Am Tour: Former pro athletes Babineaux, Figgins find new competitive edge in golf 

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 14, 2016, 10:06 pm

In what has become an annual tradition of sorts at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, we ran into some ex-pro athletes you likely know well, having hung up the spikes on the big stage to now compete in amateur golf.

The most notable past pro-athlete of recent memory, Mark Mulder, has since moved on from his days competing on Am Tour to turn pro and win the American Century Celebrity Classic in Lake Tahoe. This year at Innisbrook, two well-known ex-pros are competing in this Hogan flight (8.0-11.9 handicaps).

Making his way all the way from the Pacific Northwest is former NFL safety and cornerback Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux spent his career with several teams and was most notably known for his time with the Seattle Seahawks from 2004-2010.

Known on the gridiron for a handful of game-changing plays at the end of games, he’ll be the first to admit he was "clutch" coming down the stretch of his first Am Tour major championship victory this summer at the Turning Stone Classic. After a first-round 77 that put him solidly in the lead, he went five-over over the final two holes in the final round to win by just one shot. Babineaux admits he felt a new kind of pressure during the experience. 

"This is different," said Babineaux. "You can’t hit anybody in golf. In football, you can make a big hit and feel jacked up.

"It's different pressure when you're not depending on anyone else."

Babineaux grew up in Port Arthur, Texas and played competitive golf. He continued to play a little bit during his football career, but didn’t start getting the itch for golf competition until last year. He joined the Golf Channel Am Tour last year and qualified for Nationals, but didn’t make the trip to PGA West. This year, after an eight-event campaign capped by his major win at Turning Stone, he decided to make the trip cross-country from Seattle during football season to Innisbrook Resort. He enlisted in the services of caddie Eric Meller, a PGA Tour caddie for Jerry Kelly, for the event.

"When I tell people I’m playing on the Am Tour," said Babineaux, "I tell them I’m not a professional golfer. I’m a professional competitor."

Desmond "Chone" Figgins tees off at Innisbrook Resort & Club during Round 1. 

While Babineaux is rekindling his competitive golf spirit, the game is a new endeavor for former Major League Baseball player Desmond “Chone” Figgins.

Figgins, 39, who played for the Angels, Mariners and Dodgers during his baseball career, now resides in Florida. His Am Tour schedule in 2016 has been a busy one: 27 events, most of which having taken place throughout the state. 

Figgins qualified for this year’s nationals in his first event of the year, placing T-3 at The Grand Cypress Challenge in Orlando last fall. But since then, he’s been moved up a flight to Hogan and has won two local events but hasn’t placed as high in the majors. He comes to Nationals

Figgins didn’t get into golf until later into his MLB career, when he went out to play on an off-day spring training with Garrett Anderson

"The more competitive golf you play,” said Figgins. "The more you understand how to play golf."

Figgins, who was an all-star in baseball on the strength of his hits and base running, isn’t sure how much further he’ll be able to take his competitive golf game, but he’s excited for the new ride.

"I just want to to get better," he said. "I’m young enough, you never know what could happen."

Halfway thru Nationals competition, Figgins (T-17) and Babineaux (T-27) find themselves in pretty good shape in the 153-person Hogan flight.

Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships: Leaderboard | Full Coverage

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Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods began the final round of the Tour Championship with a three-shot lead, and he's cruising at East Lake. We're tracking him.

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”