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Fowler's 61 stole the attention from Tiger - for a bit

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2017, 10:33 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – It was Tiger Woods who was wearing his signature red and black on Sunday, but it was Rickie Fowler who produced a Tiger-esque performance at the Hero World Challenge.

Only a 59-watch could have wrested away the enormous attention heaped on this week’s host, and only Fowler has the celebrity to share the spotlight with Woods, who was making his competitive return following fusion surgery on his lower back in April.

For most of the week, the actual competition was very much an afterthought, with Woods’ return dominating the conversation; but on Sunday, Fowler quickly altered the narrative with a torrid start.

After starting the day seven strokes off the lead held by Charley Hoffman, Fowler birdied his first seven holes and added another at the ninth to turn in 28 and move into solo possession of the lead.

“He just made me look like I was playing absolutely horribly,” said Patrick Reed, who was paired with Fowler on Sunday at Albany. “Once he got his speed down on the first hole, making the first putt, it just seemed like the hole was about the size of a dinner plate. It was awesome to watch.”

Fowler extended his lead to three shots with a birdie at the 13th hole and his focus drifted from winning the 18-man challenge season event to something else – shooting a 59.

“I knew when I got in there on 13 that was going to be a bonus, and I knew if I made that putt that 59 was a chance because 14 and 15 ahead are birdie holes,” said Fowler, who conceded he didn’t know where he stood in relation to the rest of the field as he made his way toward the finish. “I was definitely happy with the way I played the last six holes or so, not really knowing the situation. Obviously [I had] a little bit of that 59 thought in there but I wasn't going to necessarily press for it.”


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Fowler added another birdie at the par-5 15th hole to move to 11 under par for the day before playing his final three holes even for a closing 61 and a four-stroke victory over Hoffman, who closed with a 72.

Still, Fowler’s course-record-setting round and commanding victory couldn’t escape the long shadow cast by Woods’ comeback.

Earlier in the week Woods had talked of playing practice rounds with the likes of Fowler, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson to prepare for his first competitive start in 301 days.

“These guys are awesome, they want to play almost every day,” said Woods, who closed with a 68 to tie for ninth. “They want to compete, they want to see me back out there, and it's really nice to have that type of camaraderie.”

Of course, Fowler found some inspiration of his own alongside Woods.

After played just once since the Presidents Cup in late September – albeit in a runner-up showing at the OHL Classic – Fowler figures he played five casual rounds with Woods before Thanksgiving to stay sharp. It wasn’t a stretch to see that the rounds also provided some extra motivation for the four-time PGA Tour winner.

“I think he sharpened me up a little bit. I've gotten a little scared of how good he was playing at home, thought I needed to start playing a little bit better or something,” Fowler smiled.

Although the Hero isn't a PGA Tour event, the Official World Ranking points he picked up in at Albany will boost Fowler's status, moving him to seventh in the world. And others, like Jordan Spieth in 2014, have used a victory at the Hero World Challenge as a springboard to a breakout season.

For Fowler, a "breakout" would need to include a major championship.

“We only get four chances a year, so there's four big weeks that we always think about it,” Fowler said. “But I put myself in position to be in contention at majors so we're just going to keep knocking at the door.”

Whether his success this fall translates into a major breakthrough remains to be seen, but he did accomplish a major feat on Sunday by compelling the golf world to pay attention to a player not named Tiger, at least for a few moments.

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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.”


Projected FedExCup standings

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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.”