Momentum building to big FedEx Cup payday

By Doug FergusonSeptember 10, 2009, 2:02 am

BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – Only one day separated the final round of one PGA Tour playoff event and the pro-am round of the next one, and even players who are in the best position to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize are fighting some fatigue.

Tiger Woods might have summed it up best.

Walking off the fifth tee Wednesday morning at Cog Hill, he turned to a member of his staff and said with a mock moan, “I don’t want to go to school today.”

A few minutes later, Woods added, “It will be a little different on Thursday.”

 

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hits an approach during Wednesday's pro-am. (Getty Images)
The BMW Championship is the third straight week of playoffs, one step closer to the biggest prize in golf, and the possibilities keep growing. No one paid much attention to Heath Slocum until he won The Barclays. Woods was at his customary top of the list until Steve Stricker birdied the last two holes to win the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday and move to No. 1 in the standings.

 

That means he will be playing the first two rounds with Woods for the third straight week.

“It would really be nice to have the lead going into the Tour Championship,” Stricker said. “That means going out this week and playing well to maintain that lead. I have every belief that Tiger is going to play great, so that means that I’m going to have to play good.

“The pressure is getting bigger every week we play.”

And they are playing a lot of golf.

For every player in the top 20, this will be at least their fifth tournament in the last six weeks. Making it even more difficult is the short turnaround from the Labor Day finish outside Boston to the typical Thursday start at Cog Hill.

Scott Verplank arrived in this south Chicago suburb Tuesday and only walked the golf course, except for the par-5 15th.

“Too big of a hill to climb,” he said.

Stricker played only nine holes on Tuesday before his pro-am round Wednesday. Most players on the course or the practice range had missed the cut the previous week at the TPC Boston.

“I was talking to one of my football coach buddies yesterday driving out here, and I said, ‘It’s kind of like playing a Sunday night game and then you’ve got a Thursday night game,”’ Verplank said. “You’ve got no turnaround, so you have don’t have any time to waste. You’ve got to get prepared for your next opponent, which sits out there at about 9,000 yards long.”

The opponent is the Dubsdread course at Cog Hill, recently renovated by Rees Jones with hopes of attracting a U.S. Open. It now measures 7,616 yards at a par 71, and it should be all they can handle.

“It’s a big, tough golf course,” Padraig Harrington said. “It looks like it’s going to put plenty of pressure on all the players out there this week. I hope it suits my game. I hope I play well on it.”

Harrington is glad to have a chance. Winless since the PGA Championship last year, he was outside the top 125 to get into the playoffs until he finished second at the Bridgestone Invitational, then gave himself chances to win his next three starts.

Just like that, he is up to No. 7 in the standings, and still pushing hard.

“On one hand, I’m losing a little bit in terms of fatigue,” Harrington said. “But I’m still motivated because I haven’t won. If I had won over the last couple of weeks, I’d have a big dropoff. What’s keeping me going is the fact that I haven’t won. I’m pushing hard and I’m focused to do that, and in many ways, I’m on the edge in that sense. I could definitely see a win making me totally drop back off.”

And if he were to win the BMW Championship? Would he lose his edge for the Tour Championship?

“If you’ve got a chance of winning it, there’s enough motivation there,” he said. “Ten million reasons to win that one.”

Woods hasn’t played this much since 2006, when he played six times over seven weeks. That included the World Match Play Championship, which lasted only one round, and the Ryder Cup, which can feel like two weeks.

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He was winning those tournaments, sometimes with ease, compared with having to grind into contention and having it go wrong at the end. Woods had his back stretched after the third round at the Deutsche Bank because it was tight.

“I’m just playing a lot right now,” he said.

In another sign that he is pacing himself, Woods didn’t hit balls after any of his rounds last week. Just don’t get the idea that he will sleepwalk through four days at Cog Hill, where he has won four times.

“Thursday through Sunday is all good,” he said. “That’s not a problem. Your adrenaline is up playing an event. You definitely get fired up for that, not a problem. It’s getting out here and having long practice sessions and things like that. You start cutting back on that and just have a short burst, and make sure you get your rest.”

Only the top 30 in the standings after this week qualify for the Tour Championship, and the top five will be in position to win the $10 million prize with a victory at East Lake, no matter what anyone else does.

The good news? They have a week off after Cog Hill before the FedEx Cup finale.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.