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Let's face it, Tiger is going to be a Ryder Cup pick

By Rex HoggardAugust 7, 2018, 8:43 pm

ST. LOUIS – The new Tiger Woods is engaging, expressive ... approachable, even, at least compared to the way he was throughout the lion’s share of his career; but he still has his limits.

On Tuesday at Bellerive, that line was drawn clearly in the Ryder Cup sand.

Tiger’s answer when asked if he should be on this U.S. team was downright clipped. “I’m trending,” he smiled.

It could be the result of a competitive filter that has never allowed him to look beyond the next shot – winning, qualifying for a Ryder Cup, whatever the objective it’s never more than a byproduct of solid play. More likely, however, it’s because he finds himself in the awkward role of both vice captain and potential player.

One can only imagine the conversation on Tuesday as Woods set out for a practice round with Captain America, Jim Furyk, along with Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na, who have their own Ryder Cup tales to tell.

The entire episode promises to be social media gold – will he, won’t he be a captain’s pick for this year’s matches?

It will be good fun to debate the merits of Woods being a potential pick, but these are two vastly different questions.

Should Tiger be a pick?

Perhaps. His limited body of work this season suggests he should certainly be in the conversation.

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Only 31 players in the world have earned more world ranking points than Woods this year and no one has lost fewer points, which essentially means he’s been on an unrelenting trajectory. He’s 51st in the world ranking, that’s up from 668th to begin the year; and he’s currently 20th on the points list, up from 106th as recently as February.

He’s contended at The Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship, and proven that he’s much closer to his 80th PGA Tour victory than he is retirement.

There will be arguments that Furyk should not burn one of his four captain’s pick on Tiger. There will be those who contend he’s still missing a part of what made him arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a 6-iron and that there are players higher on the list that are more deserving. But that’s not the question that really matters.

Will Tiger be a pick?

That’s the more relevant question and the answer is a resounding yes. Furyk hasn’t said as much, but then he never would. It was no great surprise that what little golf Woods got in on Tuesday was alongside Furyk. Although the American captain still has a few weeks before he will make the first three of his four picks, Tiger’s place in the American team room beyond his vice captain duties has been a fait accompli for months.

“I go back to looking the way I looked at it. If I was a captain, I'm looking to make pairings, and everybody on the team wants to play with Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods or some veteran player that's done it a lot,” explained two-time U.S. captain Davis Love III, who is also one of Furyk’s vice captains this year. “I think he's an easy pick from that regard, and the way he's been playing, if I was on the other side, I wouldn't want him picked, so that's another good reason.”

Woods, who was a pick in 2010 at Celtic Manor and went 3-1-0, can still qualify for this year’s matches with a victory at the PGA Championship, which would vault him to about fourth or fifth on the points list when the automatic qualifiers are locked in on Sunday.

But even if that walk-off doesn’t happen, Furyk should simply end the speculation and name Tiger a pick on Monday morning. If that offends those with a keen sense of timing, consider that even Thomas Bjorn, the European captain, had a hard time on Tuesday at Bellerive avoiding the obvious.

“The only thing I would say is that if Tiger was included in the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup, it would be great for the game of golf because that's what he brings to the game, he just brings something special,” Bjorn said. “The buzz that was around The Open Championship, the buzz that was around last week, with him being there and playing well, that just brings something extra to the game of golf. And that would be great for the Ryder Cup as well.”

In fact, Love said the only drawback to picking Tiger would be having to keep him out of certain conversations in the team room, where he has excelled in recent years as a leader and strategist.

“We would have to kick him out of some meetings, probably,” Love said. “With the ’16, ’17 teams he was so instrumental in helping us with pairings and ideas and game plan, but if you're talking about him, you need him out of the room for picks or for making pairings. So it would be a little bit awkward. That would be the only negative.”

And if we’re being honest, that’s just not enough of a concern to leave him off the team, regardless of his play over the next few weeks.

As for Tiger, he’s opted to remain aloof on the issue, going with an economy of words when asked to make his case to be a pick.

“I like my chances in match play,” he smiled.

The new Tiger has offered a glimpse into his world the last few months that’s never been available, but when it comes to this year’s matches he’s content to let his play and his resume do the talking.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."