Fall Series continues to be wild ride

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2011, 9:34 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Fall hasn’t felt this final since the PGA Tour began dabbling in points and playoffs.

At the circuit’s penultimate stop, where cash is king and the only points worth noting were of the style variety, Ben Crane and Webb Simpson delivered on both fronts.

But then the circuit’s would-be rainmaker made headlines from the moment he decided to make his Fall Series cameo and turn this sleepy series into something serious. Whatever Simpson’s motivations for playing the McGladrey Classic, and next week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, the message was clear.

On Friday then-money leader Luke Donald broke from his schedule and committed to play next week’s finale in search of money list glory, adding a measure of Twitter trash talking with a hash tag entry: “bring it on.”

Two days later Simpson answered, rallying from two strokes behind Michael Thompson with a closing 66 to tie Crane at 15 under par and force a record 18th playoff this year on Tour. He lost the overtime frame but may have won the ultimate payday, moving $363,000 clear of the Englishman in the cash dash.

Crane’s dash, however, was much more profound. Although he started the final round five strokes clear and clearly distracted by his wife’s impending Caesarean section back home in Texas on Monday and a nagging hip ailment that almost prompted him to withdraw from the event on Wednesday, he charged with a back-nine 30 that included a bogey at the 12th hole and six one-putts.

“I didn’t even consider looking at the leaderboard. I didn’t feel like I had that privilege,” said Crane, who closed with a round-of-the-day 63 to force the extra frames. “That’s as good as I can play. . . . It was one of those dream days for a golfer.”

But then Sunday was a dream day for many players as the season-ending money crunch produced victories large and small.

Thompson, who led Billy Horschel by a stroke through three rounds, moved a field goal clear of the pack through nine holes with birdies at Nos. 4-6, but faltered with bogeys at the 12th and 18th holes, his only miscues all weekend, to fall a stroke out of the playoff.

“I had a really good chance to win but that’s all part of the experience,” said Thompson, who despite his closing miscue climbed from 116th in earnings to 94th with his third-place showing to secure his 2012 Tour card. “You have to go through the disappointing times to get to the happy times. I’m playing next year (on Tour) and that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Even Scott McCarron’s tie for sixth place was a victory of sorts. The veteran, who was mired at 163rd in earnings, had requested a sponsor’s exemption into Disney but was rebuffed. His top-10 finish, his first this year, moved him to 145th and earned him a spot on the Disney tee sheet.

“I asked them (for an exemption),” McCarron smiled, “so I top 10’ed and got in on my own. So there.”

No one has covered as much professional ground as quickly as Bud Cauley. In eight Tour stops since bolting the University of Alabama Cauley has earned $735,150, enough to put him 112th on the money list.

On Sunday, the Jacksonville native admitted to “sneaking” onto the far side of the TPC Sawgrass practice tee, hallowed turf reserved for established Tour types. With his tie for 15th at Sea Island the 21-year-old may have officially snuck onto the Tour.

Although his push to post his third top 10 and earn a spot in the Disney field came up two strokes short – and the historical significance of Cauley becoming just the sixth player since 1980 to earn a Tour card straight out of college without going to Q-School apparently lost on Disney officials who passed on granting him a sponsor exemption – Cauley’s cash haul should be enough to secure him 2012 status.

“I see big changes in Bud since the U.S. Open,” said Cauley’s father, Bill. “The round with Vijay Singh (on Sunday at the Travelers Championship) was big. He’s always admired Vijay’s ballstriking and to beat (Singh) by three strokes made him believe he could play golf out here.”

Simpson has now made believers out of the entire golf world by surging past Donald, who led by $69,000 to begin the week and will need a runner-up showing at Disney to reclaim the top spot.

“Next week is going to be fun. It’s going to be a grind all week. The goal is to go out and win,” said Simpson, who missed a 3 ½ footer at the second extra hole for par to drop to 1-2 in playoffs this year on Tour. “I’ve got a nice lead now, but I do expect him to play well.”

Not that Donald could have expected Simpson to race past him. Not on this idyllic stretch of Georgia coast where the speed limit is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted, and guests are “asked” not to exceed 15 mph along the historic Avenue of the Oaks that winds its way to Sea Island’s Lodge.

To islanders accustomed to long, lazy afternoons the circuit’s breakneck tear through the Golden Isles must have felt like a New York minute. But for the often-sleepy Fall Series if feels like it’s finally up to speed.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."