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DeChambeau takes unique path to first Players

By Will GrayMay 9, 2018, 6:57 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When scanning the list of 21 first-time participants this week at The Players Championship, one set of credentials stands out above the rest.

For many players, a trip to TPC Sawgrass serves as a precursor to playing and contending in majors. Not so for Bryson DeChambeau, who forged a unique path to his first Stadium Course appearance.

DeChambeau got into a couple majors thanks to his 2015 U.S. Amateur win, and three more with his victory last summer at the John Deere Classic. In total he has already played in seven majors, making the cut in four of them, before ever making his Players debut.

“It’s kind of weird, I know,” DeChambeau said. “I think it’s a huge benefit to have that under my belt, especially having played well in a few of the majors and contending in a few. Look, I’ve played well in enough events to be comfortable out here in any situation I think, besides going down the stretch with the lead in a major or something like that.”

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That comfort level has been on full display in recent weeks, as DeChambeau has become a staple on PGA Tour leaderboards. His fourth-place finish at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship was his fourth top-5 finish of the year, and his third in the last four starts including his runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a T-3 finish at the RBC Heritage.

After a streaky start to his pro career, the key to consistency has been easy for the 24-year-old to identify.

“It’s a combination of my driving and putting,” DeChambeau said. “When those two line up, it’s game on for me. That’s where I can jump to another league, if those two line up.”

DeChambeau’s recent success has also put him into contention to make his Ryder Cup debut this fall. He’s now 12th on the American points list, up three spots from last week, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

While some players try to shield themselves from such point races this early in the year, DeChambeau is embracing his newfound status.

“I’m excited, and I know I have a great chance to do it,” he said. “Everybody’s fighting for those last few spots, and for me, I know I’m right there and I know it. I’ve just got to keep playing well in these big events.”

One key to getting up to speed this year has been DeChambeau’s ability to bend the ear of a certain 14-time major champ. Tiger Woods and DeChambeau played together both Tuesday and Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass, in a practice round trio rounded out by Harold Varner III, as Woods and DeChambeau have become unlikely but consistent practice partners.

“The one thing I can say is that he really cares. Not just about how he’s playing, but he cares about how the young guns are coming up and playing, and I really appreciate that from him,” DeChambeau said. “He still wants to kick our butt like crazy. Whenever he hits it past me, he’s always nudging me, saying the old fart’s hitting it farther than the young gun. He’s still got that competitive fire, and I look forward to competing with him for a long time.”

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”