Duo Leads in Dallas

By Mercer BaggsMay 12, 2001, 4:00 pm
When Justin Leonard and David Toms posted 61 and 62, respectively, early on Saturday it appeared that someone near the top of the leaderboard would pull away from the rest.

It never happened.
Overnight co-leader Scott Verplank carded a 2-under-par 68 on the TPC Las Colinas. Not spectacular, but good enough to earn a share of the lead for the third straight day at the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic.
Verplank shares the top spot with Robert Damron, who bounced back admirably from early mistakes, to shoot a 3-under-par 67.
At 13-under, the duo is one-shot clear of Vijay Singh (67) and Leonard.
Fellow overnight co-leader David Duval struggled on Saturday, but birdied his final hole to stay within two shots of the lead at 11-under.
I really feel lucky to be there, said Duval. I played like a dog today.
Duval is tied for fifth place with Brian Watts (63), Mike Weir (65) and 1991 Nelson champion Nick Price (65).
Tiger Woods never got it going in the third round. He strolled down the 9th fairway while the final group played the adjacent 4th hole. As it turned out, thats as close as Woods would get to the leaders.
Despite a birdie at the 5th and an eagle at the par-5 7th, Tiger recorded three bogeys to just one birdie on the back nine for a round of 1-under-par 69.
Following his disappointing performance, the worlds No. 1 ranked player headed straight to the practice area.
Leonard, a Dallas native and resident, made the most noise early. He birdied three of his first five holes en route to a front-nine 32.
Then he blazed hotter than the Texas sun.
Leonard fired a back-nine 29, which included two birdies to start the inward half and four consecutive to close it.
In addition to placing himself in position to win his first tournament of the season, Leonard also got a chance to pay back his loyal fans.
Ive played a lot of bad rounds on this golf course, and at this tournament, and all those people have seen and been with me through all those poor rounds, Leonard said. So Im even with everybody, and that feels good.
So, too, does the fact that he matched the course record and set a new personal benchmark on the PGA Tour.
Any course record is wonderful, but to do it in my hometown with so many friends and family out, it makes it even better, he said.
Friday night, Leonard offered Verplank an invitation to join him at his house for dinner. Verplank respectfully declined. But after seeing what Leonard did on Saturday, he might accept next time.
I should have gone, Verplank joked. I wish Id have eaten what he did.
Verplank played steadily in Round Three, carding two birdies and no bogeys. Meanwhile, his playing companion was up and down all day.
Duval notched three birdies and four bogeys over his first ten holes. Another bogey at the 13th dropped him three shots off the lead.
But, ever the unemotional one, Duval birdied the 16th and 18th holes to keep himself in contention for his first title of the season.
Im really glad I managed to hang in, really excited about the birdie at 18, Duval said.
Through eight holes of the third round, Damron failed to heed the advice from a friendly reporter who jokingly told him to not suck.
Then things changed at the 9th.
I shoved a 3-wood off the tee going in. There was no way it wasnt going in the water, and it hit a tree and actually stopped about a yard short of going in the water; and I told my caddie, Fred, I said, Hey, this is it, Damron later said.
Damron parred the 9th and birdied the 10th and 11th to move back to 10-under for the tournament, where he started the day.
Damron did drop a shot at the 13th, but rebounded with four birdies over his final five holes to tie for the 54-hole lead.
You know, its been a few years since Ive been in this position, said Damron, whose best tour finish is a tie for third on three occasions.
Im playing well enough, so my job now is just to not put any undue pressure on me because of the situation. Just go out and have a good time and let my game do what its been doing.
Verplank is no stranger to final-round pressure. He won the Western Open as an amateur in 1985 and the Buick Open as a professional in 88. Twelve years later, Verplank recorded win No. 3 at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Coincidentally, Verplank held at least a share of the lead after each round of his first two victories.
Im very pleased to be leading, or tied for the lead, said Verplank, who was a standard bearer for this tournament in his teens. Still, I'm kind of disappointed I wasnt able to distance myself (from the field).
News, Notes and Numbers
*Eleven players are within two shots of the lead, none of who have won in 2001.
*Scott Verplank has held at least a share of the lead entering the final round on seven occasions. Hes won two of them. Robert Damron has done so once at the 1997 FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he tied for third.
*David Toms wasnt expecting to make the cut at 1-under-par through 36 holes. Following his second round, he went shopping for his wife for Mothers Day. He then received a call from his caddie saying he qualified for the weekend. Last week, he shot 63-64 to win the Compaq Classic of New Orleans. Saturday, he followed suit, shooting 62. He stands at 9-under-par, four off the lead.
*Esteban Toledo shot a career-best 63 in the third round. Brian Watts also shot 63 to match his previous career-low round on tour.
Full-field scores from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic
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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.