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Notes: Knox takes slow road back to top 50

By Doug FergusonJuly 10, 2018, 10:09 pm

Russell Knox entered the world ranking in 2009 when he played his first Web.com Tour event at age 24. A year later, he cracked the top 1,000 with a tie for seventh in Knoxville. It took another four years before Knox cracked the top 100 following a top 10 at Hilton Head. And then two years later, he cashed in by winning a World Golf Championship in Shanghai to move into the top 50.

And that's where he stayed for 93 consecutive weeks, reaching as high as No. 18 after his victory in the Travelers Championship in 2016. Life was good. He was in all the majors, all the WGCs, and he even played in the Hero World Challenge that Tiger Woods hosts in the Bahamas.

''I saw how good a place that was,'' Knox said after his playoff victory in the Irish Open. ''I think I tried to get better too quickly. I've kind of preached to myself and younger players my whole career that you get better slowly without forcing it, without trying to get better.''

His golf got worse. Knox had only eight top 10s in his next 55 starts after winning the Travelers. He fell out of the top 50, and then he fell out of the top 100, dropping to No. 137 before slowly - there's that word again - working his way back up until it culminated with a runner-up finish in France and a victory in Ireland.

Knox now is No. 49 heading into the Scottish Open this week.

''You just naturally evolve as a golfer,'' he said. ''I think I got to the point where I was really close to being right where I wanted to be - top 10 in the world - and I just pushed too hard and I got worse. It's just hard. Once you lose your confidence, which I did a little bit - and I was tinkering with equipment - I just didn't quite get it right. But I knew starting this year, I'd played good golf and I knew that eventually, something about was going to happen.''


HERMAN'S TOES: An injury that might sound small turned out to be plenty big for Jim Herman. Imagine trying to play golf for a living and needing surgery on your toes.

Herman was last seen trudging up the hill on the 18th at Riviera in the second round of the Genesis Open, and then facing an even steeper walk up the steps to the clubhouse. He immediately withdrew and didn't play again until last week on the Web.com Tour in what amounted to rehab assignment.

The issue? Herman noticed the nails on his baby toes (both feet) would fall off, grow back awkwardly, and then fall off again. It eventually became too painful to walk, and because he couldn't shift his weight to his left side, it began affecting his swing.

''It got to point where I couldn't make a swing without pain,'' he said.

Along the way, he developed plantar fasciitis, leading to a miserable year. Herman had surgery on his toes and wore a boot to deal with the plantar fasciitis. He returned last week at the Lecom Health Challenge, where he tied sixth.

''I've missed it. It was good to get back out,'' Herman said. ''And it was nice to get this resolved.''

He plans a few more Web.com Tour starts to make sure his feet can handle a full schedule. Because he won't be in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Herman plans to take a major medical for next season, in which he will get 18 starts.


CONSISTENCY PAYS: Kevin Na went 158 starts on the PGA Tour in nearly seven years before winning at Greenbrier for his second title. That puts him in a small, but peculiar group of players who shows that consistency pays off, even if that doesn't meant a case full of trophies.

Na joins Charles Howell III and Tim Clark as the only players with two victories to have at least $20 million in career earnings.

Howell leads the way with $35,527,655, and while his only victories were at Kingsmill and Riviera, he has 16 runner-up finishes and 88 finishes in the top 10. Na now has $27,283,596 in official earnings. He has been runner-up six times since his previous victory in Las Vegas.

Tim Clark, who hasn't played in more than two years and now spends most of his time coaching, has $23,942,321. His two victories were the Canadian Open and The Players Championship. The South African had 13 runner-up finishes in his career.

All three of them recorded top 10s roughly 17 percent of the time.


RETURN TO THE OLD COURSE: Mark Calcavecchia is among those from the PGA Tour Champions who have three straight weeks of majors - the Senior Players Championship outside Chicago this week, the British Open at Carnoustie next week, followed by the Senior British Open at St. Andrews.

Calcavecchia skipped the trip across the Atlantic last year, mainly because Royal Birkdale (Open) and Royal Porthcawl (Senior) are not among his favorites. St. Andrews is hosting the Senior Open for the first time, which will be Calcavecchia's seventh time competing on the Old Course.

The question is whether he'll play the first hole ahead of Thursday's opening round.

Calcavecchia has a habit of walking out of the Old Course Hotel to the second tee and heading back to his room when he finishes the 17th hole. The only time he sees the first tee is when he has to show up at the clubhouse to register.

Will history repeat itself?

''I don't know,'' he said. ''We're not staying at the Old Course Hotel, so maybe. That would be a first for me.''


SOMETHING FOR NOTHING: The Open Championship announced a $10.5 million prize fund this year, with $1,890,000 going to the winner. And to think golf's oldest championship once had a hard time attracting top Americans because they wound up losing money from all the travel expenses. Sam Snead, for example, won 150 pounds when he won at St. Andrews in 1946.

Times have changed, and so has the money.

Majors now pay even the players who miss the cut.

The R&A says last place will receive $13,500. The top 10 pros and ties who miss the cut will get $7,375, and the next 20 pros and ties will get $5,900. Everyone else gets $4,950. The U.S. Open and the Masters pay $10,000 to everyone who misses the cut.


DIVOTS: Thomas Pieters was among five Europeans who took up PGA Tour membership this season, though the Belgian is not likely to last. Pieters has played just nine PGA Tour events going into the British Open and is No. 172 in the FedEx Cup. ... Aaron Wise has missed the cut in four straight tournaments since winning the AT&T Byron Nelson. ... Canadian Pacific has extended its title sponsorship of the Canadian Women's Open for five years through 2023. The purse next year will increase to $2.25 million. ... Players from the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour will compete separately next year for a $1 million bonus based on how they play select holes on their tours. It's called the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. Players will be measured by how they play the risk-reward holes that are selected. Scoring and which holes will be highlights are among the details still to be sorted out.


STAT OF THE WEEK

In the eight years of the PGA Tour at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na (No. 65) and Angel Cabrera (No. 90) were the only winners ranked among the top 100 in the world.


FINAL WORD

''Only difference really is the competition is a little bit steeper.'' - U.S. Amateur runner-up Doug Ghim, on the difference between college golf and the PGA Tour.

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.