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World No. 1 DJ back in the lead in Boston

By Doug FergusonSeptember 1, 2017, 10:40 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Now that he's finally won again, Dustin Johnson is starting to look as dangerous as ever.

One week after Johnson ended a five-month dry spell brought on by a back injury, he easily handled the early cold and a steady win at TPC Boston for a 5-under 66 to take a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Dell Technologies Championship.

And the world's No. 1 player made it look easy on a tough day for scoring.

He started with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 10. He made the turn with a 6-iron from 220 yards that sailed high and rode the left-to-right wind into 4 feet for eagle. When another big tee shot settled into a divot on the reachable par-5 second hole, he laid up short of the water and still made birdie.

''Put together a pretty good score,'' Johnson said.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia opened with five birdies on the front nine, and then saved his day with a par on his final hole. He hooked his tee shot into the trees, got a bounce into the rough, laid up and then hit wedge to 12 feet and made the putt.

Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley were one shot back among the early starters who had to face the surprising chill of morning, a cruel reminder that the end of a New England summer is not far away.

Jon Rahm birdied four of his last five holes and was in the group at 68. Phil Mickelson, in his last tournament before the picks are made for the Presidents Cup, felt more energy after seeing a doctor and kept his focus on enough good shots for a 69.

''It was nice to have a solid round,'' Mickelson said, who had not broken par in the opening round since The Greenbrier in early July. ''I played well tee-to-green, and it made for a stress-free day on a very difficult day.''


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Johnson played in the group featuring the top three in the FedEx Cup. PGA champion Justin Thomas made 16 pars in his round of 71. British Open champion Jordan Spieth, who lost to Johnson in a sudden-death playoff last week on Long Island, didn't make a birdie until his 13th hole and shot 72.

''Each part of my game was a little off,'' Spieth said.

Nothing looked wrong with Johnson, except for one bad swing and one aggressive putt.

His 25-foot birdie attempt on the 14th hole ran about 5 feet by the cup, and he missed that coming back to slow some early momentum. He bounced back with a wedge into 6 feet for birdie, made eagle on the 18th to reach the turn at 4 under and then had a simple iron off the tee at No. 1. But it sailed right into the woods in a hazard, and he punched out and missed an 8-foot par putt.

Otherwise, there was very little stress except for one young fan who kept referring to him as ''Shank.''

''When you win, you're playing well, so it gives you a lot of confidence,'' Johnson said. ''For me, that was one thing that was probably lacking a little bit the last few months is just the confidence, because I wasn't seeing the shots that I wanted to see. I wasn't consistently hitting them. But after last week, I've got a lot of confidence now. I feel like the things I've been working on, they are back to working.''

That was as close as a dissertation on golf as the No. 1 player will allow. Johnson doesn't spend deep analysis over the way he plays. He sees the shot, pulls a club and usually hits it where he's aiming. That's what led him to three straight victories going into the Masters until he wrenched his back when he slipped on the stairs and had to withdraw from the first major of the year.

The victory last week was his fourth of the year, tied with Thomas for most on the PGA Tour this season.

As easy as it looked for Johnson, it was anything but that for Kelly Kraft. At No. 64 in the FedEx Cup, his season might be over after he took a 12 on the par-5 second hole. Kraft hit his third into the water and his fifth shot over the green. He tried to hit a shot from a native area, took another penalty drop to go back to the fairway and hit that one into the water. He eventually two-putted for a 12 and withdrew after 14 holes with a sore foot.

Ryan Moore, who missed time with a shoulder injury this summer, had four double bogeys in his round of 82. He also withdrew.

DIVOTS: The Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation is donating $100,000 to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in the Houston area. Mickelson and his wife started the foundation in 2004 with an aim toward helping families recover from loss of life, limbs or lack of opportunity. ... Brian Harman opened with a 68 and wasn't the least bit bothered that Johnson was already two shots ahead of him. For one thing, it's the first round. For another, it's nothing new. ''I have to play against him every week. He's usually pretty far up there,'' said Harman, who won the Wells Fargo Championship this year by one shot over Johnson and Pat Perez. ... The redesigned 12th hole yielded only three birdies.

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.


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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.