McIlroy does the double play

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2016, 12:55 am

ATLANTA – There’s no need for a FedEx Cup task force.

At least that was the feeling as dusk descended on East Lake with both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup hanging in the balance and a playoff that wouldn’t end.

Why would you want it to end?

If the FedEx Cup is sometimes guilty of fading into a post-major championship season lull, all PGA Tour officials needed to spice up the season-ending finale was a new routing for East Lake and an absolute best-case scenario on Sunday.

It was an embarrassment-of-riches deal, with Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell heading back down the newly christened 18th hole for extra innings to decide the Tour Championship winner, FedEx Cup champion and, in all likelihood, the final U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s pick.

With all the subtext of a Russian novel, each would-be champion set out with his own unique baggage.

A twice-bitten FedEx Cup bridesmaid after having been pencil-whipped by the playoff math in 2013 and ’14, McIlory closed with mid-Ryder Cup form a few days early to steal the show with one clutch shot after another.

For Chappell, a three-time runner-up this season, the near misses were there for all to see, and he cut deep regarding his title chances on the eve of the final turn.

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“No one else thinks it's going to happen. The scenario hasn't happened. So no one believes in me. So I got nothing to lose,” Chappell said.

Then there was Moore, the quietly unassuming bulldog who has made a career out of staying under the radar, so much so that they called him “stealth” during his junior golf days.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III came to the party late, inviting Moore to last week’s practice session at Hazeltine National. He declined, citing the need for some R&R after playing eight of nine weeks.

It was so Ryan.

Of course, it was all predicated by Dustin Johnson’s stunning collapse. Two strokes clear of everyone not named Chappell to begin the final round, the American bomber had more bogeys on his opening nine of the final round than he did for his first 27 holes and double bogeyed the 12th on his way to a tie for sixth.

Had DJ’s about-face been slightly less dramatic he could have assured himself the FedEx Cup jackpot, if not the Tour Championship title, thanks to the postseason algorithms.

As a result, midway through Sunday’s sweltering finish, McIlroy found himself two strokes away from winning both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup as Johnson faded, and when the Northern Irishman holed his approach shot for eagle at the 16th hole from 137 yards the home of the finale took on the chaotic glow of Hazeltine South.

“I knew I needed to do something. At that point, I was in the middle of the 16th fairway,” said McIlroy, who closed with rounds of 66-64 to win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup for the first time. “So I was trying to just do something, make something happen. Fortunately, I hole a wedge shot, and I get myself in position to have a chance to win.”

In a nod to the decision to reverse East Lake’s nines, McIlroy finished his round with a birdie, while Moore and Chappell both failed to convert their birdie attempts.

After another trip down the par-5 18th hole in OT, which eliminated Chappell who again failed to make birdie, the event took on a distinctly Ryder Cup feel – with McIlroy and Moore trading knockout blows.

McIlroy missed walk-off attempts from 6 feet on the first extra hole (eagle), 19 feet at the second (birdie) and 57 feet (birdie) at the third before finally putting things away with a 14-footer at the fourth extra hole, but only after Moore converted a par attempt from 16 feet to force the conversion.

Last year, McIlroy turned heads when he suggested the $10 million FedEx Cup payday really didn’t move his needle, but on Sunday after collecting a cool $11.5 million, which included the $1.5 million winner’s check, his story didn’t change.

This was personal.

In 2012, McIlroy won the second and third playoff stops, finished tied for 10th at the finale and watched Brandt Snedeker cash the big check; a year later he began the playoffs first on the FedEx Cup points list, finished second at East Lake and third in the season-ending pool.

This time he created his own equation – win and let the math take care of itself.

“After 2012 and 2014, it definitely feels that little bit sweeter that I've been able to get it done,” said McIlroy, who began this postseason 36th on the points list before moving into the playoff picture with his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

As for that Ryder Cup task force – you know the one that was designed to revitalize America’s chances in the biennial matches and set up much of Sunday’s drama with two of the three leading men, Moore and Chappell, making 11th-hour bids to join Love’s dozen next week in Minnesota – if the final spot in the U.S. locker room isn’t reserved for Moore or Chappell it might be time to go back to the community drawing board.

In fact, considering Sunday’s script with both would-be Ryder Cuppers in the mix well past the end of regulation maybe the PGA of America/Ryder Cup task force should have saved two picks for after East Lake.

There is no shortage of reasons to pick either Moore or Chappell, but if Sunday’s showdown against Europe’s best doesn’t count as earned credit it’s hard to imagine what does matter to Love & Co.

“I didn't earn a spot. I've left it up to other people to make that decision for me,” said Moore, who was paired with McIlroy on Day 4 and matched him for every shot (64) until the 22nd hole. “I kind of thought I had to win this golf tournament, and I didn't. So we'll see what happens from here.”

Instead, Moore was still focused on the chain of events that wrapped up the 2015-16 Tour season.

“It was a blur,” he said.

It was the best.

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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, 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."