Championship Performances

By Mercer BaggsDecember 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
Briny Baird had just completed perhaps the most rigorous tournament in all of golf, and he just wanted to go home. So much so, that he wasnt about to stick around and see whether or not his final score was good enough to earn his PGA Tour card for next season.
 
Headed to my car, he said. Got a two-, two-and-a-half hour drive ahead of me.
 
Baird was quite congenial considering the situation. He had just made a 10-foot birdie on the 108th and final hole of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament to post 10 under. But, having finished a few hours ahead of the final group, he knew that wasnt likely good enough.
 
Bill Haas
Bill Haas' birdie-birdie finish will make him a rookie on the 2006 PGA Tour.
When asked how he felt about his position, Baird responded: Not good. About as good as I felt about finishing 126.
 
Baird was referencing his finish on this years tour money list. The south Florida native missed holding onto his card by $2,545.
 
And, just as he thought, he missed regaining it this week by one stroke.
 
Bairds birdie at the last was clutch considering that he needed to make it just to have any chance of finishing inside the top 30 this week. But thanks to three bogeys on his back nine, his overall performance cannot be considered Championship.
 
A friend of mine likes to use this word, Championship, to describe a quality competitive performance. Championship is not based on merit; its based on the result produced.
 
By his definition, doing what is needed to be done in the throws of competition is considered Championship. It could relate to a kicker making a 45-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl or it could relate to guy chugging a beer faster than everyone else at the bar.
 
Championship would best describe the performance of many at this weeks Q-school, including Bill Haas.
 
Haas, the son of nine-time tour winner Jay, had been in this precarious position before, on the cusp of earning his card.
 
The 2003-04 NCAA Player of the Year, Haas was primed to make it through the qualifying tournament a year ago, but could only manage a closing 71. He missed the cut by two strokes.
 
That relegated him to the Nationwide Tour -- where he definitely did not want to be, and where he entered this years Tour Championship on the money bubble. That bubble burst and he ultimately finished 23rd in earnings.
 
That sent him back to school.
 
It appeared that history would again repeat itself this Monday. The 23-year-old Wake Forest All-American made the turn on the Panther Lake course at Orange County National at 12 under for the tournament, a stroke inside the cut line. He then proceeded to bogey 10, 11 and 15.
 
This Deacon was seeing demons.
 
I thought I was going the wrong way. I thought I was going to be doing it again next year, talking about how close I had come, he said.
 
Instead, with the support of his father in the gallery, Haas made a tough 6-foot par save on 16 ' one that he called the biggest putt of his round, and then a slick 8-foot birdie putt at 17.
 
That put him back to 10 under, which he thought would be good enough to get his card. That also put the pressure back on his shoulders.
 
I was definitely nervous on the last hole. (On) 17 I felt good; I had nothing to lose. I had to make birdie. And then once I made the birdie I had something to lose, he said.
 
Thats the same time when the nerves woke up inside Papa Haas.
 
It wasnt that bad until the last hole, the elder Haas said. It was gut-wrenching.
 
This from a guy who knows well the rigors of the Ryder Cup.
 
Haas ultimately made birdie at the last, surviving an extended wait in the fairway and a 45-foot downhill, two-tiered putt after reaching the green in two.
 
To birdie those last two holes will definitely make the drive back to Greensville (S.C.) pretty sweet, he said.
 
Much sweeter than Bairds drive down to Jupiter after getting confirmation of his finish.
 
Haas par-birdie-birdie finish to capture his card on the number definitely qualifies as Championship.
 
So, too, does Danny Ellis eagle chip-in at the last to earn his card on the number; and Brian Batemans 50-foot eagle putt on 18 to seal a return to the tour; and Michael Connells birdie on the final hole to secure his first trip to the big leagues; and Alex Aragons closing 65 to make it by one.
 
Not everyones performance, however, could be classified as Championship.
 
Certainly not Scott Hends. He started the day tied for sixth place, shot 78, and finished two off the cut line at 9 under.
 
And not Joseph Alfieris. He also shot 78 and fell from a tie for 10th into a tie for 54th.
 
And not Tommy Tolles. After a run of six birdies in nine holes, he was dead on the number heading to the last hole. And then he hit it dead in the water off the tee and finished with a dreadful double bogey.
 
Tolles was left to make the lonely walk back to his SUV, his hands clasped together atop his head. His caddie followed behind him, his head hung low. Dead silence.
 
Of all the clutch performances Monday, none was more Championship than that of John Engler.
 
It took the former Clemson All-American four years to make it to the PGA Tour. But even time doesnt tell how long that road really was.
 
Engler was in a March 2003 car crash that killed two passengers in the colliding vehicle. Englers leg was badly broken. It required six surgeries, and doctors feared he would forever walk with a limp.
 
Dont ever give up, was Englers message to any and everyone faced with adversity. Whatever cards youre dealt, keep your head up.
 
Englers next card will be dealt to him by the PGA Tour.
 
Fully recovered, the 27-year-old Augusta, Ga., native closed in 67-68 to finish tied for 13th.
 
Now thats 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."

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 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.”