Getty Images

Breaking down the field of 30 at the Tour Championship

By John AntoniniSeptember 18, 2018, 12:00 pm

The 32nd Tour Championship begins Thursday at East Lake GC. Here’s a key statistical look at the 30 players in the field.

FedExCup Rank Player Previous appearances Skinny
1 Bryson DeChambeau DeChambeau has made 66 birdies during his remarkable run through the PGA Tour playoffs; five more than anyone else. Has also led the field in at least one prominent stat category each week. He led The Northern Trust in greens in regulation, the Dell Technologies Championship in sand saves, and the BMW Championship in fairways hit.
Justin Rose Newly anointed as the No. 1 player in the world, Rose is looking to become the second top-ranked player to win the Tour Championship. Tiger Woods was No. 1 when he won in 1999 and 2007. Rose has been a machine on the greens this season, leading the Tour in putts made from 4-8 feet at 78.98 percent.
Tony Finau  Finau’s at his best in the biggest tournaments. He is the only player to finish in the top 10 in all three previous playoffs events. He also finished in the top 10 in three of the four majors as well as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Dustin Johnson  Johnson, who leads the PGA Tour in scoring average and birdies per round, is the Tour’s leading scorer on par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s; though, he’s tied for first on the shorter and longer holes. If he finishes the year as the leading scoring at all three distances, he’ll join Woods (2000 and 2009) as the only players to complete that trifecta.
Justin Thomas  Thomas enters the Tour Championship having shot under par in 19 of his last 20 PGA Tour rounds. He has had at least two subpar rounds in 18 of the 20 individual stroke-play events he has played on Tour this season.
Keegan Bradley  One way to win a Tour event is to improve dramatically for a week in a stat in which you have been struggling. At the BMW, Bradley led the field in strokes gained: putting after entering the week ranked 186th on Tour in that category. He’s still 174th in SG: putting entering the Tour Championship; only Francesco Molinari ranks worse among players who qualified for East Lake.
Brooks Koepka  Like Thomas, Koepka has been shooting lights out since mid-summer. In his last five starts, Koepka has 18 subpar rounds and matches Thomas’ scoring average of 67.50 since the WGC-Bridgestone.
Bubba Watson  7 Watson bounced back after finishing 75th in the 2017 FedExCup standings by improving his greens hit in regulation from 63.02 percent to 69.63 percent; climbing from 158th on Tour to 32nd. That has helped his birdie average rank climb from 106th to 50th (3.80 birdies per round) and his scoring average rank improve from 127th to 35th (70.25).
Billy Horschel  Horschel, who is making his first appearance in the Tour Championship since he won at East Lake in 2014, is one of two players in the season finale who only qualified for two majors in 2018. Horschel played in the Masters and the PGA Championship. Aaron Wise is the other player, having only appeared in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
10  Cameron Smith  After finishing the regular season ranked 182nd on Tour in GIR (62.50 percent), Smith ranked in the top 20 in that stat in both the Northern Trust and the Dell (before finishing last in the field at Aronimink). And though he now ranks T-161 on Tour in GIR, his percentage of 63.8 remains the worst of the 30 players to qualify for East Lake.
11  Webb Simpson  5 Simpson is fifth on Tour in scoring average at 69.311 despite being T-116 on Tour in birdies per round (3.57). He’s the only player currently in the top 10 on Tour in scoring average who ranks outside the top 100 in birdies per round. 
12  Jason Day  7 Day, who set the PGA Tour record for strokes gained: putting in a season two years ago (1.130 strokes gained per round) is leading the Tour again in 2018, with an average of .800 strokes gained per round. 
13  Francesco Molinari  At 35, Molinari is the oldest player to be making his Tour Championship debut in 2018. The only other first-timers in the field are DeChambeau, Smith, Tommy Fleetwood, Wise at Patton Kizzire. 
14  Phil Mickelson  18  Despite being terrible off the tee this season, Lefty has had a bounce-back season in 2018, returning to the Tour Championship after missing it a year ago. He ranks 144th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee, and his driving accuracy percentage is a career-worst 51.94 percent (ranked 192nd of 194 players). 
15  Patrick Reed  4 Reed, who finished first in the Masters and fourth in the U.S. Open, is looking to become the first player to finish in the top five in those majors plus the Tour Championship in the same year since Jordan Speith won all three events in 2015. Reed’s pedigree in Georgia gives him a good chance, although he has never finished better than T-13 at East Lake.
16  Patrick Cantlay  Cantlay has played remarkably since returning from a back injury in 2017. In the last two seasons he has made the cut in 33 of his 35 PGA Tour starts, making 20 cuts in 22 starts this season. His two missed cuts over two years are the fewest of any player in the Tour Championship.
17 Rory McIlroy  McIlroy’s 2018 driving distance of 320.0 yards is currently the second-best single-season mark in PGA Tour history, trailing only Hank Kuehne’s 321.4-yard average in 2003. Rory needs to average 347 yards per measured drive at East Lake to break Kuehne’s single-season record.
18  Xander Schauffele  No player has won consecutive Tour Championships, but just getting back to East Lake makes it a successful season for the defending champion. In the playoffs era, only three other winners have qualified the following year (Mickelson in 2009-10, Brandt Snedeker in 2012-13, and Spieth in 2015-16).
19  Tommy Fleetwood  The Englishman is the only player in the Tour Championship field who has yet to win a tournament of any kind on the PGA Tour. Still, Fleetwood knows how to lift a trophy. He has four wins on the European Tour, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
20  Tiger Woods  14  Woods hasn’t missed a measured putt from 3 feet or less during his comeback season. However, he has struggled from slightly longer distances, ranking T-123 on Tour in putts from 3-to-5 feet, making just 189 of his 217 attempts. 
21  Aaron Wise  If a PGA Tour rookie wins the Tour Championship for the second straight year, it’s going to have to be Wise who does it. The 22-year-old is the only rookie to qualify in 2018. Fleetwood is in his first year on the PGA Tour but is not considered a rookie.
22  Kevin Na  Na did not reach the Tour Championship in 2017, thanks in large part to taking one putt on just 38 percent of his holes (a career low). He has improved to 43.50 percent in 2018 (second on Tour), thanks in part to improving his percentage in putting from 4-to-8 feet from 64 to 71.
23  Rickie Fowler  For Fowler, it’s about where he hits his tee ball when he misses the fairway. When hitting out of the right rough, Fowler’s proximity to the hole is 52 feet, 10 inches, tied for the worst mark on Tour. When hitting out of the left rough, his approach average is 35 feet, four inches, second best on Tour.
24  Jon Rahm  The long-hitting Spaniard is fifth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: off the tee in 2018 after finishing second in that category in 2017.
25  Kyle Stanley  Stanley’s greens in regulation percentage is a career-best 71.68, and although he doesn’t have a top-10 finish in the playoffs, he has been more accurate with his approach shots, hitting greens at a 76.4 percent clip over the last three events.
26  Paul Casey  Casey has qualified for the Tour Championship four times in his career and has never finished worse than T-5. He has a scoring average at East Lake of 68.31.
27  Hideki Matsuyama  Matsuyama’s getting hot at the right time. He has scored in the 60s in 17 of his last 20 rounds, including 10 of 12 in the playoffs. It has moved him from 64th to 25th in scoring average and from 87th to 27th in the FedExCup standings. 
28  Gary Woodland  Woodland is the only player in the field to rank in the top 10 on Tour in driving distance (313 yards, T-8) and greens hit in regulation (71.42 percent, T-6). However, Woodland is 191st on Tour in one-putt percentage, converting his first putt on a hole just one-third of the time (33.27 percent).
29  Marc Leishman  Remarkably consistent, if Leishman finishes in the top 10 at East Lake he will have the same number of starts, cuts made, rounds played and top-10 finishes in 2017 and 2018. The big difference: He won twice last season, compared with two runner-up finishes this year.
30  Patton Kizzire  Kizzire’s victory at the Sony Open in January (his second win of the 2017-18 season) is also his last top-10 finish of the season. He has now gone 21 starts without a top-10 finish. In fact, he hasn’t finished in the top 25 in his last 17 starts. 
Getty Images

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:

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

'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.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

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.