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Jutanugarns look to turn Evian into sister act

By Randall MellSeptember 12, 2018, 4:13 pm

They share a bond you usually only see in twins.

Moriya Jutanugarn may be 16 months older than her sister, Ariya, but they’re practically joined at the hip.

“They don’t always play practice rounds together, but off the course they are with each other every waking moment,” says Les Luark, Ariya’s caddie.

How much time, really?

“Too much,” Ariya cracked with her sister looking on in a media session Wednesday at the Evian Championship.

It’s only natural then to wonder when we’ll see them in a final Sunday pairing together trying to win an LPGA event.

Perhaps in a major championship?

This week’s Evian Championship offers as likely a place as any to see the Thai sisters go head to head with a title on the line.

Ariya, 22, has already won two majors, and this is the place Moriya, 24, came closest to breaking through to win her first a year ago.

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Moriya led Evian going into the final round last year, and had the lead on the back nine. A bogey at the last left her one shot out of the sudden-death playoff won by Anna Nordqvist.

Still, it was a big step forward in Moriya’s quest to win a major.

“A lot of good memories on this golf course,” Moriya said.

Ariya tied for ninth at Evian two years ago.

Shortly after Moriya broke through to win her first LPGA title at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open in April, she joined Ariya among the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. They joined Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the only sister acts to win LPGA events, with Ariya and Moriya the only sisters to both rank among the top 10 in the world.

The Jutanugarns would relish becoming the first sisters to win majors.

What would it be like if they were paired together Sunday?

“I’m going to try to beat her,” Ariya said.

“I would say the same thing,” Moriya said. “I always try to beat her anyway.”

The sisters get asked a lot about what it would be like to go head to head for an LPGA title.

“I've been thinking about that,” Ariya said earlier this summer. “Normally, when we play in the same group, we don’t really talk much at all. But it's going to be fun.”

Make no mistake, they do root for each other.

With Moriya trying to close out last year, Ariya was on the course, following her sister from outside the ropes. Ariya was also there at the end for Mo’s first win in Los Angeles. Mo’s been there at the end helping Ariya celebrate victories multiple times.

“The love between Ariya, Moriya and their mother [Narumon] is a beautiful thing,” says Vision 54s Pia Nilsson, who teams with Lynn Marriott as the sisters’ performance coaches.

Moriya and Ariya have been a team since the day their father first put golf clubs in their hands. Moriya was 7 and Ariya was 5 ½. They learned to play growing up at Garden Rose Golf in Bangkok, Thailand, where their father owned a pro shop.

Mo is the classic older sibling. She’s the planner, organizing and setting agendas. Ariya? She’s the carefree prankster who doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She knows her mom and sister will do that for her.

The sisters do love to tease each other.

In Wednesday’s news conference, Ariya said she had a plan for Evian week. She meant detailed dinner plans. She loves the food in the French resort town on Lake Geneva.

Moriya: “I pretty much follow her. She had a plan. You know, after she left the golf course she had a plan for every day.”

Ariya: “We have ice cream every day, cake every day, and I love it.”

Moriya: “She gains weight, for sure.”

The sisters are hoping they’ll be sharing a victory dinner come Sunday.

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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

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''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

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 Paisley and other 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.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

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“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

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“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.