Trio Lead at Firestone Tiger One Back

By Associated PressAugust 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- It has reached the point where everyone expects to see his name atop the leaderboard, and he got there Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on a course that felt like a major.
 
Indeed, Hunter Mahan is on a roll.
 
Coming off four consecutive top 10s that included his first PGA Tour victory, Mahan overcame a sloppy double bogey with a torrid stretch of birdies for a 3-under 67, giving him a share of the lead with Paul Casey and Rory Sabbatini at the Bridgestone Invitational.
 
That other name that has become a fixture at Firestone -- Tiger Woods -- didn't fare too badly, either.
 
Woods is a five-time winner at Firestone and going after his third straight title in this World Golf Championship. He opened with a 68 that included another memorable shot, this one a 5-wood from 245 yards in the right rough that he squeezed between two trees and just over the back of the green for a simple birdie on the par-5 second.
 
'Very satisfied,' said Woods, who has posted a score in the 60s in the first round all 10 times he has played this course.
 
Mahan was playing Firestone for the first time, but that doesn't seem to matter. He got his game on track when he shot 63 to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he hasn't let up. There was a victory in Hartford, a 69-65 weekend at Carnoustie to tie for sixth at the British Open, an opening 62 at the Canadian Open, where he eventually tied for fifth.
 
So when he chopped up the 17th hole for double bogey, there was no need to panic.
 
'I'm just playing golf,' said Mahan, a 25-year-old player from Oklahoma State. 'It's just exciting to play this good, to feel like I'm finally reaching my potential and finally playing the way I can. Just going out there and letting go.'
 
For most of the 83-man field, it was a matter of hanging on.
 
The final major of the year starts next week at Southern Hills, but it sure felt like a major at Firestone. The course is in supreme condition with thick rough and greens that figure to be every bit as slick as the PGA Championship. More than one player watched a putt slide by the hole and keep rolling 6 feet away, and K.J. Choi hit one off the green at No. 12.
 
Only 13 players managed to break par.
 
It was the highest score to lead the first round at Firestone since it became a WGC event in 1999, and the scoring average of 72.18 was second only to the final round in 1999, when Woods failed to break par and still won the tournament.
 
Mark Calcavecchia, who also shot 68, played a practice round Tuesday and immediately sent a text message to Woods, who was practicing that day at Southern Hills. He told him the greens were as fast as Augusta National.
 
'I've never seen them this fast,' Calcavecchia said.
 
Mahan had no trouble with them, if only because he didn't have much space between his ball and the cup. He hit 5-wood into 20 feet for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, hit a sand wedge to 2 feet on the third, a 7-iron to 12 feet on the fifth and closed out his birdie run with a 7-iron to 10 feet on No. 7 and a wedge to 4 feet on the eighth.
 
Casey also got up to speed -- not with his putting, but his energy level.
 
After a grueling week at Carnoustie, he played last week in Germany and felt drained. He was still dragging his feet when he arrived in America, which swing coach and CBS Sports analyst Peter Kostis quickly noticed. Kostis figured a simple challenge might help, so he offered to buy Casey dinner if he broke par.
 
'The opposite to winning dinner was buying dinner,' Casey said. 'And it worked. It got me going.'
 
One of his birdies came on the 16th, a 656-yard hole that is tough to reach in two and equally difficult when playing the third shot with a wedge over the pond to a shallow portion of the green. Casey was alert enough to realize that Kostis works in the 16th tower, and he stuffed his wedge into 4 feet.
 
'I was aiming 15 feet left of the flag to the center of the green and I didn't hit the shot I wanted to,' Casey said. 'I kind of came out of it slightly and pushed it out to the right, and it finished about 4 feet away. I won't tell him that.'
 
Casey played in the final group last year with Woods and Stewart Cink and tumbled out of contention. He hopes for another chance this week, especially with the PGA Championship waiting and Firestone proving to be an ideal place to test one's game.
 
Joining the leaders was Sabbatini, who hasn't been heard from -- on the golf course, anyway -- since winning Colonial. Sabbatini went six holes without making a par, a streak that included three straight birdies. The longest of those putts was 3 feet, and his final two birdies were inside 5 feet.
 
'The rough is insane out there,' Sabbatini said. 'By Sunday if we don't get any rain, I don't see that anybody is going to be able to really get the ball close to any holes unless they're chipping.'
 
Anyone not on his game paid for it.
 
Cink, a winner in 2004 and a playoff loser to Woods last year, failed to make a birdie on his way to a 79. Mike Weir's progress slowed dramatically when he opened with a 77, while Vijay Singh chopped through the rough on his way to a 74.
 
Phil Mickelson, who has missed the cut in his last two majors, also shot 74.
 
'It's certainly playing different than most years,' Woods said. 'Most years, it's raining here, ball is plugging, you've got some low scores. Not this year. Right now, 3 under is leading. And that's a heck of a round here.'
 
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    Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

    By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

    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.''


    Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


    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.

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    Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "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."

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    Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "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."

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    Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

    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.