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Woods, Fowler match 65s to lead Tour Championship

By Doug FergusonSeptember 20, 2018, 10:10 pm

ATLANTA - The crowd at East Lake was larger and louder than it has been in five years, which was the last time Tiger Woods was at the Tour Championship.

It was no coincidence.

Woods played one of his best rounds of the year in his return to the FedEx Cup finale and caused the biggest cheer of a sun-baked Thursday afternoon by making an eagle putt from just over 25 feet on the par-5 18th for a 5-under 65 and a share of the lead with Rickie Fowler.

It was the second time in as many FedEx Cup playoff events that Woods was tied for the 18-hole lead. He shot a 62 at Aronimink in the opening round of the BMW Championship two weeks ago on a rain-soaked course that allowed just about everyone to go low.

This felt even better on a dry, tougher East Lake course.

''This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink,'' Woods said. ''Conditions were soft there. This, it's hard to get the ball closer. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close. You just can't control it.''

Fowler, who missed two playoff events recovering from an injury to his right oblique, putted for birdie on all but two holes for his 65 as he tries to avoid ending the season without winning.

Justin Rose, in his debut as the No. 1 player in the world, got up-and-down from the bunker for birdie on the 18th for a 66 and was tied with Gary Woodland. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, all of whom will be in France next week for the Ryder Cup, were another shot behind.

Woods already considers this a successful year just by making into the 30-man field at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale, where everyone has a mathematical shot at capturing the $10 million bonus. He started the season in January after a fourth back surgery that limited him to only 16 PGA Tour events in the previous four seasons.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


''To be able to play golf again and to earn my way back to this level is something that I was hoping I would do at the beginning of the year, but I didn't know,'' Woods said. ''And I've done it?''

What would winning mean in this comeback?

''It would enhance the year,'' he said.

Woods still has 54 holes remaining. Two weeks ago, he went from a share of the first-round lead to five shots behind on a course where attacking flags on soft greens was the only option for low scoring.

This was more about precision, and Woods felt in total control. He opened with a three-putt bogey from 25 feet, and he twice ran birdie attempts farther beyond the hole than he would have liked. But after making birdie putts from 25 feet on No. 5 and from 15 feet on No. 6, he figured out the speed of the greens and was on his way.

''I hit so many quality shots all day, whether it was tee-to-green or it was putts,'' Woods said. ''I didn't really mishit a single shot today. The only shot I can honestly say that I necked pretty bad was the tee shot at 17. Hit a 3-wood there, and with an iron, I probably would have shanked it. But ended up in the fairway and made par.''

Woods will play in the final group Friday with Fowler, who has seen plenty of him at home in Florida in the months before Woods returned to golf. He had finished his round and was doing interviews when he heard the head-turning roar of Woods making eagle.

They will be teammates next week at the Ryder Cup. Fowler has other objectives at East Lake.

''The biggest win for him is just staying healthy and being out here all year consistently,'' Fowler said. ''Definitely happy for him. It's obviously great for our sport. It's great to have him as part of the team next week. We hope he continues to play well. I just want to play a little bit better and beat him.''

Sixteen players in the 30-man field broke par on a hot afternoon with only a light breeze, and Thursday was all about staying in the game, especially as it relates to the chase for the FedEx Cup.

Bryson DeChambeau, the No. 1 seed after the points were reset, had to birdie two of the last three holes for a 71. For someone like Woods or Fowler to win the FedEx Cup, they would need the top five seeds to falter.

Rose and Thomas didn't go along with that with strong opening rounds. Finau overcame a pair of early bogeys for his 67.

The key for Woods could be Friday. Only once this year, at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, has he stayed consistently in the thick of it all tournament. He figures to have plenty of support. Houses along the side streets outside East Lake, and even one funeral home, offered parking and their yards were packed. It hasn't been like that in several years.

''I hadn't played this tournament in five years, and some of the people said they haven't been out here in five years,'' Woods said. ''That's kind of nice that they're coming out and supporting this event and supporting me, as well.''

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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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.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


''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.