Maybe Its Time
The official PGA Tour season, the one that counts on the money list, ended Sunday in Atlanta at East Lake Golf Club. And Vijay Singh, the No. 1 player in the world, finished ninth there at the Tour Championship.
That meant Singh would conclude the season with only $10,905,166 in official earnings. Yes, nobody made more money in 2004. Yes, it was an all-time single season record on anybodys Tour.
But maybe Singh should be ashamed of himself. He hit only a billion practice balls in 2004. If he had hit a trillion, he might have made 11 million dollars.
Maybe he will do better next year.
Maybe Tiger Woods, if he had looked a little harder, could have found a better looking wife.
Maybe Retief Goosen, if he hadnt gone jet skiing and hurt himself in the process, wouldnt have missed the PGA Championship. Maybe his current world ranking of No. 4 would be higher.
Maybe the so-called Silly Season has arrived just in time. Maybe its time we all take a few chill pills. Singh and Woods and Goosen have all done quite nicely on and off the golf course this year.
Singh got to be No. 1 in the world. Woods got married, happily so. Goosen got himself his second U.S. Open and a victory at East Lake when his Sunday 64 was eight shots better than Woods Sunday 72.
Maybe its time to savor a few things from 2004.
Fred Funk got himself a berth on the Ryder Cup team at the age of 48. Jay Haas did the same at the age of 50. Tom Lehman got himself appointed the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain at the age of 45.
Funk, by the way, won his seventh PGA Tour driving accuracy title Sunday when he hit 48 fairways last week to 47 for Scott Verplank. Funk arrived at East Lake with 76.9 percent accuracy percentage off the tee, Verplank showed up with a gaudy 76.8. Funk has finished in the top five in this category in 13 of his 16 years on Tour.
Maybe Tiger Woods, still struggling to find fairways, should be listening to Fred Funk.
Instead, the man who has Woods ear right now is Hank Haney, the longtime coach of Woods close friend Mark OMeara. Woods made it official on his own website recently that Haney had replaced Butch Harmon as his swing coach. This had been one of the worst-kept secrets in golf.
Tiger says Haney is helping. Ill take Tiger at his word on that. He would know.
A pair of teachers/advisors--Rick Smith and Dave Pelz--helped Phil Mickelson break through in 2004. Mickelson won his first major at the Masters in April and was a force in the other three, finishing no worse than sixth in the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
All of which brings us back to Singh. The 41-year-old Fijian is largely his own coach. When it comes to golf, Singh is mostly home-schooled. This makes him a rarity at golfs top level. As they say on the television, dont try this at home.
Singh, an inward person, has turned even farther in that direction to find the answers that have helped him play with more sustained brilliance than anybody else right now.
Maybe we should take a step back and gasp. Maybe we need to work a little harder to appreciate what he has achieved at age 41.
Maybe its time to realize that 2005 in golf already is promising so much.
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.
Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.
''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''
The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.
Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.
Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.
''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''
Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.
First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.
Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round
CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.
Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.
Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.
“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”
Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.
“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”
Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win
CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.
Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.
“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.
“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”
Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.
This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.
Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.
Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.
“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”
Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.
“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”