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Rose shoots 67 in first trip around Bellerive

By Ryan LavnerAugust 10, 2018, 12:14 am

ST. LOUIS – Justin Rose’s first official trip around Bellerive went about as smooth as possible.

After only walking, not playing, a practice round this week to preserve his achy back, Rose opened with a 3-under 67 Thursday to sit just three shots off the lead at the PGA Championship.

“Today I had a bit of a blank canvas to play with,” he said, “and I felt comfortable on the course.”

Rose withdrew before the start of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after suffering back spasms. He decided to only walk each side here at Bellerive and just hit balls on the range. He said Thursday that his ball-striking was unaffected.

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“Back’s good,” he said. “Not thinking about it. I was able to hit every shot as I wanted to today. I walked nine holes both days, so I haven’t hit a bad shot on the golf course.”

The only issue that Rose encountered was his speed on the greens – likely a product of not hitting many putts up and over ridges during the practice rounds.

“Some of the putts looked very fast to me and they’re not,” he said. “You have to be very aggressive.”

The practice putting green here was chewed up after a long day and lots of foot traffic, so Rose plans to arrive about 20 minutes earlier than usual on Friday morning, just to spend more time working on his stroke.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

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“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

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“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.

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Woodland on putting: 'Confident as I've ever felt'

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 10:58 pm

ATLANTA – Gary Woodland closed his day at the Tour Championship with back-to-back birdies for his fourth round of 66 in his last five rounds and there was no question why his game has taken such an upward turn.

Woodland began working with putting guru Phil Kenyon at The Open in July at the urging of his manager, Mark Steinberg, and his play on the greens has steadily improved, finishing his round on Thursday ranked 13th in strokes gained: putting.

“I was so mad that day at The Open, Saturday night, and [Steinberg] made me stay and made we work with [Kenyon] really. I take credit that it was my choice, but I just don't want to say thank you to him,” Woodland laughed.

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Woodland said the final piece of his putting puzzle fell into place two weeks ago at the BMW Championship when Kenyon adjusted his set up.

“I've worked with a lot of guys. He's the first one that told me he didn't like what he saw with my stroke,” Woodland said. “Everybody always told me I had a good stroke, and he told me he didn't like it. We made some setup changes, grip changes, all of the above, and it's as confident as I've ever felt.”

This is the third consecutive year Woodland has played his way into the top 30 and the Tour Championship during the playoffs, moving from 37th after the post-season opener to 28th this week following his tie for 12th place at the BMW Championship.