Bunker Shots Major Time - COPIED

By Randall MellApril 20, 2010, 5:53 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Cajun country to a giant slayer’s Jeju Island home.

PGA TOUR

Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Just three of the top 30 players in the world will tee it up when play begins Thursday at the TPC at Louisiana, but there is plenty of story power, if not star power.

No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 6 Ian Poulter are the highest ranked players in the field, but there are compelling stories to be told if Sergio Garcia, David Duval and John Daly can get themselves in contention. Should any of them win, it promises to make fascinating reading.

Bunker Shot: Love him or loathe him, Garcia is among the most charismatic players in the game. The sport’s better when he’s on leaderboards. That’s the problem. He isn’t finding his way onto them this year. In 2008, when Tiger Woods failed to record enough starts to qualify for the Vardon Trophy, Garcia claimed the award with the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour. Through his first six stroke-play starts this season, he’s 158th in scoring (71.43). He’s 136th in greens in regulation and 129th in putting average. He’s looking for his first top-10 finish in stroke play since the Dubai World Championship last November.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Charles Howell III. Darkhorse – Bubba Watson.

Course: TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, par 72, 7,341 yards (Pete Dye design, player consultants Jerry Kelly and Steve Elkington).

Purse: $6.4 million (winner’s share, $1,152,000).

TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Last year: Jerry Kelly (14-under 274) finished a shot better than Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Ballantine’s Classic

Y.E. Yang is the story on the European Tour this week.

Fresh off his victory last week at the Volvo China Open, Yang heads home to play at Jeju Island, his South Korean home, where he’ll always be remembered as the guy who beat Tiger Woods in a major. The momentum and home cooking make Yang the man to beat, but there are strong challengers with Ernie Els, Anthony Kim and Henrik Stenson in the field. Kim is also a European Tour member who ranks 10th in Race to Dubai points.

Bunker Shot: Ernie Els, for so long the world traveler, makes his first appearance of the year outside the United States this week. After winning back-to-back events in Florida, Els seemed to have found the joy in his game again. That’s what made his struggles at the Masters so disturbing. It wasn’t so much the way the course beat him up, but the way he beat himself up afterward. He was dejected over how Augusta National had broken his heart yet again. Will the depression linger over his game? This week will be telling as to what kind of summer may await Els.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Anthony Kim. Contender – Y.E. Yang. Darkhorse – Peter Hedblom.

Course: Pinx Golf Club in Jeju Island. Par 72, 7,345 yards (Designed by Ted Robinson)

Purse: 2,205,000 euros, about $2.9 million (winner’s share, 366,660 euros, about $494,000).

TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Last year: Thongchai Jaidee (4-under 284) defeated Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and Sung-hoo Kang in a playoff.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf

The Fred Couples show rolls into Savannah, Ga., this week.

Couples makes his first appearance as a “legend” and will team with Jay Haas in the 54-hole best-ball team event. Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton also are making their debuts. Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman are back as defending champs.

Bunker shot: Ken Green makes his return to competition after that devastating crash in his RV took so much away from him last summer. He lost his lower right leg in the accident and will play with a prosthetic leg with Mike Reid as his partner. Whether the duo gets in contention or not, it promises to be heart-tugging action. Green lost his girlfriend, his brother and his dog in the crash. Green’s also motivated by the fact that the Champions Tour turned down his request for a medical extension. He’s dependent on sponsor invites to play this Tour.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples/Jay Haas. Contender: Bernhard Langer/Tom Lehman. Darkhorse – Denis Watson/Eduardo Romero.

Course: The Club at Westin Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga. Par 72, 7,087 yards (Designed by Robert Cupp and Sam Snead).

Purse: $2.7 million (winner’s share, TBD).

TV times: Friday, Golf Channel, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.

Last year: Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman won in a playoff, defeating Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler when Langer holed a 45-foot birdie at the first playoff hole.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

South Georgia Classic

This week’s event marks the quarter mark of the season, the seventh of 28 events.

Bobby Gates is the Nationwide Tour’s leading money winner with $161,960. At 7,781 yards, Kinderlou Forest is the longest layout on the Tour, about 300 yards longer than any other course.

Bunker shot: Who leads the money list is a big deal on this tour but so is the guy who holds down the 25th spot with the top 25 earning PGA Tour cards at season’s end. Brian Vranesh holds that final spot this week, but there’s plenty of movement in and out of the top 25 every week. David Hearn leaped from 54th on the money list last week to 10th this week with his runner-up finish to Kevin Chappell at the Fresh Express Classic. For every player who moves into the top 25, somebody’s feeling the pressure of moving out.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Chris Kirk. Darkhorse – Marco Dawson.

Course: Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Ga. Par 72, 7,781 yards (Designed by Davis Love III).

Purse: $625,000 (winner’s share, $112,500).

TV times: Friday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday, 7-9:30 p.m.

Last year: Garth Mulroy won at 13-under 275, finishing a shot ahead of Chris Tidland.

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com 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.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

Getty Images

LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

Getty Images

For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.