PGA Tour cards up for grabs at Web.com Tour Finals

By Will GraySeptember 9, 2015, 5:27 pm

While the FedEx Cup Playoffs take a break, another postseason is set to begin.

The Web.com Tour Finals kick off this week with the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., where 133 players will tee off with the hopes of securing one of 50 PGA Tour cards available during the four-event series.

Half of that allotment is already spoken for, as the top 25 players from the season-long Web.com Tour money list are guaranteed a promotion next season. That group is headed by Patton Kizzire, who already had the top spot before a pair of late-season victories. It also includes former PGA Tour winners Dicky Pride and Rod Pampling, former U.S. Amateur champ Kelly Kraft and Michael Kim, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur during his career at Cal.

Those players will carry their regular-season earnings into the Finals, and their PGA Tour priority ranking for next season will be based on their total earnings across the entire year.

The remaining field battling for the other 25 cards includes Nos. 26-75 from the Web.com Tour money list, as well as Nos. 126-200 from the final FedEx Cup points list. While the former group includes an expected mix of player profiles, pitting veterans like Tommy Gainey and Brad Fritsch against recent collegiate standouts like Trey Mullinax and Cody Gribble, the latter contains plenty of household names.

D.A. Points, Michael Thompson, John Merrick and Derek Ernst all won on the PGA Tour in 2013, and all four are now fighting to maintain status after exhausting the two-year exemption that comes with a victory.

Robert Allenby has played a full PGA Tour schedule since 1999, but the Aussie will need a strong performance in the Finals to keep that streak alive. So too will former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, the lone major champion in the field, and Stuart Appleby, who heads into the Finals equipped with a medical extension.

In a change from previous years, players who are already exempt for next season on the PGA Tour are not allowed to participate in the Finals even if they qualified based on their FedEx Cup standing. That group includes the likes of Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and, of course, Tiger Woods.

But it also includes Patrick Rodgers, who finished 24th on the Web.com Tour money list. Because Rodgers wasn't a full PGA Tour member for this season, he was prohibited from playing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs even though he would have qualified on points. But because he already has his card for next season based on that FedEx Cup point accrual, he can't compete in the Finals, either.

The field also features non-members who earned the equivalent amount of points to crack the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. That means a chance at a Tour card for Anirban Lahiri, the lone Presidents Cup member playing in the Finals. Lahiri made 12 PGA Tour starts this season, notably a T-5 finish at the PGA Championship, and will play the first three events before joining the International team in South Korea.

This also serves as an opportunity for 24-year-old Austin Cook to earn his card. Cook began the year with no PGA Tour status, but thanks to a series of successful Monday qualifiers and subsequent top-10 finishes, he racked up $537,648 in non-member earnings.

The events will be played across four consecutive weeks, concluding Oct. 1-4 with the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Cards will be handed out, and priority ranking determined, based on cumulative earnings across the four tournaments, with the top earner from the Finals receiving a full exemption for next season and a spot in the 2016 Players Championship.

While not all of the card recipients will maintain their status next season, recent results show that graduates can hit the ground running. Four players who participated in last year's Finals - Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Zac Blair - are still competing for the FedEx Cup and will be among the 70-man field next week at the BMW Championship.

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

“You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

But the also comment fits the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

Who’s the best at their best?

In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it'll be fatigue, maybe it'll be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is  too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

And he’s far from done.

“For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”