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Puerto Rico's Torres claims last of 20 LPGA cards

By Randall MellDecember 3, 2017, 10:45 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There’s no setting in golf as emotional as the final day of the final stage of Q-School.

There’s more joy in the player ranks than you’ll see in a major championship, because it is spread so much deeper in the field.

Maria Torres finished 20th Sunday at LPGA International and couldn’t have been more thrilled if she won the event.

“I am kind of in shock,” Torres said. “I feel like I am in a dream or something.”

Everyone among the top 20 at Sunday’s end walked away a winner, with each of them claiming full membership to play the LPGA next season.

Torres survived a three-way playoff to claim that last spot, but it is what she survived almost three months ago that made it so much more satisfying.

Torres huddled with her family in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September as Hurricane Maria’s 155 mph winds thrashed their second-floor apartment. There was no running water for two days after, no air conditioning for a week.

A University of Florida graduate last spring, Torres shed her amateur status before Sunday’s playoff, turning pro so she could accept tour membership after signing her scorecard. She is the first player from Puerto Rico to earn an LPGA tour card.

Torres called home to Puerto Rico after defeating Daniela Darquea and Mind Muangkhumsakul in the playoff.

“I won the tournament, Mommy,” Torres said.

There was a pause, while Torres’ mother, Lisandra, relayed the news to Maria’s father, Jose.

“And then they were screaming,” Torres said.

With Puerto Rico on her mind, with a chance to make her commonwealth proud, Torres said the final round was especially challenging. She started the day tied for ninth and then five-putted the third hole, turning a birdie chance there into a triple bogey. She persevered, making birdies at three of the next five holes and shooting 74.

“You have all these emotions, and sometimes you don’t know how to control them, but, thankfully, it worked out,” Torres said.

For every player who claimed full or conditional LPGA status this week, there were almost three who didn’t.

That makes for more tears at the final stage of Q-School than any other tournament.

One player after another left the scoring tent late Sunday afternoon wiping their eyes.

Failure at the final stage of Q-School can feel like the weight of a lost year, because that’s how long it will likely take players to get another chance to make it to the LPGA.

There was extra weight to this year’s Q-School failure, because final stage is being overhauled. It will be so much more difficult for some of these players to work their way back to final stage next year.

This year, 82 players advanced to final stage from second stage. Next year, only 20 to 30 will advance, with a new Q-Series in effect as the final stage. Next year, players who finish 101st-150th on the LPGA money list, 11th-30th on the Symetra Tour money list and 1st-5th on the Golfweek Sagarin/college rankings will join as many as 10 players from the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings at second stage. They’ll play for 40 to 50 tour cards over eight rounds.

Count Nasa Hataoka, Georgia Hall and Rebecca Artis among the happiest here Sunday.

Hataoka won the Q-School finals, closing with a 71 on the Hills Course to finish at 12-under overall, one shot better than Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan (71) and three better than South Africa’s Paula Reto (71).

Hall, 21, the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit leader this season, dug herself out of a big hole after opening the week with a 77. The Englishwoman rallied with rounds of 69-67-69-72 to tie for seventh.

“It was a horrendous start, but I’m very glad I came back,” Hall, 21, said. “It was definitely under pressure. I don’t want to do tour school again. Once is enough.”

Artis, 29, a two-time Ladies European Tour winner, reveled in making it through Q-School in her fifth attempt. She closed with a 71 to finish solo fourth.

“Q-School is always such a hard week,” Artis said. “Being here five times, of course it makes it much sweeter.”

Artis’ husband, Geoff, is also her caddie. He has been on her bag for seven of the last eight years.

“In the third or fourth year, we decided I would get another full-time caddie and he would get another full-time bag,” Artis said. “But I hated every bit of it.”

Artis’ father, Keith, made the trip from their home in Coonabarabran in Australia and walked with her this week. Her mother, Roslyn, followed online back home, where she kept the family bakery up and running.

Gavin Coles, a family friend and former PGA Tour pro who shares a teacher with Artis  (Gary Edwin), helped her on the range all week.

“Gavin is Gary’s eyes when I’m over here,” Artis said.

Artis said all the hard work she and Geoff put into getting ready for the week would require a couple celebrations, one in Florida, and another when they return to Coonbarabran, where she also has four brothers waiting for her.

“We will all celebrate when we get home, don’t you worry about that,” Artis said.

Q-School can be the kind of long week that requires more than one celebration.

Final scoreboard

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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.”