Ko, Park going down to the wire for awards

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2015, 10:56 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko and Inbee Park are threatening to take their battle for the LPGA’s biggest prizes down to the final shot Sunday at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

The tournament trophy, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking are all still hanging in the balance for these two in a potentially dramatic conclusion at Tiburon Golf Club.

If Ko or Park has a hot round Sunday, it could lead to an epic sweep.

“It’s going to be great TV and theater,” said Stacy Lewis, who remains in the hunt for the Tour Championship and the CME Globe. “That's what you want at the end of the year.

“I love the Globe Race. I love the drama that it creates. It gives media and TV, gives everybody something to talk about. That's what we need with our tour.”

Cristie Kerr shot a 6-under-par 66 Saturday to take a share of the third-round lead of the CME Group Tour Championship with Ha Na Jang (69). They’re at 13 under overall, two shots ahead of Ko (69) and Gerina Piller (67) and three ahead of Lexi Thompson (67), Brittany Lincicome (68) and Karine Icher (68).

Park made a nice move Saturday with her putter heating up. She shot 67 to move four shots off the lead. She finally got comfortable on these Bermuda greens, rolling in 40-foot birdie putts at the 16th and 17th holes.

Ko and Park remain first and second in projected CME points in the battle for the Globe and $1 million jackpot. Thompson jumped to third in projected points to give herself a shot at the big payday with Lewis fourth in projected points.

The battles for Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, money title and Rolex world No. 1 ranking are narrowed down to Ko and Park.

If Ko or Park win the CME Group Tour Championship, they’ll likely sweep all the big prizes.

Ko won both the Tour Championship and the Globe’s $1 million payout last year. The $1.5 million payday was the richest in the history of women’s golf. How would she like to repeat the feat?

“It would be awesome,” Ko said. “When you defend something or do something back to back, it's always cool to do that.

“There's still a lot of golf to be played. Inbee is playing great, so are the other girls. You can't take anyone out of it. I’ve just got to focus on my game. I think that's all I can do from here.”

How close are these battles for the season-long awards? The scenarios are dizzying.

Ko is just three points ahead of Park in Rolex Player of the Year points (276-273) and Park entered the week just .016 average strokes ahead of Ko in scoring average.

The races are so close, Ko and Park could actually end up in a playoff for the CME Group Tour Championship that would also decide the CME Globe winner. Or, they could end up in a playoff just for the CME Globe after the CME Tour Championship winner is crowned.

If separate playoffs are required for the CME Group Tour Championship and the CME Globe, the Tour Championship playoff would begin first with a return to the 18th tee. The CME Globe playoff would follow.

Ko and Park could also end up tied for Rolex Player of the Year and share the award. There’s no playing off if they tie for that.

“We both had really, really good seasons and somebody is going to be No. 1 and somebody is going to become No. 2,” Park said. “That's just the way it is. I'm just trying to tell myself I had a really good enough season this year. I've earned what I wanted to earn, what I wanted to achieve. The rest is just a bonus.”

Ko was asked if this big Sunday finale is fun, or if it is agonizing.

“You can kind of look at it two ways,” Ko said. “The positive way is I'm glad, and I should be proud, that I'm in this position. Anything can happen. If I play well, it might end up being a good day where I'm holding a couple trophies.  At the same time, because everything is on the line, there is more added pressure.

“I think it's more kind of those first couple holes where you do get nervous anyway, but to know at the end of the 18th hole, there could be a lot of things on the line, a little bit more added pressure ... that's why I'm not going to not think about all that. I think that's what I did today. I wasn't thinking about what might be happening tomorrow.”

The possibilities are dizzying.

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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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.

Current FedExCup standings

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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.