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Premature celebrations aren't premature

By Rex HoggardOctober 1, 2017, 12:16 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – With 1,300 fans crowded in around the first tee at Liberty National it was impossible to see the scoreboard at the 12th Presidents Cup, but you really didn’t need to see the math to know the moment.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker could have marched two of his assistants – Tiger Woods and Davis Love III, one rehabbing from back surgery and the other inching toward retirement, being the popular choices – onto the tee for the afternoon fourball session and they really wouldn’t have changed what everyone crowded around the opening hole already knew.

This thing is over. Had been for some time.

It was over before the final team matches set out on a blustery afternoon along the Hudson River, and the U.S. side’s fourball performance, a 3-1 frame that extended the home side’s lead to 14 ½ to 3 ½, only put an exclamation point on a competition that had long ago turned ugly for the Rest of the World.

From the chants of the capacity crowd that echoed across the former toxic dump to the smiles on the faces of Stricker and his assistants, this was a blowout of historic proportions.

It took a heroic effort from India’s Anirban Lahiri, who birdied the 16th and 17th holes to hold off Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, to keep the U.S. from closing out the Internationals on Saturday, which has never happened at either the Ryder or Presidents cups.

But then you didn’t need to see a scoreboard to know this thing had gotten out of hand. You could hear it. You could see it etched into the knowing grins of the Americans.

Rickie Fowler charged into the grandstands surrounding the first tee to lead the celebration, and Kevin Kisner followed him like he’d just cleared the hedges at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium – it was more celebration than competition at this point. Perhaps it was a bit premature, but it was perfectly understandable given the U.S. team’s performance.

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Presidents Cup: Match-by-match scoring

The Americans high-fived and fist-pumped and performed strangely pre-rehearsed celebrations, while the Internationals mulled about with all the excitement of a wake, or maybe the awkwardness of a high school reunion would be more apropos considering the reintroduction that’s required every two years for the Rest of the World.

Adam Scott slumped into the shotgun seat of a golf cart stone faced, ½Hadwin marched down the 16th fairway as the afternoon session was winding down, hands stuffed deep into his pockets and hat pulled low – his own green mile of sorts.

“We've just come up against a juggernaut of an American team that has not put a foot wrong, it seems like, in three days,” said International captain Nick Price. “They have had all the momentum and we've had nothing.”

There were countless haymaker moments on Saturday at Liberty National. With their match all square against the American powerhouse of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman and Jason Day watched the U.S. tandem play their last four holes in 3 under – in foursomes – and never saw the 16th tee.

After dropping the morning session (3 ½ to ½), it must have felt like piling on for the likes of Hideki Matsuyama when he hit his approach shot at the first in the afternoon fourball session to birdie range with his opponents, Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, both in trouble off the tee. Berger, playing in bare feet from a creek, toe-hooked his approach to tap-in range to halve the hole.

The look on Matsuyama’s normally stoic face spoke volumes.

“I legitimately thought we were going to have to get another captain out here to carry [Berger’s] stones around,” Thomas laughed following the duo’s 3-and-2 victory.

It was all a scene so unsightly one would half expect Lady Liberty, just some 1,000 yards from the layout’s posh clubhouse, to turn away in disgust. The Washington Generals had better results against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Four hours after the fourball frame began, the day’s final match reached the 18th tee and Fowler, who’d sat out the afternoon session, wandered up with a cup of coffee. The entire episode was sobering considering the extent of the American dominance.

The U.S. was denied the closeout, by Lahiri no less, a player who failed to earn even a half point in the matches two years ago in South Korea, but that didn’t stem the celebration.

Well on their way to the most lopsided defeat in match history, there was no solace to be found for the Internationals, just a genuine appreciation.

“I mean, there's no weaknesses in any of their pairings,” Price marveled. “They just get things done when they need to, and that's the difference.”

In 1947, the U.S. Ryder Cup team boat-raced Great Britain, 11-1, in Portland, Ore. Ben Hogan was the American captain and was probably angry he didn’t get the shutout. But unlike the Hawk, Stricker is the subdued compass of this U.S. team, and he didn’t have any interest in changing his message on the eve of Sunday’s walk regardless of how forgone the outcome may be.

“Take care of business tomorrow, to win the session,” Stricker said of his Sunday message to his team. “It's different playing with a big lead like we have, the message is it's not over yet.”

Stricker hasn’t missed on much this week, but on this he’s off the mark – the 12th Presidents Cup is over, he just hasn’t joined the celebration yet.

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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

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"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."