Kuchar leads after first day at Cog Hill

By Doug FergusonSeptember 9, 2010, 10:32 pm
BMW Championship

LEMONT, Ill. – Already having his best season, Matt Kuchar got off to his best start of the year Thursday in the BMW Championship. A mystery season for Tiger Woods took another unexpected turn.

Kuchar, who won the opening FedEx Cup playoff event to position himself for the $10 million bonus, wasted no time putting his name atop the leaderboard. He finished with an 18-foot birdie putt for a 7-under 64 and a one-shot lead over Ryan Moore.

Ian Poulter of England, who has finished in the top 10 only once since winning the Match Play Championship in February, had a 66 for the best round of the afternoon despite opening with a double bogey.

Woods also started with a double bogey, but he never got those shots back.

With one last bogey on the 18th hole, he wound up with a 73 to leave himself in a big hole as he tries to advance to the final stage of the playoffs in Atlanta. It was his highest round at Cog Hill since he opened with a 73 in the 2005 Western Open. It also ended a streak of 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s on the public course in the Chicago suburbs where he has won five times. 

Matt Kuchar
Kuchar's 64 is his best opening round of the year. (Getty Images)

Woods should be used to rough starts by now. His scoring average in the first round this year is 71.08, compared with 68.9 a year ago in the same tournaments.

Even so, it was peculiar to hear him discuss how much ground he has to make up – not against Kuchar, but the finish he needs to get into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and advance to the Tour Championship.

“As of right now, I’m only five shots back out of that spot,” Woods said. “That’s not bad.”

Everything is good with Kuchar at the moment, except his voice. He is playing so well – a winner at The Barclays, a tour-high 10 finishes in the top 10 this year – that there’s really nothing left for him to say.

Not that he had a choice. Kuchar has laryngitis and begged off a series of interviews, letting his score speak for itself. It was the second-best start of his career, and the 21st time in 23 events this year that he broke par in the opening round.

“Just keep playing,” Kuchar said to one question he felt good enough to answer. “I was driving it well. I was actually doing everything well. It felt very good. Last week was a little bit suspect, and this week I kind of figured some stuff out.”

Something clicked for Moore when he least expected it.

Dressed in a black sweater and white golf shirt, with a tie hung loosely around his neck, Moore was 1 over for the round and in a bunker on the 11th. He holed that out for birdie, hit 3-iron to 5 feet for birdie, and after a par, finished with five straight birdies.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting to do that,” Moore said. “I hit a horrible tee shot on 11 with an even worse lay-up, and then I hit a terrible shot from there into a bunker and then holed out. I don’t know. Just got a little positive momentum going from there.”

Poulter had to find some quickly. He hit his opening tee shot to the right on the 10th hole, put his approach into a front bunker and then caught that clean and sent it over the green. He missed a 4-foot putt and took double bogey, although it helped that it’s about a 250-yard walk to the next tee.

“Nice first round,” he said. “Not a very nice first hole, mind you.”

Retief Goosen and Charlie Wi were at 67, while the group at 68 included Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald and Justin Rose.

Phil Mickelson, not a fan of Cog Hill, ended with a bogey on the par-5 ninth hole for a 72. Mickelson swapped out playing in the pro-am to do a corporate function, and instead played Butler National on Wednesday, which he raved about.

He was asked if it was harder to play a course for which he has little affection.

“Yes,” he replied.

Woods feels the opposite, although that was hard to tell by the way he played. He began by hitting a poor bunker shot, an even worse chip and a bad putt for a double bogey. He missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the ninth. With an iron into the par-5 15th, he hit it well left into a tree and had to settle for par.

“I just didn’t have much today,” Woods said.

He also was nine shots behind in 2005 when he opened with a 73, and Woods wound up in second place two shots behind. But he was a little more predictable back then. What gave Woods hope is that despite such calm conditions, no one went lower than 64.

“Guys aren’t going low at this place because the greens aren’t good enough to go low,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a couple of players that have played well today, but overall, the guys just aren’t tearing the place apart.”

Woods is No. 51 in the standings, and the top 30 make it to the Tour Championship. He likely needs to finish around fifth place this week to go to East Lake in Atlanta.

The good fortune of Andres Romero appears to have run out. The Argentine birdied four of his last five holes at The Barclays to narrowly advance to the second round, and he tied for 11th in Boston to make it to the third round. He is No. 68 in the standings, but made five bogeys in six holes to start his round and shot 80.

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”