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Rahm, Day among stars chasing Noren in Farmers

By Doug FergusonJanuary 28, 2018, 1:49 am

SAN DIEGO - A nine-time winner on the European Tour, Alex Noren of Sweden gave himself a chance to make his mark in America with a 3-under 69 on Saturday for a one-shot lead going into the final round of the Farmers Insurance.

Noren finished strong, unlike some of his top challengers. He drilled his second shot over the water on the par-5 18th at Torrey Pines to the back fringe, setting up a simple two-putt birdie.

Ryan Palmer had a chance to tie him for the lead until he missed the final green to the right. He settled for par and a 73.

Jon Rahm, the defending champion who can go to No. 1 in the world with a victory this week, was poised to get within one shot, or possibly tie for the lead. From the middle of the fairway, Rahm's 4-iron came up short and into the water. After a penalty drop, his wedge bounced hard and through the green. His chip came out soft, and he missed a 6-foot putt to make double bogey.

That left him four shots out of the lead. Rahm was three shots behind going into the final round when he won last year.

Tiger Woods was superb with his short game for the second straight day, and it's a good thing. Woods was so wild off the tee that he hit only one fairway on the back nine and three fairways for the round. He putted for birdie on only nine holes. And he still managed to scratch out a 70.

Woods was eight shots behind, in the middle of the pack.

''It's not the driver, it's my swing,'' said Woods, who has hit only six fairways since Thursday. ''Some of my go-to shots aren't there. Some of the shots I like to hit under certain circumstances aren't there, either. The only thing I have is my short game and my heart, and that got me through today.''


Full-field scores from the Farmers Insurance Open

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Noren, who played his college golf at Oklahoma State, cracked the top 10 in the world at the end of 2016 after a four-victory season and now is at No. 19. This is his first year playing with a PGA Tour card.

''All I'm trying to do is play some good golf and my goal is to win a tournament,'' Noren said. ''I don't care too much if they know me or not. It's quite nice if they don't know me. But they're very nice to me.''

Noren's only blunder came at the tough par-4 12th, where he pulled his second shot into deep rough, and sent a wedge just over the green into a nasty lie for a downhill chip. He left that short and missed the putt. He bounced back with three birdies over the last six holes.

Palmer began the third round with a one-shot lead and had two bad stretches. He made consecutive bogeys late on the front nine, and then after stretching his lead to two shots with a 45-foot eagle putt on the 13th, he made two bogeys over the next three holes.

Even so, he'll be in the final group on Sunday going for his first victory in eight years.

J.B. Holmes had a 65 to reach 9-under 207 and joins Palmer and Noren in the last group. Michael Kim also was two shots behind and has some course knowledge from going to Torrey Pines High School and playing the South more times than he can remember.

Noren will be leading a big pack of contenders. Two dozen players were separated by five shots, a group that includes Jason Day, the former No. 1 player in the world who hasn't won in 20 months. Day was tied for the lead briefly until dropping three shots. He had a 71 and was three behind.

Left out of the mix was Phil Mickelson, who was three shots out of the lead until he shot 41 on the back nine. Mickelson had a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have put him in the same group as Woods on Sunday. He missed.

Woods again tees off on the back nine for the final round and is too many shots behind with too many players ahead of him to have a realistic chance. But it's been a good week for someone playing the PGA Tour for only the second time since August 2015 because of his three back surgeries. And he certainly gave his back a good test as many times as he was thrashing out of the rough.

''A good 12 months away from playing out of the rough, I don't know what this body is going to do,'' he said. ''But I think it did great today.''

One goal for Sunday is to give his back a rest, and maybe even try to break 70.

''See if I can shoot something in the 60s,'' he said with a smile, ''but make it a little bit easier on myself than today.''

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


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Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


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“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”