Rosy redemption

By Jason SobelSeptember 18, 2011, 11:38 pm

LEMONT, Ill. – Justin Rose prepared for the BMW Championship by finishing in a share of second place at a tournament one week earlier.

After two PGA Tour victories last season, it was his best result so far in 2011.

Never mind the fact that it came at an eight-man field. In something called the JR Challenge. And the “JR” stands for Justin Rose.

The “tournament” was Rose’s annual buddies’ trip with seven other guys he’s known since his schoolboy days in England, as they traversed some of Long Island’s most desirable golf courses – Sebonack, National, Garden City and Friars Head – in a continuous 72-hole Stableford scoring match.

“We play for a little trophy, but really it's just a good excuse to get together with my oldest friends, guys I've known since I was about 10 years old,” he said. “They'd be the guys that you'd call up if you ever needed something, English guys. They've known me through thick and thin, they've known me before I turned pro – just your real hard-core true friends.”

Even though he was playing off a plus-7 handicap, Rose unceremoniously finished behind his half-brother Brandon Harcus – not exactly a confidence-builder heading into one of the bigger weeks on the schedule.

Then again, as he joked on Sunday evening, “That got me back in contention.”

Rose had reason for levity after the final round at Cog Hill, as he parlayed that title contention into a two-stroke triumph for his third career PGA Tour victory.

Don’t underestimate the impact that one had on the other.

“I think mentally last week I got away from the grind of everything – the grind of the year, the grind of the FedEx Cup – and just hung out with some buddies and maybe that recharged my batteries,” Rose explained. “Even though I played golf four times, I think I came into this week a lot more refreshed.”

“It’s easy for players on the PGA Tour to start identifying with their world ranking, FedEx Cup number, the money list,” said his swing instructor Sean Foley. “To be around his mates from when he was 10 years old, you recognize what’s important. It’s not the day-in, day-out grind of golf. I think being able to go out with his mates and have some fun and decompress was helpful.

“Rosey sometimes needs to step away from it all and put it into perspective. I think that’s what he did.”

There’s an old joke about what professional golfers do when they go on vacation. In this instance – much like the rest of us – Rose chose to tee it up, which would be the leisure-time equivalent of a plumber unclogging toilets to unwind during his downtime.

Of course, if it helped him prevail over all other plumbers in the next competition, maybe it would all be worth it.

Such was the case for Rose, who posted ascending rounds of 63-68-69-71 to hold off John Senden in the final stanza. After a disappointing season that saw him on the outside looking in to reach the Tour Championship coming into the week, the result vaulted him into third place on the FedEx Cup standings

Rose entered the day with a four-stroke overnight lead and though he never relinquished it, he found himself up by just one with two holes to play. Just off the green on the 17th hole, he considered using his putter – or what he called “the chicken stick” – but instead went with the 54-degree wedge. And he holed it.

“I think the manner in which I won this tournament, it rates as high as the best tournament I've ever won, just by going wire to wire,” Rose contended. “To win at this level, with this strength of field, wire-to-wire, I think gives me a lot of confidence, and I think it's a big step up. Obviously being a playoff event puts it in that special category of tournaments, too.”

It was all aided by being in the right frame of mind, something garnered from his week spent away from competitive golf … playing in a golf tournament.

“I think mentally this is the best I've ever been in terms of being very under control with my emotions, being very calm, being very aware of the situation and feeling comfortable with it,” he said. “You know, as it turned out, I may have had better ball-striking weeks as a whole, but I think this week as a competitor and as a professional, I think it was probably my best-ever performance.”

It also gave him a sense of redemption. One week after losing to his half-brother at his eponymous event, Rose finally had bragging rights within his own family again.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said with a smile. “I think maybe I one-upped him this week.”

Turns out the JR Challenge may not have been named for Justin Rose after all. Following his share of second place finish one week earlier, the initials for that buddies’ trip just happened to stand for something else for the guy who rebounded to win his next start.

Just Right.

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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.

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."

In context, 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.)

And out of context, the comment speaks to 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 him 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 will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply 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.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

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Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka