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Dark horses lurking at East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2017, 11:15 pm

ATLANTA – The point of the FedExCup Playoffs was never about doling out an eight-figure check or giving players a reason to learn long division, it was about tidy finishes.

Prior to the playoff experiment, which began in 2007, there were too many years when players arrived with the year’s biggest questions long answered. Think of it as an all-star game without the home run derby, or any meaningful outcome.

The PGA Tour wanted a big finish where players vied for the season’s most meaningful accomplishments, non-major championship division, with a decisive conclusion.

The result has been a work-in-progress, but has largely delivered on that promise.

Consider that in 2006, Tiger Woods had won eight times, including The Open and PGA Championship, and had wrapped up the money title and Player of the Year Award. And what did he do at East Lake? Nothing, he didn’t play. He didn’t need to.

Even in the FedExCup era there were early growing pains that kept the finale from being the desired send-off.

In 2011, Luke Donald finished tied for third at the finale following a phenomenal season, but the Englishman still needed a walk-off win at the Disney event a few weeks later, a windfall worth $846,000, to clip Webb Simpson by $335,000 for the cash crown (remember when the money title meant something?)

But those quirks have slowly been removed from the equation. First the Tour introduced the wraparound season and then crunched the postseason points so that those who had played the most consistent year would have a distinct advantage.

Clean, consistent, calculated, right?

Well, Friday’s leaderboard at East Lake paints a slightly different picture.


Tour Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


Although Justin Thomas – whose second-round 66 left him tied for the lead with Paul Casey and Simpson – could restore order to the Tour’s postseason with a victory on Sunday that would assure him the cup and the Jack Nicklaus Award, there are enough would-be dark horses looming to make things interesting.

“I like to play spoiler,” Casey said with a mischievous smile.

Casey has been in this position before. In fact, he was the potential author of what Tour types would consider the “nuclear option” in 2010 when he needed only a runner-up finish at East Lake to claim the cup without having won that season.

“That would have been very wrong to win the FedExCup not winning an event, but I would have had no issue with it,” laughed Casey, who is 10th on the postseason points list.

Simpson would be an even bigger Cinderella at 16th on the playoff points list and through two steady rounds (66-67) he’s poised as the ultimate party crasher.

 “I think guys are probably looking at hey, what are the scenarios that could possibly pull a Bill Haas or whatever it may be,” Jordan Spieth said.

Haas famously began the 2011 Tour Championship 25th on the peculiar points list but rallied at East Lake for the title and the cup to become the 1969 “Miracle Mets” of golf’s postseason.

But then Haas’ par save from East Lake - the actual lake - on the 71st hole isn’t happening this year after record rains in the Atlanta area, and for this year’s Cinderella to prevail they will need an assist from the game’s best and brightest: Spieth, Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm, the five horsemen who arrived at the finale in the theoretical pole positions – Nos. 1 through 5 on the points list, respectively.

Each can claim the cup with a victory at the Tour Championship, but more to the complicated point they could walk away with the oversized check with a vast assortment of middle-of-the-pack showings.

Spieth could “mathematically” win with a finish as low as 29th, out of 30; and Thomas could fade all the way to sixth and still be in the equation.

But if the scenario of someone outside the coveted top 5 winning the proclaimed season-long race offends the competitive senses of some, it does, and has, made for a unique style of golf each September at East Lake.

Even the most reserved player embraces an added sense of urgency at the Tour Championship, where there is literally no reason to play the safe shot or temper one’s expectations.

“There's no next week for me,” said Gary Woodland, who is tied for fourth place after starting the week 28th on the points list. “We're out here, we're playing aggressive, trying to get the ball in the fairway and then attacking from there. We're definitely playing more aggressive this week than we have all year, which is nice. That's probably why I'm playing well.”

Any number of players could play spoiler this week – from Justin Rose (No. 8) who is tied with Woodland to rookie Xander Schauffele (No. 26), who is in a group at 5 under – and on this history is rather clear.

Just twice in the playoff era has the winner of the Tour Championship not won the FedExCup, but as the postseason has evolved the finale has proven to be exceedingly good at delivering on its original promise – a clean finish.

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Levy wins Trophee Hassan for fifth European Tour title

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 6:32 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alexander Levy finished with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco by a shot from overnight leader Alvaro Quiros.

One off the lead overnight, Levy made two of his four birdies in his first five holes to hit the front and stayed ahead for the rest of the final day at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

It was the 27-year-old Frenchman's fifth European Tour victory and he will take winning form to Beijing next week when he defends his China Open title.

Levy ended 8-under 280 overall, one ahead of Spain's Quiros, who closed with a second straight 72.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


With his chasers pushing hard, Levy kept his cool after dropping a shot on No. 16. He birdied the short, par-3 No. 17 and made par at the last.

Quiros birdied his last two holes to make sure of second place outright. He needed an eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff.

A group of four players finished in a tie for third, including Italy's Andrea Pavan, who finished with a brilliant 6-under 66. Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren (70) and Alexander Bjork (70) and Finland's Mikko Ilonen (72) also shared third.

Levy had three other top 10 finishes in his five previous events this season and moved up to ninth on the European Tour's Race to Dubai points list.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."