After another mini-slump, Westwood back again

By Rex HoggardMay 8, 2014, 8:19 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The sun was just making its way over the treetops at TPC Sawgrass when Lee Westwood made his way to the first tee, which was not exactly center stage for a player who three years ago was the top-ranked golfer in the world.

“If they would have shouted out their names, I'd have known them all by name,” Westwood cracked about the handful of fans that braved the morning conditions when the Englishman set out at 7:15 a.m. (ET).

But if Westwood’s opening 67 at The Players is any indication, he seems at ease with obscurity, although his play of late suggests he shouldn’t get used to it.

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After a winless 2013 Westwood seems to have emerged from yet another swoon, this time thanks to something old.

Westwood split with his longtime swing coach Pete Cowen before the 2012 PGA Championship and spent about six months last year working with Sean Foley – whose stable of players includes Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan. He switched again in February when he began working with Mike Walker, a disciple of Cowen’s.

“I’ve always worked more in positions in the golf swing, and Sean would put on the TrackMan and maybe change my setup position,” Westwood said. “I’ve always done things a little unorthodox, bent left arm, and I’ve always had the ball quite a way back, and he wanted me to move it up, and I feel uncomfortable with my technique doing that.

“I like a lot of stuff we worked on, and I enjoyed working with him and really enjoy his company, but sometimes you and a coach don’t match up.”

With the move to Walker, Westwood won for the first time since June 2012 last month in Malaysia, but after a career filled with peaks and valleys he’s far from announcing himself cured.

“If I found something in Malaysia I lost it at Quail Hollow,” he laughed, referencing his missed cut last week in Charlotte.

This is nothing new, and it’s the kind of perspective that only comes from a man who has enjoyed and endured both ends of the success scale.

“I'm experienced enough now to have patience and wait it out. I know what golf is like,” he said.

Indeed he does.

Westwood began the 2001 season ranked fifth in the World Golf Ranking and slowly, sometimes painfully, nosedived to 219th in the world by the time the 2003 season closed. His climb back atop the marquee was just as languid until he took over the top spot in late 2010.

So forgive him if he doesn’t get rattled by a winless 2013 and another arid spell. Or when he tunes out the predictable noise that surfaces each year when the major championship season arrives.

In case you hadn’t heard, Westwood is the consensus “Best player without a major.” He’s done everything else, claiming half of the single-season Runner-up Slam in 2010 (second at the Masters and Open Championship) and has added third-place finishes at the ’09 PGA Championship and ’11 U.S. Open.

Even golf’s faux fifth major has eluded him, with four top-10 finishes at The Players but still no title.

Perhaps Westwood takes solace in the process, like he does with his fairways-and-greens approach to the game (as an aside, he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens on Thursday).

“He’s a very rational person which not everybody is,” said Walker, who figures Westwood turned the corner with his swing thanks to a cross-handed chipping drill at the Shell Houston Open.

Nor does Westwood seem all that interested in Europe’s pedestrian record at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Just three Europeans have won The Players, which was first played in 1974, although two of those three (Sergio Garcia in 2008 and Henrik Stenson in ’09) have come since the event moved from March to May.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson: If you want to win the cup back have the PGA of America play the matches at TPC Sawgrass.

Part of this drought is the byproduct of inexperience and indifference. Westwood has played only six of the last 10 Players, and the two recent European victories have dovetailed with more of the continent’s players relocating to the United States.

“It’s not our style of golf,” said fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who is tied with Westwood at 5 under par. “We don’t grow up on Bermuda grass and the whole stadium type golf is not something we’re used to, so it’s probably that we’re not as confident here.”

But then confidence has never been an issue with Westwood, through good times and bad. Throughout it all, from the world’s top ranking to No. 219, he’s maintained his ballstriking superiority and his distinctly subtle sense of humor.

“I’m writing your lines for you now,” he joked with the media after another one-liner on Thursday.

He always has – another collapse, another comeback, another chance to claim that missing major, be it faux or otherwise.

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Garcia among notables to miss FedExCup playoffs

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 10:24 pm

For the first time in the 12-year history of the FedExCup, the PGA Tour's postseason will proceed without Sergio Garcia.

The former Masters champ has struggled mightily this summer, missing the cut in all four majors, and he entered the Wyndham Championship at No. 131 in the season-long points race with only the top 125 making the playoffs. Six years after winning at Sedgefield Country Club, Garcia again made a run up the leaderboard and was projected to reach No. 122 heading into the final round.

But on an afternoon where Brandt Snedeker shot 65 en route to victory and runner-up Webb Simpson carded a 62, Garcia shot an even-par 70 that included three back-nine bogeys to drop from a tie for eighth into a tie for 24th. As a result, he moved up only three spots to No. 128 in the final regular-season event and will not have a tee time next week at The Northern Trust.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

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He will remain fully exempt next year by virtue of the five-year exemption he earned with his Masters win last spring.

Garcia was one of 13 players who had made the playoffs every year since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. Two other members of that select group also saw their streaks end this year, as former world No. 1 Luke Donald has missed most of the season with an injury while Bill Haas finished No. 152 after a T-45 finish at Wyndham.

Other notable players who failed to crack the top 125 include veterans Aaron Baddeley (No. 132), Shane Lowry (No. 140), David Lingmerth (No. 143) and Graeme McDowell (No. 144), all of whom saw multiple-year exemptions for victories in 2015 or 2016 expire this weekend in Greensboro.

Players who finish Nos. 126-200 in the season-long points will have an opportunity to retain their PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season at the Tour Finals, a four-event series that kicks off next week in Ohio. Players who finished Nos. 126-150 will retain at least conditional PGA Tour status for next year regardless of their Finals performance.

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Bryant wins Dick's Sporting Goods Open for second time

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 10:17 pm

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Bart Bryant made a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the Dick's Sporting Goods Open for the second time in six years.

With playing partner Michael Bradley facing a 7-foot birdie putt that he would make, the 55-year-old Bryant rolled in the left-to-right breaking putt for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke victory.

''It felt good. It really did,'' Bryant said. ''He hit a great shot in there. He went after the pin, which he had to do. ... I gave it a good run. But to make a putt like that to win a tournament, there's a little bit of luck involved and it was just kind of my day. ... I've had putts made on me on 18 to lose before, so it's nice to be on the other end of the stick this time.''

Bradley, the second-round leader, bogeyed the par-4 15th in a 68.

''It was fun. We had a good time,'' Bradley said. ''He shot 65-65 on the weekend, that's tough to beat. But I put a little pressure on, I hit a good shot into 18. He made a hell of a putt.''

Also the 2013 winner at En-Joie Golf Club, Bryant made six birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the third to the 11th and had six straight pars before the winning birdie putt on the par-4 18th.

Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

''I played awfully well, I didn't hit a bad shot today,'' Bryant said. ''I played conservatively, a little bit conservative coming in, but smart. It got the job done. Very pleased with the way everything went.''

Bryant finished at 16-under 200. The three-time PGA Tour winner's only senior victories have come at En-Joie, the site of the PGA Tour's B.C. Open from 1972-2005.

The 52-year-old Bradley is winless on the 50-and-over tour after winning four times on the PGA Tour.

''I played solid, 65-68-68,'' Bradley said. ''I just got beat.''

Tom Gillis (67) and Marco Dawson (68) tied for third at 13 under, a stroke ahead of Paul Goydos (65), Kenny Perry (67) and Mark Calcavecchia (67).

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Snedeker goes wire-to-wire for first win since 2016

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 10:12 pm

Even after shooting a 59 in the opening round, Brandt Snedeker had to work to secure his ninth career victory at the Wyndham Championship.

Snedeker led at Sedgefield Country Club the entire week after becoming just the ninth player to break 60 on the PGA Tour, carrying a one-shot lead into the final round. But he was caught down the stretch, first by C.T. Pan and later by Webb Simpson, to leave the outcome very much undecided.

But Simpson ran out of holes, and Pan made a costly mistake by hitting his tee shot on No. 18 out of bounds while holding a share of the lead. It meant that Snedeker needed only bogey to earn his second Wyndham title and first Tour victory since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open, instead opting to sink a 20-foot birdie putt for a closing 65 and three-shot win.

"I guess I'm turning into Bubba Watson, wanting to cry every two seconds," Snedeker told reporters. "To do it here, to shoot 59 on Thursday, to be in the lead all week, to deal with that pressure every night, to be able to step up to the plate today and shoot 65 when I had to means the world to me."

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Current FedExCup points list

Snedeker struggled with injury for much of last season, and this spring he missed the Masters for the first time since 2010 while toiling near the edge of the top-125 bubble in the points race. But the veteran turned things around with a T-6 finish in Memphis in June, added a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier and now has come full circle in the city where he earned his first career win at nearby Forest Oaks in 2007.

"I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was," Snedeker said. "I've still got a lot of great golf in me. I'm excited about the FedExCup playoffs. I've done this before, I've won that thing, and I can't wait to try to make a run to Atlanta in the playoffs because I'm playing great."

It was a bittersweet result for Pan, who had his wife on the bag this week and briefly appeared poised for a breakthrough victory. The former University of Washington standout made six birdies in a 12-hole stretch in the middle of his round to catch Snedeker, but his drive on No. 18 sailed well right. It led to a double bogey, and at 18 under he ended the week tied for second with Simpson.

The result was still Pan's best of his young PGA Tour career, having started the week at No. 108 in the points race despite not having a single top-10 finish this season.

"Just had a little noise in my head and it caused me to hit a bad shot," Pan said. "But overall I feel good about the whole round. I played great. Just one bad shot, but that's OK."

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Taylor crashes playoffs with closing 63 at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 9:31 pm

Nick Taylor picked a good time to shoot his best round of the season.

Taylor was the big mover in the standings during the final regular season event, shooting a final-round 63 at the Wyndham Championship to grab a share of eighth place. The result moved the Canadian from No. 129 to No. 121 in the season-long points race, ensuring a spot in The Northern Trust next week and fully-exempt status for the 2018-19 season.

"You try to block it all out when you're playing. I tried not to look at any leaderboards today, especially the second 18," Taylor told reporters. "When I got my PGA Tour card the first time I shot a 63 in the final round ironically of the Finals. So I tried to draw back on that, and it worked today."

Taylor earned his lone PGA Tour win at the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship, and he dug himself an early hole Sunday morning with a triple bogey on No. 14 while completing his rain-delayed third round. But he made four straight birdies on Nos. 2-5 in the final round, added an eagle on No. 15 and birdied the 72nd hole to retain his card with room to spare.

"It was a long day, obviously," Taylor said. "It was a lot of sleepless nights. Last night I didn't sleep that great."

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Current FedExCup points list

Taylor was one of two players who moved inside the top-125 bubble in the final round of the regular season. Harris English started the week at No. 132, but a T-11 finish allowed him to eke in at No. 124 with no room to spare. English shot a final-round 68 that included a two-putt par from 60 feet on No. 18 when a bogey would have sent the veteran to Tour Finals.

"It's one of the more nerve-wracking feelings I've had in a long time," English said. "It's a way different feeling than trying to win a tournament. I'm glad it's over."

With Taylor and English moving into the top 125, two players saw their seasons come to an end after missing the cut at Sedgefield Country Club. Martin Piller fell from 124th to 126th and was the man edged out by English's closing par, while Tyrone Van Aswegen dropped two spots from No. 125 to No. 127.

Ireland's Seamus Power, who also missed the cut in Greensboro, finished the season at No. 125 with 377 points, six ahead of Piller.

All players who finished the season Nos. 126-200 on the points list will have a chance to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards available at the four-event Finals, while Nos. 126-150 will retain conditional PGA Tour status for next season.