Casey co-leads looking for nice consolation

By Doug FergusonSeptember 24, 2010, 2:23 am
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola

ATLANTA – Paul Casey won’t be going to the Ryder Cup. He wouldn’t mind a $10 million consolation.

Casey was the only player among the top five in the FedEx Cup standings to break par Thursday, running off three straight birdies around the turn at East Lake for a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald in the Tour Championship.

It was the seventh time Casey has shot in the 60s in the nine rounds since European captain Colin Montgomerie left him off the Ryder Cup team. Whether that’s motivating him to play well, the Englishman isn’t saying.

A different kind of cup does have his attention.

At stake in this playoff finale is a $10 million bonus to the FedEx Cup champion. The top five in the standings – Casey got to No. 5 with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at Cog Hill – can claim golf’s biggest payoff by winning, no matter what anyone else does.

“I’ve got an opportunity to accomplish one of the goals which I set for myself at the beginning of the year,” Casey said. “I’m just trying to put myself in that position to win and then tick off that goal, which would be a huge goal. I’m not getting wrapped up in any sort of extra motivation. I don’t need extra motivation. I’m motivated enough.”

Breaking par was hard work on a difficult course in steamy conditions. The fairways are fast and more narrow than ever, and only nine players in the 30-man field broke 70.

One of them was defending champion Phil Mickelson, who has an outside chance to win the FedEx Cup and a better chance to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world. Woods did not qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.

Mickelson had two eagles in a span of four holes, including a shot he holed from the fairway on No. 12. Not so good was making bogey after both eagles, along with consecutive bogeys after his first birdie of the tournament. He shot 69, not a bad start.

“It’s a better position than I started last year,” said Mickelson, who opened with a 73 and went on to a three-shot victory. “Could have been better, could have been worse, and it was an interesting day.”

Jim Furyk had a 67, while K.J. Choi was at 68. The group at 69 included Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Kevin Na and Mickelson.

Matt Kuchar, the top seed in the FedEx Cup whose golfing career is rooted in Atlanta, chipped in for eagle on the 15th hole. That wasn’t enough to offset for four bogeys in his round of 72, including a tee shot into the stands on the par-3 18th.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 2 seed, struggled off the tee on his way to a 74, while Steve Stricker (No. 4) also had a 74. Charley Hoffman, part of the top five from his victory at the TPC Boston, had a 71.

It only helps Casey and his bid to win the FedEx Cup when the four players ahead of him are behind him on the leaderboard, and he took notice of that when he glanced at video screens around East Lake.

“The big screens they have out there never go past the top 20, and I wasn’t seeing anybody in the top five (in FedEx Cup standings) in that top 20,” Casey said. “There is a very long way to go, though.”

And he has enough company under par to remind him of that. Donald, who had a runner-up finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship to get to No. 7 in the standings, had six birdies in his round of 66.

Donald was among the three captain’s picks for Europe and is hopeful of building some momentum, along with the winning the tournament, before heading over to Celtic Manor in Wales.

It was awkward for Donald when Casey was left off the Ryder Cup team for the first time since 2002, particularly because Donald’s brother in Casey’s caddie. Still, he didn’t see a correlation in Casey’s recent form to any Ryder Cup snub.

Even though Casey hasn’t won a tournament this year, he is No. 7 in the world ranking. That wasn’t an accident.

“You expect him to play well,” Donald said.

The best news for Ogilvy, an Australian, is that he’s starting to expect himself to play well. Ogilvy has not won since the season-opening SBS Championship at Kapalua, and he didn’t so much as contend until the TPC Boston. That helped him get to the Tour Championship, even entertain thoughts of winning the FedEx Cup as the No. 12 seed.

“You can’t come out and say, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to play well in the next few weeks,’ because it doesn’t quite work like that,” Ogilvy said. “But I think I get a pretty good feel for when it’s coming around. But I don’t know why.”

So does he feel his game coming around? Ogilvy smiled.

“I think so,” he said.


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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."