Best friends Gana, Niemann face off for LAAC title

By Nick MentaJanuary 14, 2017, 10:14 pm

PANAMA CITY, Panama - Most everyone who plays golf has a group of friends with whom they regularly play, and for the most part, the stakes are predictably low.

You know, lunch, a $5 Nassau, maybe a couple beers, a half-gallon iced tea at a Wawa - not an invite to the Masters.

But on Sunday, two best friends, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, will do exactly that.

Through 54 holes at Panama Golf Club, Gana shares the 2-under lead with Mexico's Carlos Ortiz. One behind, Niemann, the World Amateur Golf Ranking No. 5 and the highest-ranked player in the field, will join them in the final group.

So just how close are they? Gana, 19, and Niemann, 18, have known each other for the last six years. They say they spend eight hours a day together, seven days a week, working out of the Golf Club La Dehesa and Hacienda Santa Martina in Santiago with their shared coach, Eduardo Michel. When they aren't playing golf, they share the bulk of their free at time one another's houses. They've even spent holidays together.

"Toto is one of my best, if not my very best friend. ... We do almost everything together," Niemann said Saturday from the seat Gana had occupied just moments earlier. "We are going to try to enjoy the last round of this great event. We have our coach with us. It has to be one more day where I am relaxed. I can't afford to be so pressured tomorrow. And we want to have a good time, that's the idea."

For his part, Gana, whose firm handshake comes with an even firmer slap on the back, doesn't mind the pressure. He's thriving under the spotlight.

"I've never played in front of cameras before," he said. "They can go around me, in front of me, behind me, I don't care. I love them."

Given how close they are, being together on Sunday will likely bring a sense of normalcy to a decidedly abnormal set of circumstances. First place comes with the aforementioned trip to the Masters, and exemptions into the U.S. Amateur, the Amateur Championship, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open and Final Qualifying for the Open Championship. They'll also have the satisfaction of playing for Chile, which will host the LAAC next year.

Asked again about everything on the line Sunday, Niemann had an idea: "Maybe we'll bet 10 dollars so we don't have to think so much about the Masters."

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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.”