Vegas goes from limited status to Tour Championship

By Doug FergusonSeptember 22, 2016, 1:27 am

ATLANTA – Jhonattan Vegas doesn't have a realistic chance of claiming the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus even if he wins the Tour Championship.

It's having any chance at all that makes this season so remarkable.

''Best year of my career so far,'' Vegas said Wednesday with as broad a smile as could be found at East Lake. ''It's just crazy to think of this from where we started.''

Still vivid are memories of how uncertain his career felt a year ago.

Vegas failed to keep his card, and then his season got even worse. With a chance to regain his card in the Tour Finals, he missed the cut in the final event. That left the 32-year-old from Venezuela with limited status.

''I remember sitting down Friday afternoon after I missed the cut, not knowing where I could play,'' Vegas said.

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He received a sponsor's exemption to the Open to start the season, opened with a 64 and tied for 10th to get into the next tournament in Las Vegas. In an opposite-field event in Mississippi, he tied for fourth.

And then he broke through in a big way by winning the RBC Canadian Open in July, and he played well enough in the FedEx Cup playoffs to finish at No. 29 and get into the Tour Championship by a mere four points.

All he wanted to do this year was finish in the top 125 and keep his card.

Now, he is playing the Tour Championship and is assured of playing at least three majors next year, along with World Golf Championships in Mexico and Firestone.

''One of the biggest accomplishments of my career,'' Vegas said.

For others, there is so much more to accomplish.

The Tour Championship, which starts Thursday, is the final stop of the FedEx Cup season that pays out $10 million to the winner in a finale that is up for grabs among the 30 players who made it to East Lake.

Everyone has a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Cup, though it's unlikely for Vegas. He would have to win, and Dustin Johnson would have to finish 28th.

The focus is more on Johnson, the No. 1 seed, and the next four players behind him - Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey. They only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the prize no matter what anyone else does.

Bill Haas at No. 25 in 2011 was the lowest seed to win the FedEx Cup. The last player to win the Tour Championship without claiming the FedEx Cup was Phil Mickelson in 2009. He wound up second in the FedEx Cup to Tiger Woods.

Johnson and Day have their own competition going. Players will be voting on PGA Tour player of the year at the end of the week. Both have three victories, though Johnson has a big edge from his U.S. Open title (Day's biggest victory was The Player Championship). Johnson also is leading the money list and the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average. But if Day were to win this week, that might make the vote more complicated.

Vegas is nowhere near that conversation. For him, just getting to East Lake was worth celebrating.

With only past champion status, which he had at the start of the season, he could only count on getting into tournaments where most of the top players didn't show up. It's hard to plan a schedule. There is no continuity. And his confidence was lagging.

It turned out to be the best thing for him.

''Losing my card made me realize how much harder I had to work to get better,'' Vegas said. ''It led me to make a bunch of changes - important changes - that I wasn't ready to make. But it forced me to do them.''

Vegas was part of the next wave of impressive young players when he won the Bob Hope Classic in the second start of his rookie season in 2011. The following week, he was tied for the lead at Torrey Pines with eight holes to play and tied for third.

Suddenly, he was playing in majors and World Golf Championships. Over time, he started going through the motions. He lost one year to surgery on his left shoulder. By the end of last season, he had plunged to No. 381 in the world ranking.

''If I kept my card, that was my No. 1 goal,'' Vegas said. ''I knew I had limited starts. I would have about 15 events. So I knew that every week was a major for me. If you approach things that way, your preparation and everything around it is more important. Because you're there to get it done. It puts it in a different perspective.''

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

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''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

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The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

"Obviously the wind didn't blow. It was a different golf course than it was yesterday, you were able to take advantage of these par 5s," said Koepka, who opened in 71 on Day 1. "Felt like it was a lot more gettable. I putted so well, great ball-striking day, great putting day and very pleased with it."

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"Just keep doing what I'm doing," Koepka said of his plan for the final two rounds. "I'm hitting it well and making putts. I felt like I probably could have shot about 7, 8 under on the front side there, missed a couple. You know, doing everything right and that's what you've got to do and hopefully this wind stays away."

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.