Notes: Fowler would use mulligan at PGA

By Doug FergusonDecember 30, 2014, 8:56 pm

Rickie Fowler ticked off every goal this year except winning, which is not to say he didn't have his chances. It was another reminder that winning isn't easy. Players like Tiger Woods only made it look that way.

Give him one mulligan for the year, and it would be in the final round of the PGA Championship, his one good shot at winning a major.

''The 5-iron on the 14th,'' he said.

Fowler was tied for the lead on the back nine at Valhalla. He made a pure swing on the 12th that he thought would be tight, only it came up a yard short of the green. No matter. It was a swing that told him, ''I was ready to step on the gas.''

But he hung out his 5-iron well to the right of the par-3 14th and failed to get up-and-down. Fowler closed with pars the rest of the way, including a nifty save on the 16th with a tee shot that went into the 15th fairway. That bogey on the 14th - and Rory McIlroy's birdie on the 17th - cost him.

REDEMPTION TOUR: Michael Greller, who left his job as a math teacher to caddie for Jordan Spieth, has often said dealing with 30 sixth-graders for 10 years helped prepare him to work for a 21-year-old golfer who ended the year at No. 9 in the world.

Not to be overlooked in his training was an adventure to Australia more than a decade ago.

Greller was reminded of that last month when Spieth essentially ordered him to take a week off during the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan (his agent caddied for him) so Greller and his wife could take a second honeymoon Down Under ahead of the Australian Open.

Greller had another name for the trip.

''The redemption tour,'' he said.

In 2002, Greller already had been accepted to graduate school and had a six-month window before the start of classes. He had never been outside the United States, so he saved money and decided to go to Australia for six months, staying in hostels and carrying nothing more than a back pack.

''My only goal was to meet people from other cultures,'' he said.

He never met the 10 people with whom he shared a room in Bondi Beach, a road house so seedy with so much ''extracurricular activity'' that Greller covered his head with a pillow. He woke up the next morning and realized his wallet (and about $200) had been stolen.

The scariest moment was when he got sick with what later was diagnosed as ulcerous colitis.

''I'm with this Aborigine guide in the middle of the desert, fighting this disease, no clue what's going on,'' he said. ''My parents were very worried. I traveled for about four months until I ran broke in Perth.''

Greller already had booked a flight from Darwin to Perth, and he already had his train ticket from Perth to Sydney, a journey of some 80 hours. And then the train broke down halfway there. But the goal was to meet people from different cultures, and he found plenty to like about Australia.

''I was on the train with $50 and a credit card, nothing in my savings,'' he said. ''I was sitting by two 80-year-old women who fed me meat pies the whole way across Australia. We played cards. I played gin with them. And they had homemade meat pies, which I had never had. They got me to the finish line.''

Greller had one more day in Sydney before flying home to Seattle, and he had planned on a nice meal on his last day to celebrate.

''I had $20 left,'' he said. ''I went to McDonald's. And then I got on the plane.''

The most recent trip was different. Greller got his ''redemption,'' along with some reflections.

''In a lot of ways, it prepared me for caddying,'' Greller said about his first trip Down Under. ''I carried a back pack for four months. I was living as cheap as I could. I had no expectations. I didn't know where I would be sleeping. And I operated on the fly, which I did all of last year.''

Greller and his wife, Ellie, were married a year ago and spent their original honeymoon at Kapalua, Hawaii, a week before the 2014 season. In two years, the former school teacher has been on the bag for a kid who already has over $8.5 million in earnings and three wins worldwide.

So the accommodations were better for this trip. And he didn't run out of money.

MCCORMACK AWARD: Add one more trophy to Rory McIlroy's collection this year.

McIlroy won the Mark H. McCormack Award for being No. 1 the most weeks during the year in the closest race since the award began in 1998. McIlroy returned to No. 1 with his victory at Firestone and stayed there the final 22 weeks of 2014. He won over Tiger Woods, who was at No. 1 for 19 weeks at the start of the year. Adam Scott was atop the ranking for the 11 weeks in between.

The award doesn't get the attention it once did, perhaps because Woods won the award 13 straight times from its inception. It's not even listed in the ''Awards'' section of the PGA Tour media guide.

But it was the second closest race in the last three years.

McIlroy and Luke Donald took turns at the top in 2012, and McIlroy wound up being No. 1 for 28 weeks compared with 24 weeks for Donald.

DIVOTS: The U.S. Women's Amateur will be played at Portland Golf Club the same week as the Portland Classic on the LPGA Tour. ... Baby developments involving PGA Tour players were posted to Twitter in the last week. Masters champion Bubba Watson announced he is in the final stages of adopting a girl (Dakota), while the wife of Dustin Johnson said they are expecting a boy. ... There are 24 Americans among the top 50 in the world at the end of the year, compared with 21 last year. ... Jim Furyk went over the $60 million mark in career earnings this year. In other career money milestones, David Toms went past $40 million and K.J. Choi went past $30 million.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott is the only player to finish in the top 5 in the world ranking in each of the last four years.

FINAL WORD: ''This is the best year I've had in my life so far. A little girl, two wins, skyrocketed in the world ranking, played in four majors, the Ryder Cup. Everything has fallen into place.'' - Patrick Reed.

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Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

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Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.

Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.