is fresher,'' Stricker said. ''Just getting it right in my mind at the start of the year that this is what I wanted to do was a big step in my own mind, knowing that I am doing the right thing. And I feel good about what I'm doing. That helps me play the way I've been playing.''

Bradley will be making his John Deere Classic debut and is seeking his first win of the year. Watney will also be looking for a breakthrough after missing three straight cuts from mid-May to Merion.

Jonas Blixt initially said he intended to return to his native Sweden after winning last week's Greenbrier Classic. But Blixt remains scheduled to tee off Thursday with Watney and Oosthuizen.

Perhaps no one in the field will have more fun this weekend than Oosthuizen.

The South African is a self-described ''farm boy'' with an affinity for John Deere equipment. Oosthuizen celebrated his 2010 British Open by buying a John Deere tractor, and he even brought family and friends to the Quad Cities this week so they could tour the company's facilities.

''I've still got quite a bit of passion for golf. But John Deere and farming is not far off,'' Oosthuizen said.

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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.

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).


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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.


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“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 him 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.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

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Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. 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." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka