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Can anyone catch red-hot Simpson?

By Rex HoggardMay 12, 2018, 11:56 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Even on a course that has a history of favoring the late-breaking horse, this has all the makings of a runaway.

Webb Simpson, the soft-spoken father of four with the salt-and-pepper beard who doesn’t exactly have the look of a man accustomed to stepping on the throats of fellow competitors, carved up TPC Sawgrass for the third consecutive day on his way to a commanding seven-stroke advantage over Danny Lee.

In sports there are no guarantees - it’s why they prefer to go all 72 before doling out crystal on the PGA Tour - but consider that Simpson could spot his closest challenger a stroke a hole on the front nine on Sunday and still likely ease into the closing loop with a comfortable lead.

At 19 under par following a third-round 68 on a Stadium Course that was much more user friendly than many expected it to be, Simpson’s 54-hole advantage is the largest in Players Championship history.

This isn’t forgone - it never is when trap doors like the island-green 17th hole loom for any would-be champion - but anything short of a Simpson boat race certainly feels farfetched after three dominant days.

“I said to my caddie I would like to play the golf course he's playing,” Jason Day said. “He's clearly playing some tremendous golf and we're the best players in the world and he's making us not look so good.”

If Day and the rest of the field needed a paradigm of hope they could peruse The Players history books. This is, after all, where Alex Cejka rode a five-stroke lead into the final round in 2009 only to leave town with a ninth-place check and an abundance of scar tissue. In fact, of the 11 Players held since the event relocated to May, only three 54-hole leaders went on to win.


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It was no surprise that Simpson, a student of history, had no interest in premature celebrations.

“Eighteen holes, I have a lot of work to do,” said Simpson, who last won on Tour in 2014 and in eight starts at The Players has never finished better than 15th.

Although he was able to extend his lead on Day 3, Simpson wasn’t perfect, with bogeys at Nos. 8 and 14 wrapped around a birdie at the ninth and sand-shot eagle at the par-5 11th hole.

Some member’s bounces have certainly gone Simpson’s way this week, but his statistical dominance is every bit as impressive as those red numbers on the leaderboard.

For the week, he ranks first in fairways hit (34 of 42), second in greens in regulation (45 of 54) and first in strokes gained: putting, the latter being a telling statistic for a player who admits that his professional life took a bad turn when the anchoring ban took the belly putter out of his bag in 2016.

Simpson, whose unique putting action is described by his caddie as the (Matt) Kuchar-claw, has converted 39 of 41 putts from 10 feet and in, and punctuated his round with a17-footer for par at the last hole.

“I hope he doesn’t putt too well with that thing up the arm or they’ll ban that next,” joked Adam Scott, who has also dealt with his share of putting demons since the anchoring ban.

Various players made spirited attempts to close the gap on Simpson, most notably Woods who for two days largely hadn’t hit the ball close enough and when he did repeatedly failed to convert crucial putts.

But Saturday was different, with Woods igniting the early morning gallery, covering his opening nine in 6 under par on his way to a 65, his lowest score to par on Tour in 1,744 days.

“These guys are going to go low today again,” Woods predicted. “It's definitely gettable. I know there's a lot of pressure coming down the back nine here, but I think these guys, the way they have set up the golf course today, it's set up for these guys to go low.”

It was one of the few things Woods got wrong on Saturday. Other than Simpson, few players were able to make any meaningful movements, as evidenced by the fact that when Woods signed his scorecard before the leaders had even teed off he was in eighth place. When the dust finally settled on a muggy day he was tied for ninth place.

A few hours later, Ian Poulter was putting the finishing touches on another gem when he lost his way in a greenside bunker at the 18th hole and double bogeyed his way to a 69 and a spot alongside Woods. It was a particularly tough finish for the Englishman, who has a pair of runner-up finishes at The Players and knows as well as anyone how uphill the climb can be when you’re trying to play catch-up on a Sunday.

“When I was chasing Henrik [Stenson, 2009] down, Henrik played incredible golf in tough conditions. It's a hard golf course to press on,” Poulter said. “The greens need to be soft for someone to go very low to catch someone that's out in front. You're going to need to do what Tiger did on that front side tomorrow; you're going to need to be 6 under through nine.”

That gauntlet now falls to the likes of Day, who was on the other side of one of those lopsided races in 2016 when he began the final round at TPC Sawgrass leading by four and cruised to a four-shot victory.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, whose 69 on Saturday moved him to 10 under par and into third place, could press the issue; or maybe it’ll be Jordan Spieth, who matched Woods’ 65 earlier in the day and was tied with the 14-time major champion at 8 under.

But then every possible scenario ends with the same conclusion: Ultimately it will be Simpson who decides if Sunday’s last turn is a coronation or something closer to an actual contest.

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Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas matched the Brickyard Crossing record with a 10-under 62 on Thursday in the Indy Women in Tech Championship, making birdie on the final three holes for a two-stroke lead over fast-starting Angel Yin and Japan's Nasa Hataoka.

Yin birdied eight of the first nine holes in her morning round for a front-nine 8-under 28 - one short of the LPGA Tour's nine-hole record. It matched the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


Salas eagled the par-5 second in the afternoon and added three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. She birdied Nos. 12 and 14 before reeling off three more in a row to close, waiting out a late 77-minute suspension for an approaching storm.

Salas matched the course record set by Mike McCullough in the PGA Tour Champions' 1999 Comfort Classic.

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.


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But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.

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Lyle honored with sand sculpture at Wyndham

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 9:00 pm

Jarrod Lyle passed away last week at the age of 36 after losing his third battle with cancer.

And after a PGA Championship filled with tributes to the Australian, the Wyndham Championship found its own way to keep his legacy alive at the North Carolina Tour stop.

Next to the Wyndham Championship and PGA Tour logos carved into the sand on site at Sedgefield Country Club is Lyle's name and the "Leuk the Duck" mascot. The duck has become synonymous with Challenge, an organization that supports kids with cancer.

Fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby posted the display on social media:

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(Pic update) Brighter is better

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Lyle was also remembered in a more traditional manner on the first tee, where his bag and trademark yellow bucket hat were prominently displayed.