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A tale of two Quail Hollows at Wells Fargo

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2018, 11:02 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the months leading up to this week’s Wells Fargo Championship officials told anyone who would listen that things would be different.

Last year’s PGA Championship, which was held at Quail Hollow, left many feeling like they’d just gone 72 holes in a title bout that should have ended much earlier with a towel and an extended stay in the trainer’s room.

As if to prove the point on Saturday, officials put the fun back in Quail Hollow, with 31 of 87 players posting scores in the 60s and more roars than this slice of North Carolina has seen since 2016, the last time the Wells Fargo was played at the venerable club before it underwent an intensive nip/tuck to prepare for the PGA.

Peter Uihlein set the pace early, playing Nos. 5 through 10 in 7 under par on his way to a 62, one stroke off the course record set by Rory McIlroy in 2015.

“My 61 was way better,” joked McIlroy, who set that mark when the layout was a par 72. Now it’s a stout 71. “It's a different golf course. I mean, 9 under around this place is really good.”

Phil Mickelson, who was closer to the cut than he was to the lead after starting the week with rounds of 72-72 (2 over), joined the fun with a 64 that included an eagle at the 10th hole and no bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Wells Fargo Championship

Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, photos and videos


It was all part of a scoring assault that was hard to imagine after last year’s PGA Championship, which featured the year’s highest scoring average in relation to par (73.46). By comparison, on Saturday the field romped its way to a 70.36 average.

“I didn't think there was a round lower than 4, 5 under out there and then [Uihlein] shoots 9 [under] and I got it to 7,” said Mickelson, who is alone in 10th place five strokes back. “I just think that the different conditions where there was no wind and we had overcast, which just kept the course a little bit less firm. It allowed for us to get it a little bit closer, make some birdies.”

Predictably, those changing conditions led to a dramatically changing leaderboard on Day 3. By the time overnight leader Peter Malnati teed off he was already sharing the top spot with Uihlein. Before Malnati reached the turn he’d drifted outside the top 10.

At one point midway through the afternoon, four players – Uihlein, Bryson DeChambeau, Charl Schwartzel and Aaron Wise – all held a share of the lead, but it was Jason Day – already a winner this season on the PGA Tour and playing the Wells Fargo Championship for the first time since 2012 – who emerged from the crowd thanks to back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 that moved him to 10 under par.

In a twist, it was actually last year’s PGA, when Day finished tied for ninth, that convinced the Australian to put Quail Hollow back on his dance card.

But this was a much different test. After two days of quiet crowds and leaderboard congestion driven by demanding conditions, the third round felt more familiar. Whether the players found it more to their liking, however, was a question of individual taste.

Day – whose 67 left him two strokes clear of Nick Watney, who moved into the hunt thanks to a torrid finish that included four birdies over his final six holes – has proven himself adept on both versions, having made the cut in both of his previous starts at the Wells Fargo Championship and finishing tied for ninth here in ’12.

“Quail Hollow PGA is definitely a lot harder not only because it's a major, but because it's a different grass,” said Day, who could move back into the top 10 in the World Ranking with a victory on Sunday. “I definitely would take either.”

Others, however, would prefer the PGA version of Quail Hollow, most notably Rickie Fowler, who has enjoyed success at the Charlotte-area staple in both May and August and was six strokes off Day’s pace.

“I would probably prefer more of the PGA setup,” said Fowler, who tied for fifth at the ’17 PGA but also has three top-10 finishes at the Wells Fargo including a victory in 2012. “I feel like it separates guys a little bit more. Driving was a bit more of a premium with the Bermuda rough, which has been nice.”

If that’s the case, those giving chase would probably opt for the softer side of Quail Hollow for the final round, just don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of ease.

If a Sunday funday is what most contenders and fans want for the final turn, winds forecast to gust to 20 mph for much of the afternoon and plenty of room for officials to put some punch back into Quail Hollow means that either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde could show up.

Which Quail Hollow welcomes players on Sunday will ultimately decide what kind of final round awaits.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.


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''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.