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Notes: Thomas wins second straight money title

By Doug FergusonOctober 10, 2018, 12:21 am

Tiger Woods finished off the PGA Tour season by tapping in for par to win the Tour Championship, a moment that ended any doubts that he could win again after four surgeries on his lower back. And then the moment was gone.

Hours later, Woods and 17 other players were headed to France for the all-consuming Ryder Cup. And with barely enough time to digest Europe winning and Patrick Reed pouting, the PGA Tour started up a new season in California.

A few nuggets were lost in the quick transition.

Justin Thomas tied for fifth at the Tour Championship, and that was enough for him to win the PGA Tour money title for the second straight year after earning $8,694,821, beating out Dustin Johnson by $237,469. That was the smallest margin since Matt Kuchar won by $100,855 over Jim Furyk in 2010.

The PGA Tour no longer talks about money in the FedExCup era, though Thomas still wins a trophy. The Arnold Palmer Award is given to the leading money winner. Thomas became the first back-to-back winner of the award since Woods in 2006 and 2007.

Johnson, meanwhile, won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average (the PGA Tour has the Byron Nelson Award, so Johnson gets two trophies). Johnson won for the second time in three years. The first time, in 2016, he wasn't sure what it was.

Brooks Koepka won PGA Tour player of the year, which was no surprise considering his two major championships. The only time someone won two majors and was not PGA Tour player of the year was in 1990, when Nick Faldo wasn't a PGA Tour member.

For the first time in 10 years, the Tour's three main awards were won by three players - Koepka, Thomas and Johnson. In 2008, Padraig Harrington was the player of the year, Vijay Singh won the money title and Sergio Garcia won the Vardon Trophy.

Singh won the money title by $826,094 over Woods while playing 17 more events. That was the year Woods had season-ending knee surgery in June, so he was ineligible for the Vardon Trophy (Woods played only 20 rounds). Harrington won two majors that year.

As for Woods?

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The Tour Championship was his 80th victory, which was well documented even with all the attention on the Ryder Cup. He also improved his record to 44-2 when leading going into the final round on the PGA Tour. Also worth noting is that Woods joined Johnson and Rory McIlroy with his fourth FedEx Cup playoff victory.

The victory also meant Woods has won five tournaments in three decades - Firestone, Torrey Pines, Memorial, Tour Championship and World Golf Championships at Valderrama in 1999, Ireland in 2002, Atlanta in 2003, Harding Park in 2005, England in 2006 and Doral in 2007 and 2013.

Father and son: Bob Tway was 50 when he played his last PGA Championship, making the cut at Hazeltine in 2009 and tying for 56th. He never returned, even though Tway has a lifetime exemption from his 1986 victory at Inverness, where he holed out from a bunker on the 18th hole to beat Greg Norman.

Now it appears he will be heading back, all because he has company - his son.

Kevin Tway's victory in the Safeway Open earned him an exemption to the Masters, but it also gets him into the PGA Championship in May at Bethpage Black.

''Winning the PGA, you're always invited to go back, but I never did,'' Tway said. ''I just did not want to go back kind of ceremoniously. I wanted to go back when Kevin went back. So I'm very, very excited.''

Kevin Tway has played the U.S. Open three times but never the PGA Championship.

Napa time: Phil Mickelson is bullish on the future of the Safeway Open when the shortened PGA Tour schedule takes hold.

''This has really turned into a great tournament the first three years, and I think next year when it has a bit of a break between the FedEx Cup and the start of the season, I think the field here is going to get really strong,'' Mickelson said. ''I think it will be one of the best all year.''

Whether it measures up to perennially strong fields at regular PGA Tour events - Riviera, Quail Hollow and Muirfield Village, for example - remains to be seen.

The PGA Tour season ends on Aug. 25 next year, and there likely will be a break before the Safeway Open. This year, it was two weeks after the Tour Championship and, for Mickelson, the week after the Ryder Cup. It showed in the weak field.

It was the first time since July that the European Tour (Scottish Open, one week before the British Open) had a stronger field than the PGA Tour.

Mickelson at least has shown a change of heart.

It was in February 2015 when Mickelson explained that fall events won't get Ryder Cup points because ''you're giving the bottom half of the tour a three-month head start over ultimately the top guys.'' So maybe a few weeks will make a difference.

It's also worth noting that eight months after Mickelson made those comments, his management company took over the Safeway Open. Mickelson played in Napa the following year - his first fall event in a decade - and has not missed it since then.

Asia swing: The PGA Tour will spend the next three weeks in Asia, which can pay off for those willing to travel.

For players like Joel Dahmen and Sam Ryder, it will be their first tournament without a cut in the CIMB Classic. For players like Pat Perez, who won the CIMB Classic last year, it can set him up for the rest of the year. Perez earned 56 percent of his regular-season FedEx Cup points from the CIMB Classic, CJ Cup in South Korea and the World Golf Championships event in Shanghai.

Perez was among 16 players who took part in all three stops in the Asia swing.

Also at stake are world ranking points, especially for those close enough to the top 50 to think about the Masters. The top 50 in the world at the end of the year are invited to Augusta National. Perez is at No. 56 and not yet eligible for the Masters.

Others outside the top 50 going into the Asia swing are Russell Knox (No. 58), Ryan Moore (No. 61), Kevin Chappell (No. 63) and Peter Uihlein (No. 66). All but Knox are playing in Malaysia.

Divots: Thomas Pieters is playing the CIMB Classic on an unrestricted sponsor's exemption. Pieters took PGA Tour membership last year but failed to play the minimum 15 events. He would have to wait a year before joining the PGA Tour. ... Justin Rose will have a chance to return to No. 1 in the world this week at the British Masters, where he is the tournament host at Walton Heath. ... The USGA is increasing the field for the U.S. Junior Amateur from 156 to 264 players starting in 2020 at Hazeltine. The idea is to allow for more exemptions that will attract the best juniors from around the world.

Stat of the week: Pat Perez earned 56 percent of his regular-season FedEx Cup points from three tournaments in the Asia swing, most of that from his victory in Malaysia.

Final word: ''It was nice to start or end the year, however you look at it.'' - Phil Mickelson after his tie for 17th in the Safeway Open, the first PGA Tour event of the new season and his last PGA Tour start of the year.

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Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One behind overnight leader Scott Piercy to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under. Cabrera Bello will round out the final tee time with Koepka and Poulter.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.

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Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.