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Battle at the Brickyard: Lydia vs. Lexi

By Randall MellSeptember 8, 2017, 11:40 pm

Lydia Ko moved in position Friday to shake the first real swoon of her career in spectacular fashion, but she will have to take on Lexi Thompson to do so.

Ko shot 8-under-par 64, following up her 65 in the opening round, to take the lead through the morning wave in the second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Thompson, however, answered in the afternoon. She followed up a 63 with a 66 to tie Ko for the lead at 15-under overall at Brickyard Crossing Golf Club in Indianapolis.

That sets up a showdown between two of the greatest teen phenoms in LPGA history.

Thompson, who turned 22 in February, and Ko, who turned 20 in April, will go off together in Saturday’s final round.

“I've played with Lydia quite a bit,” Thompson said. “We're usually paired with each other at least one round a week. She's super nice, a great player, obviously, very talented. So, tomorrow, I'm just going to focus on my game and see where that takes me.”

Thompson won her first LPGA title when she was 16 at the Navistar Classic, becoming the tour’s youngest winner at the time. Ko came along a year later to win the Canadian Women’s Open at 15.

Thompson is looking for her ninth LPGA title, her second this season.

Ko is looking for her 15th LPGA title, her first in more than a year. She entered this week having missed the cut in two of her last three starts, and having failed to put up a top-10 finish all summer, over her last seven starts.

“It was actually more frustrating, because I felt like there were a lot of positives, and a lot of good things going on, but I just couldn't put it all together,” Ko said. “This week, the last couple days, I've been able to hit it pretty good, and make some good putts. That's what I've kind of been lacking the last few months.”

Ko made five consecutive birdies on her second nine Friday. Though she entered this week just 47th on tour in greens in regulation - a big slip from two years ago, when she ranked second - her iron play has been sharp through two rounds. She has hit 33 of 36 greens this week.

This season started with Ko facing some challenges that were more daunting than she expected. She came into the year with a new coach, new equipment and new caddie.

Going through swing changes and dialing in yardages with 14 new PXG clubs in her bag required Ko to be more analytical about her game than is natural to her.

She was asked Friday if she finds herself thinking too much about her swing.

“I've tried to keep putting my time in on the range, to make me think less while I am playing,” Ko said. “Sometimes, those thoughts do come, but I think it's something where you have to have an on-and-off switch. If you don't hit a good shot, and you start thinking, `Hey, what's going on?’ And switch off, and just let it swing freely. I think that's really important. It's just nice to kind of be able to get into that rhythm.”

Thompson is overpowering Brickyard Crossing, which is playing to 6,599 yards on the scorecard. She averaged 300 yards per drive on Friday, which is a staggering 76 more than Ko.

Through two rounds, Thompson has made 17 birdies.

“It's not the longest golf course,” Thompson said. “I can reach the par 5s, which I think is definitely in my advantage, but you still have to hit golf shots.”

Thompson and Ko, of course, aren’t the only players with chances Saturday. Candie Kung (64) is just one shot back with Ashleigh Buhai (66) four back.

“I'm really just going to try not to even look at a leaderboard,” Thompson said. “I'm just going to try to focus on my game. It's going to take a lot of birdies, especially if it's perfect weather like it was today.”

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods has a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Tour Championship and is alongside Rory McIlroy in the final group. We're tracking him.

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.