Notes: A look back at the 2013 PGA Tour season

By Doug FergusonSeptember 24, 2013, 10:23 pm

ATLANTA – Tiger Woods said he was tired. Phil Mickelson already was looking for ways to reduce his schedule by 25 percent.

''Just wait until next year,'' Jim Furyk said, more out of dread than anticipation.

The PGA Tour has agreed to create a week off before the Ryder Cup in 2014. That means two majors and a World Golf Championship in a four-week span. And then four straight FedEx Cup playoff events, including a three-day window between the final round in Boston and the opening round in Denver.

And don't forget: With the new wraparound season, ''next year'' is only 16 days away.

That leaves just enough time to review a 2013 season marked by weather (wind, fog, snow), surprises and slumps, rules violations, deer antler spray and the first time in 24 years that none of the 54-hole leaders in the majors went on to win.

The PGA Tour announces its player of the year on Friday. Here are a few other awards to consider until then.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The PGA Tour did away with this award a few years ago because too many winners were ''coming back'' from bad play rather than a serious injury. Henrik Stenson would be the popular choice under that context.

The winner, though, should be Boo Weekley.

Three years after playing in the Ryder Cup, he lost his full PGA Tour card and then failed at Q-school. Playing on sponsor exemptions in 2012, he earned back his card on the last day of the season with a 67 at Disney. Weekley started the year at No. 299 in the world. He won at Colonial, advanced to the Tour Championship and now is among the top 50. He will be playing all four majors next year for the first time since 2009.

BEST YEAR WITHOUT A WIN: Steve Stricker won $4.4 million despite going into semi-retirement. He was runner-up at Kapalua, Doral and the Tour Championship. Then again, he played only six fewer tournaments than normal.

The nod goes to Graham DeLaet of Canada, who was 95th on the money list a year ago. He had seven top 10s, more than his previous two seasons on tour combined, and two of his best results came in the FedEx Cup playoffs. DeLaet played in his first two majors, rose to No. 32 in the world and earned a spot on the Presidents Cup team.

PACE OF PLAY AWARD: The 30-man field at Kapalua.

A fluke weather pattern that brought 40 mph gusts was so bizarre that the Tournament of Champions didn't start until the day it was supposed to end. Rickie Fowler hit the opening tee shot on Monday morning, and the 54-hole tournament ended 29 hours later. It can be done.

TIMING AWARD: Vijay Singh filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour for ''public humiliation and ridicule'' over its investigation of his admission that he used deer antler spray, which was reported to contain a banned substance.

BEST DECISION: Jordan Spieth had a pair of top 10s in South America and was closing in on full Tour status for the year. He wanted to go to Chile to lock up his card, but the Texas teenager felt compelled to honor a sponsor's exemption he had received in the Puerto Rico Open.

Spieth tied for second, which got him into the Tampa Bay Championship, where he tied for seventh.

He then earned enough money to secure a PGA Tour card, became a PGA Tour member by winning the John Deere Classic, locked up a spot in the Tour Championship with a 62 on the final day at the TPC Boston, was picked for the Presidents Cup team and ended the year 10th on the PGA Tour money list.

Just think if he had gone to Chile.

WORST DECISION: Even with video evidence that his golf ball moved slightly as he tried to remove a twig, Woods maintained that it only oscillated. It was clear enough that he was given a two-shot penalty. Woods accepted the penalty. But in seven answers to the media, he insisted the ball didn't moved.

The question went from ''What was he seeing?'' to ''What was he thinking?''

BEST ROUND: Jim Furyk at the BMW Championship became only the sixth player in PGA Tour history with a 59, and the only one to do it with a bogey on his card.

BEST ROUND BY A WINNER: Phil Mickelson shot 66 on Sunday to win the British Open at Muirfield. Some call it the best closing round in a major. It would have to rank behind Jack Nicklaus' 65 at the 1986 Masters, and Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont. It was the best on Sunday at Muirfield, which is all that mattered to him.

BEST SHOT: Justin Rose's 4-iron to the 18th at Merion to wrap up the U.S. Open. Too bad it didn't stay on the green, but that wasn't his fault.

BEST PUTT: Adam Scott's 20-foot birdie on the 18th hole in regulation at the Masters.

BEST ADVICE: Steve Williams, the caddie for Adam Scott, who said before they walked off the green, ''This isn't over yet.'' And it wasn't.

BEST DRESSED: Condoleezza Rice. In a green jacket.

BEST YEAR: Arnold Palmer. He hosted a PGA Tour event at Bay Hill for the 35th year, and this time was able to stick around to see Woods win. His Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a playoff berth for the first time in 21 years. He celebrated his 84th birthday. And he had dinner with Kate Upton.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.