Few and Far Between

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
These opportunities dont come around very often. At least not for the average player. Or the good player. Or even the very good player.
For many, the opportunity to win a professional golf tournament is like the out-of-state grandmother visit ' from the one you like: it only comes around once or twice a year.
Amy and Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco gets a hug from his wife/caddie after his first win in four years.
It doesnt matter on which tour you compete, be it the PGA, European, LPGA or A.G. Spanos; most players dont get very many legitimate chances to win on an annual basis.
Of course, this doesnt include the Superstar player, i.e. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Theres a reason that they rank 1, 2 and 3 in the world, and its because they not only win multiple tournaments each season, but they constantly put themselves in position to do so. They give themselves more opportunities to win than everyone else.
And they convert on quite a few of those occasions.
Since the start of the 2004 season, at least one of those three players has been present in 75 tour events. And theyve combined to win 26 times. That means when Woods, Singh or Mickelson is in the field, then the fields odds of winning are reduced to about 65 percent.
As if these three dont make it hard enough on everyone else to try and get a victory, the depth of talent from tour-to-tour is so deep that the average player ' or the good, or very good ' must really be on his game in order to put himself into prime position.
And we all know that golf is as fickle as the Scottish winds; a players game can come and go without warning, staying for an all-too-short amount of time and leaving for an indomitable period.
Players have to take advantage of those opportunities when they blow their way; not blow those opportunities. Chris DiMarco has done plenty of the latter; Sunday, he finally did the former.
Its easy to think of DiMarco as an unfortunate golfing soul over the last few years, what with his zero victories and his 11 top-3s since the 2002 Phoenix Open. But its actually just the opposite: hes been one of the lucky ones.
DiMarco has had more chances to win over the last four years than just about everyone not named Tiger, Vijay or Phil.
Over the last two years alone, hes four times held at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. And, of course, hes had the success rate of Dan Quayle in the National Spelling Bee. Hes also been within three of the lead entering the final round three times during that stretch and has come up empty as well.
Now, he finally has something to take home with him other than a hefty consolation check.
DiMarco was once again in the pole possession at the European Tours Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. And instead of shooting something in the 70s and walking off the 18th with that Peyton Manning This-cant-be-happening-to-me-again look, he went out, carded a 67 and took home his first individual title anywhere in a long, long time.
Not that he was counting or anything.
This is four years to the month that I have not been in the winner's circle, said DiMarco, who credited his Presidents Cup performance a year ago with helping him finally come through in the clutch.
It just feels like a weight has been lifted off my back.
The monkey is gone ' but not yet dead and buried. John Daly broke a six-year winless drought when he captured the 2001 BMW International Open in Germany. But it took three more years before he would win again on the PGA Tour.
Mark OMeara won the 2004 Dubai Desert Classic for his first official victory since 98. He hasnt since won.
You would think that this wouldnt happen to DiMarco. You would think that he would certainly ride this momentum to at least one PGA Tour victory this season, perhaps before they even swing on over to Florida.
Hell likely have three or four good chances to win a PGA Tour event this season, which is actually really good for a guy who plays about 25 times.
If you still dont think that thats a healthy amount of opportunities to win on tour just ask somebody like David Toms. Toms is one of the 10 best players in the world. And when hes clicking, hes capable of beating everyone else ranked ahead of him, as he showed at the Sony Open.
Yet, hes seen his chances of winning dwindle with each passing season.
Four times in both 2002 and 2003 he either led or was within three strokes of the lead entering the final round. That number fell to three in 2004. And it was just one in 2005; though, he did make it to the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he routed who else but DiMarco.
So in essence, one of the 10 best players in the entire world had but two very good opportunities to win a tour event all of last season.
Hes already had one such opportunity this year and made the most of it in Honolulu. Hell being doing very well just to have a couple of more of them over the next 10 months.

That being the case, think about what it must be like for those guys outside the top 10 in the world rankings, outside the top 20, outside the top 50. Many of the players on the PGA Tour have to be thrilled just to have one shot at a title each season.
Chad Campbell was enthused to have had the chance to win the Sony Open a couple of weeks ago. And after getting dusted by fellow 54-hole co-leader Toms that Sunday in Hawaii, he was even more ecstatic to have a shot at redemption seven days later at the Bob Hope.
Prior to the Sony, it had been since the 2004 Bank of America Colonial that he held at least a share of the lead entering the final round in a tour event. Last year, his best final-round starting position was five strokes back at the Chrysler Championship. He did lose in a playoff to Adam Scott at the Nissan Open, but that tournament was weather-reduced to just 36 holes.
Now, he was in contention to win a tournament for the second straight week ' this time as the outright leader heading to Sunday.
And this time things fell in his favor. Despite a shaky start to his back nine, Campbell composed himself to shoot 1-under 71 and win his third career tour event, and his first in nearly two years.
Good thing, too, because, at best, hes looking at only one or two more solid chances to win over the remainder of the year.
These things are few and far between. You dont have to tell that to Scott Verplank, who started the final round at the Hope one back of Campbell and finished three in arrears, in a tie for second with Jesper Parnevik, thanks to a closing 1-over 73
Its been nearly five years since Verplank cashed in a winning ticket on tour. Since his triumph in the 2001 Bell Canadian Open, he has now nine times led or been within three of the lead entering the final round. That includes two times in 2003, two times in 2004 and two times in 2005.
Two times a year. Thats all a player like Verplank, a guy consistently ranked inside the top 40 in the world, gets a year to have a quality chance at winning a PGA Tour event.
Two times. Thats it. And, unfortunately for him, hes already wasted one of them.
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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 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.”