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It all comes down to Casey

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2017, 12:28 am

ATLANTA – Fate can be cruel or fate can be liberating.

On Sunday at the Tour Championship, Paul Casey gets to find out which side of the cosmic tumblers awaits.

The endearing Englishman overcame a few early miscues on Saturday at steamy East Lake to maintain his spot atop the field at the finale. He’s 12 under par, two shots clear of Kevin Kisner and rookie Xander Schauffele and once again perched on the precipice between good and great.

Casey’s title drought now stretches some eight years, back to the 2009 Shell Houston Open when he seemed invincible and was bound for the top 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

But along the way there were injuries and a nasty divorce and too many near misses to count; and that he’s wrested himself out of the competitive badlands and to within 18 holes of the game’s ultimate double-header – a chance to win both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup – is something of a mixed blessing.

Sure, he’s happier, both on and off the golf course.

“It's pretty good,” Casey figured. “It would be nicer if I was at home with my daughter and my son and my wife, but I love doing what I do so yeah, it's great.”

That kind of inner peace may make it easier to endure professional adversity, but it does little to temper a player who was and remains a fierce competitor.

For Casey, it’s an $11.5 million question with only a single acceptable answer, but an answer that has eluded him for some time.


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He nods knowingly when he hears the familiar statistics. Casey leads the Tour this year with a 68.77 scoring average on Day 1, but drifts as the weekend approaches and plummets all the way to 67th in final-round scoring (70.33).

“Yeah, too much pressure,” Casey said. “It's better to be in this position. But the scoring average is still the scoring average. Why is it wrong? I don't know.”

Casey is quick to point out that he closed with a 64 last year at East Lake on his way to a fourth-place finish, but he did begin the 2016 final round some five strokes off the lead, not exactly a pressure-packed scenario considering the circumstances.

The more relevant examples are also the ones that are still fresh. Casey began his playoff run this season at The Northern Trust with three solid rounds and was tied for third and three strokes back through 54 holes. On Sunday he hit 6 of 14 fairways and took 30 putts on his way to a closing 71.

A week later at the Dell Technologies Championship, he again began the last lap in third place, this time just a stroke back. On Sunday, he again needed 30 putts on his way to a final-round 70 to finish tied for fourth.

To put it another way, Sunday hasn’t exactly been funday for Casey.

When he was asked about his suspect Sunday performances earlier this week, Casey admitted he and his caddie Johnny “Long Sock” McLaren have discussed it, but he offered no real answers.

Following his round on Day 3, he offered a more detailed glimpse into what might be behind his final-round troubles.

“We've got to do more to get myself into a position going into Sunday because being two or three back is not good enough because it seems like everybody you're going up against, Hideki [Matsuyama], Dustin [Johnson], Jordan [Spieth], [Justin Thomas], they're two ahead and they crack on and shoot 65, 64, 63,” Casey said. “Unbeatable.”

Having a cushion will help, no doubt. Having a solid history at East Lake - he’s never finished outside the top 5 in his three previous starts at the finale - is a boost. Having two players with a combined two PGA Tour titles being your primary opponents could also factor into the outcome.

When Schauffele, who won The Greenbrier Classic, has had a stellar first year on Tour and moved into the hunt with a third-round 65, was asked where the Tour Championship ranked on his pre-season goals list, his answer was telling.

“Somewhere up in the clouds, to be honest,” he laughed. “That was definitely not what I was thinking about even a few months ago, so to be out here is surreal.”

While Kisner, who won his second Tour title earlier this year at Colonial, is considered one of the game’s most dogged competitors and is poised to be next week’s standout newcomer for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, his history at East Lake isn’t exactly stellar and he may be a tad distracted after taking a helicopter to Athens, Ga., on Saturday after his round to watch his beloved Georgia Bulldogs play Mississippi State.

The next closest players are five strokes back, although Justin Thomas, who struggled on Day 3 to an even-par 70, could make things interesting for the season-long race and is currently projected second on the points and is in a tie for fourth place at 7 under.

Since the dawn of the FedExCup playoffs, the Tour Championship has a history of serving up nuanced and varied storylines through to the final putt. But on Sunday it’s just a single tale that awaits, and that’s which side of fate looms for Casey.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

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

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner


On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell


On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''


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


Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."