McIlroy grabs share of lead before storms halt play

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2012, 11:45 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Tiger Woods watched the flight of his tee shot until he could see it drifting too far right, and he hung his head slightly as the ball tumbled off the green. Already with three bogeys in seven holes, it looked as though nothing was going right for him in the PGA Championship.

Dark clouds seem to have followed Woods on the weekend at majors this year. On Saturday at Kiawah Island, they might have saved him.

Facing a 7-foot putt to avoid another bogey, the darkening sky crackled with thunder and play was suspended with 26 players having to return for a marathon finish Sunday. That might be good news for Woods, not so much for Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy raced to the top of the leaderboard, and not even a tee shot that lodged into a tree on the third hole could slow him. Once he finally found it stuck in a rotted section of a thick limb, he took a penalty drop and drilled his wedge to 6 feet to save par.

He went out in 32 after a bogey on the ninth hole and was at 6-under par, tied with Vijay Singh, who was on the par-3 eighth hole.

''It's nice going into the final day - hopefully, if we get it finished - in a great position,'' McIlroy said. ''And it being 27 holes, I definitely don't mind. I don't mind if it takes a while to get done.''

Singh started and finished his short day with birdies - an 18-foot putt on the first, and a 25-foot putt on the par-5 seventh.

Right behind was Adam Scott, showing more magic than hangover from his British Open collapse last month. Scott was three shots out of the lead when the third round began and cruising along with pars until four birdies on the last five holes of the front nine. That stretch began with a shot he holed from a sandy area on the par-3 fifth, and it ended with a 45-foot birdie putt across the green on the ninth.

''Right now I am in good position,'' Scott said. ''Unfortunate not to continue because I was on a little bit of a run. But hopefully, I'll come back out and play 27 good ones tomorrow.''

About the only players disappointed to see the windswept third round end were the players who had already finished - Bo Van Pelt (67) at 3-under 213, Steve Stricker (67) at 2-under 214, Padraig Harrington (69) another shot behind.

And Woods.

''I got off to a rough start today and couldn't get anything going,'' Woods said through a spokesman. ''I'll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.''

He failed to birdie the par-5 second hole when he tugged his approach into the back bunker and only blasted out to 20 feet. The real damage came on the third hole, the one that saved McIlroy. Woods hit a wedge into 4 feet, and his birdie putt raced by the edge of the cup.

It unraveled after that. He hit a spectator with his tee shot at No. 4, signing a glove for the fan, went over the green and muffed a difficult chip. Woods had to make a 4-foot bogey putt, and then hit another low hook that led to bogey on the fifth.

He started the third round tied for the lead with Singh and Carl Pettersson at 4-under 140. Seven holes into the third round, Woods already was five shots behind. It was starting to look familiar to Woods, who has yet to break par on the weekend at a major this year. This was the second time this year Woods had a share of the 36-hole lead going into weekend at the majors. He is 13-over par in his six weekend rounds at majors, including a 75-73 finish at Olympic Club to go from a tie for the lead to a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open.

The 26 players who didn't finish the round will return Sunday morning. The final round was to be played in threesomes of both tees, rare for a major championship.

Singh, the 49-year-old who has not been in contention at a major in six years, opened with a 15-foot birdie putt and made a strong recovery from trouble on the par-5 seventh by making a 25-foot putt to join McIlroy atop the leaderboard.

Pettersson was at 4 under through eight holes.

Stopping play might be the best thing that happened to Woods - and a tough break for those who finished.

''You never know what the weather will be like when they go back out,'' said Van Pelt, the clubhouse leader. ''So they might get the good end of it or the bad end of it. To me, just glad to be done. I did what I could do, and I'm sure before I go to bed tonight I'll know kind of where I stand going into tomorrow.''

Not really.

It's the first time since 2008 that the PGA Championship didn't complete three rounds on Saturday. Some players had to go 36 holes on the final day that year, and Padraig Harrington wound up winning his second straight major.

''Unfortunately, the weather gods turned against us today,'' said Kerry Haigh, the PGA's managing director of championships.

Harrington might be in the picture again, depending on how the rest of the field fares Sunday morning. He was 4 under on his round until a double bogey on the 10th hole, though that was his only big mistakes and he wound up with a 69. Harrington was at 1-under 215.

''I would rather it just stayed the way it was,'' Harrington said about the weather. ''Who knows what's going to happen now? ... It could be a good break, but it could be a bad break. We'll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. But would have settled for the guys to play the same conditions we played and have them play the back nine in the wind, because the back nine was a lot tougher than the front nine.''

McIlroy opened with a 15-foot birdie putt, followed with a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, and then the adventure began. His tee shot dropped out of the sky and into a crevice in the thick limb that appeared to be dying.

''I know the line of the ball was right on the tree,'' McIlroy said. ''We'd been looking for it for maybe about three minutes and then one of the guys that was working for TV came over and said, 'You know, it's actually stuck in the tree.' I'm like, 'How can it be stuck in this thing? There's no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree.

''I was just happy to get it up-and-down for 4 and move on to the next,'' McIlroy said.

The next hole was just as good, though not as dramatic, when he holed a 15-foot putt for par, and then he hit his tee shot to about 5 feet on the par-3 fifth hole.

Stricker, trying to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup team, brought a chance at his first major championship into the picture when he ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn before missing a short putt on the 13th for his lone bogey. He finished with a birdie.

Trevor Immelman was 3 under through 10 holes, while Graeme McDowell remains poised to contend in a third straight major. He was at 2 under through 11 holes, and then ducked into the clubhouse to avoid the pounding rain. Players checked the weather on their phones, and saw nothing but bad weather.

''Disappointing,'' McDowell said. ''We've done well this week to avoid the storms that are pretty inevitable in this part of the country this time of the year.''

And it was slightly disappointing to have to stop, especially for those chasing.

''It was a great test of golf out there this afternoon, a nice 50 mph breeze to keep everyone honest,'' he said. ''We'll see how conditions are in the morning.''

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Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Paul Casey

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

6. Ian Poulter

On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Bryson DeChambeau

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

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Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runner-ups in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.

Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”