Volatility not biggest problem for FedEx Cup playoffs

By Rex HoggardSeptember 3, 2013, 12:24 am

NORTON, Mass. – It will be of little solace to Ryan Palmer that next year, if PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his mad FedEx Cup scientists get their way, there will likely not be as much volatility in the playoffs.

With apologies to Palmer – who may not be among the circuit’s top 70 in FedEx Cup computations but is easily among the top 10 good guys – but after muddy Monday’s frantic give and take at TPC Boston we’re not convinced explosiveness is the postseason’s public enemy No. 1.

Palmer, you see, missed the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship and watched from home in Texas as the points and pars and players aligned against him to the tune of .47 point. That’s the difference between Palmer and No. 70 Ernie Els, who for the second time in three years clawed his way to the BMW Championship via Boston.

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And as compelling as that drama may seem, it could have been the third-best “bubble” story on a day that featured two weather delays and enough clutch golf to hopefully make Finchem & Co. rethink a proposed plan to dial back the volatility in the playoffs.

The day’s best episode belongs to Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson, who set out early Monday side-by-side off the 10th tee and single file on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list.

It’s a study in psychology how the duel for the final automatic qualifying spot on the U.S. team played out.

Simpson began the week ninth on the points list, just ahead of Johnson. Both were lapped by Steve Stricker – the game’s best part-time player since Jack Nicklaus in 1986 – who finished alone in second place to jump into the top 10 in points and onto Freddie Couples’ team.

Following the second weather warning, Simpson had crunched the numbers enough to know the deal.

“I knew we were so close and I knew every shot counted,” he said.

Johnson, however, had come up with a different equation.

“He told me he was (No.) 9 and my perspective on it was we were too far out, we were 50-something (place), coming into today and I’m thinking we couldn’t get to the dollar amount that would separate us enough,” Johnson admitted.

With a relatively firm grasp on what hung in the balance, Simpson bogeyed two of his last four holes for a closing 70. With something well short of no clue regarding his Presidents Cup predicament, Johnson birdied two of his last three holes on his way to a 66.

The difference of roughly $36,000 between Johnson’s tie for 27th and Simpson’s tie for 53rd was enough to secure Johnson his ticket at Muirfield Village and Simpson a date with his smart phone on Wednesday when Couples makes his two captain’s picks.

When informed of the change of fortune between himself and Simpson, Johnson dropped his head.

“If that was the case I wish we were tied at 10th (on the U.S. points list),” he said. “I want Webb on that team.”

Well-placed sentiment to be sure, but that is now Couples’ problem.

At least Captain America won’t have to worry about burning a pick on Stricker, who in just 11 starts this season finds himself eighth on the FedEx Cup points list and first on Couples’ Christmas card list.

“I texted Freddie earlier in the week, I didn’t want one of his spots as a pick, I wanted to make the team on my own,” said Stricker, who closed with a 67 to finish two shots behind winner Henrik Stenson.

Els found himself in a similar head-to-head bout with Brendan Steele on Monday. After beginning the week 91st in FedEx Cup points, it seemed likely the Big Easy needed to outplay Steele when the two teed off together for the final turn, and he seemed to let his playoff hopes slip away with missed birdie chances from 12 feet at the 13th, 20 feet at the 16th and 10 feet at No. 17.

Steele birdied his last four holes after three-putting the 14th hole to jump from 89th to 69th on the points list and into the BMW Championship.

“I knew I started a spot in front of him, so I knew I had to play as good as him to keep pace,” said Steele, who closed with a 69 to tie for 20th. “I was almost like, you’re in the last group and this is a two-man race.”

The math, however, eventually went Els’ way as well, and he and Steele were two of seven players who played their way into the top 70 and next week’s third playoff gathering, a group that included Marc Leishman whose tie for 16th may have also been enough to earn him a spot on the International Presidents Cup team when captain Nick Price makes his picks on Wednesday.

Yet perhaps the day’s most intriguing story was Jordan Spieth playing his way over a metaphorical bubble and, if public sentiment is any indication, onto Couples’ team.

The American phenom played his last four holes in 5 under, including a 23-foot eagle putt at the last, to post a 62 and tie for fourth. Although it wasn’t enough to crack the top 10 on the Presidents Cup points list, it seems certain to attract the attention of Couples on Wednesday.

Spieth was a popular pick entering the week having become the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to forge his way from no status to East Lake in a single season. His Monday magic may have been the final statement Couples needed to select the rookie.

“That’s up to (Couples) if I’ve done enough,” Spieth said.

Johnson will not have to wait for his phone to buzz on Wednesday to know if his finish at TPC Boston was good enough to make the team, although he struggled for words when asked what it all meant. “Go USA,” he smiled and sprinted into the gloom.

Volatility, it seems, has its place.

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Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.

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Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

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Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.

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''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

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But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.