Eye on the $10 million prize

By Doug FergusonSeptember 21, 2011, 9:08 pm

ATLANTA – Just being among the 30 players at the Tour Championship should be enough for Geoff Ogilvy.

Only 16 days ago, Ogilvy was on the verge of being eliminated from the FedEx Cup playoffs. Needing a par-birdie finish at the TPC Boston, his tee shot on the 17th hole finished in a crevice behind a rock and he had to take a penalty drop.

What followed is still hard to fathom.

Ogilvy rolled in a 20-footer for par, then holed a 6-foot birdie putt to narrowly advance to the next playoff event outside Chicago. Then, he finished alone in third at Cog Hill – a two-way tie for third would not have been enough – to book a trip to East Lake.

“I definitely wasn’t thinking of being here when I was in that hole,” Ogilvy said Wednesday. “So the fact that I am is pretty nice.”

He is No. 24 among the 30 players who reached the Tour Championship, and while mathematically they all have a shot at the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup, the higher seeds have the greater odds.

Webb Simpson is the top seed, followed by Dustin JohnsonJustin Rose, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar. If any of them win, they are assured golf’s richest prize.

Ogilvy’s hopes require a little more math. It starts with him winning, and the odds got even longer the more he studied the other scenarios that must unfold.

“Webb Simpson must finish 17th or worse, which is probably not going to happen, you wouldn’t think,” he said, reading from a chart. “Dustin Johnson has to finish sixth or worse. Justin and Luke have to finish fourth or worse, which isn’t going to happen because Luke doesn’t finish out of the top three anymore, does he?”

That’s when he shifted to a prize that might be just as meaningful.

“I’d love to win this golf tournament,” Ogilvy said. “That would be nice because people are forgetting this one of the tour’s special golf tournaments – The Players Championship, the Tour Championship, the Tournament of Champions. It’s still the Tour Championship, and it would be pretty special to have a Tour Championship on your mantle.

“I guess I’ll view it like that and try to win,” he said. “And if the right things happen, that would be great.”

The FedEx Cup is finishing up its fifth year, and while some promotional bluster created more skeptics than supporters in the early going, it is hard to find fault with what the playoffs have produced – four straight tournaments with the strongest fields, with only the best walking away with the $10 million prize. Tiger Woods has won twice, with Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk the other cup champions.

“I think the system has been validated because it’s had the biggest names in golf as its champions,” Kuchar said.

The leading five candidates this year all are among the top 20 in the world, including top-ranked Donald.

There is reason for others to hope, however, and all that requires is a chat with Nick Watney.

A year ago, Watney narrowly got into the Tour Championship at No. 28 and was 12 shots behind going into the weekend. In the final hour, he was one shot off the lead and had a legitimate chance to win the FedEx Cup until a bogey on the 16th hole.

“I was thinking I had no chance,” Watney said. “Kuchar was leading the FedEx Cup, and he was playing so consistently. They said I had to win and he had to finish worse than 25th or something. There were so many mathematical scenarios. It was like the BCS.”

His message for the guys ranked toward the bottom of the FedEx Cup list was to think about winning – not the FedEx Cup, but a season-ending tournament that still packs some prestige.

“I think that big crystal with the dude on it is pretty special,” Watney said of the Tour Championship trophy. “The FedEx Cup is great, but I mean, there’s a lot to be said for that trophy. It gets lost in this sometimes, at least pre-tournament.”

And that’s from a guy who is No. 7 this year and has a far better chance at $10 million.

Kuchar is the only player who mathematically could capture the FedEx Cup without having won a tournament this year. That nearly happened last year with Paul Casey until he faded over the last few holes.

Adam Scott is No. 19 and thinking about only one trophy – the crystal one with the dude on it.

“It’s just a tournament for me,” Scott said when asked about his chances in the FedEx Cup. “If I go home to Australia next week being a winner at a World Golf Championship (Firestone) and the Tour Championship, I’ll be pretty proud of my year. I’m so far back, I can’t concern myself with money. But I can win the tournament. There’s only 30 guys.”

That might not be bad advice for the guys who do have better odds in the FedEx Cup.

“If you think about money, then you’re not thinking about golf,” Scott said.

Simpson has won two of his last four tournaments, and the fact one of them was a playoff event (Deutsche Bank) is the reason he comes into East Lake as the No. 1 seed. This is his first trip to the Tour Championship, and if none of the top six seeds win, whoever has the highest finish is likely to go home very rich. Or much richer.

“It’s hard not to think about where you stand and the money that comes with playing well from FedEx,” Simpson said. “That being said, we want to focus that much more on the golf course and the conditions we’re going to face, because we feel like the more we can get lost in the golf course and not think about where we’re going to end up in the FedEx Cup, the better we’ll play.”

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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 fired 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.

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).


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Local favorite Yu Liu was in sole possession of seventh place 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.


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"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.


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"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.