DJ sprints to 36-hole lead Monday at TOC

By Bailey MosierJanuary 8, 2013, 3:40 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – It wasn't the BCS National Championship. It wasn't 'The Bachelor' season 17 premiere. But Monday in Kapalua was a long day of golf that was a long time coming.

After severe winds kept players from competing for three days, the 30-man field at the Plantation Course played 36 holes in what is believed to be the first-ever Monday start on the PGA Tour. Blood, sweat and what felt like years later, the 2013 season kicked off and closed in on a champion among champions all in the same day.

After sharing the first-round lead at 4 under alongside Mark Wilson and Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson posted a red-hot 7-under 66 in his afternoon 18.

Johnson's second-round 66 put him at 11 under total and three shots clear of Steve Stricker through 36 holes at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

'We had not played any golf at all, so I was ready to go,' Johnson said. 'This course is a tough walk and it's really windy out there, but I'm in pretty good shape. I can handle (36 in one day).'

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With 18 holes left to play Tuesday at the weather-shortened event, Johnson may have history on his side. Of Johnson's six PGA Tour wins, two of them have come at 54-hole events (2011 Barclays, 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am).

'It wouldn't matter if it was 72 or 54 holes. Tomorrow is still the last round and there's 18 holes to play, so got to get the job done,' Johnson said.

Johnson's only bogey in Round 2 came at the 549 yard par-4 17th; at the time it dropped him to 9 under. But he bounced back the very next hole when he knocked his second shot – a 6-iron from 228 yards – to 5 feet, then rolled in his eagle putt at the 663 yard par-5.

Johnson was one of three players who made eagle at No. 18 in Round 2 – so did Matt Kuchar and defending champion Steve Stricker.

After posting 2-under 71 Monday morning, Stricker fought his way into second place with a 6-under 66 in the second round, helped in large part by his chip-in eagle from 67 yards in the 18th fairway, his ninth hole in the afternoon round.

'That was a real turning point for me,' Stricker said. 'Gave me the belief that I could win again.'

Stricker's eagle at the 18th got him to 6 under and in a three-way tie for the lead with Johnson and Brandt Snedeker at the time. Stricker went on to make two more birdies on his back nine – at Nos. 5 and 6 – before settling at 8 under.

Snedeker posted back-to-back 70s Monday and sits T-4 with Keegan Bradley, who battled his way into contention with rounds of 71-69.

'This afternoon I basically hit every green,' Bradley said. 'It was tough (playing 36) but I guess that's what you train for all offseason.'

After sharing the lead in the morning, Watney posted an afternoon even-par 73 and sits at T-7. Wilson, also an 18-hole co-leader, followed his morning round with a second-round 3-over 76 and fell into a tie for 14th.

The field played lift, clean and place in both the first and second rounds Monday because of wet conditions. Officials also moved up several tee boxes and left the greens rolling at 8 1/2 to help ensure they could get in 36 holes.

They will play 18 holes Tuesday beginning at 7:10 a.m. local time (12:10 p.m. ET); the final pairing of Johnson and Stricker will tee off 8:20 a.m. (1:20 p.m. ET).

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”