Weather will have big say in PGA result

By Rex HoggardAugust 12, 2012, 12:46 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Mother Nature 2, PGA Championship 1, with the rubber match awaiting on what promises to be a marathon Sunday.

Through three days Kiawah Island, site of the famed 1991 “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup, has become home to the Duel against Doppler Radar. Weather reports have replaced leaderboards in importance as winds sent scores soaring to a record stroke average (78) on Friday and on Saturday it was a fast-moving storm that did the damage.

It seemed strangely apropos that Rory McIlroy, who won his first major on a saturated layout (Congressional), roared out of the gates with a 4-under 32 front nine to grab a share of the lead with Vijay Singh almost in tandem with a line of thunderstorms that halted play and set up a 29-hole Sunday to decide the year’s final major.

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Singh was playing the par-3 eighth hole when the horn echoed through Kiawah’s dunes at just before 5 p.m., while McIlroy had just made the turn on a course softened further by overnight rains and winds that were on the playable side of Friday’s gale.

Round 3 play is scheduled to resume at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday followed by the final turn, which will feature a two-tee start and threesomes.

McIlroy, who hasn’t finished better than 25th in a major since last year’s U.S. Open, likely would have preferred to play on. The Ulsterman birdied three of his first five holes and pulled into a tie with Singh with his fifth birdie of the day at No. 7.

“It was a great start, the start that I was looking to get off to,” said McIlroy, who bogeyed his last hole (No. 9) and avoided damage at the par-4 third when his tee shot nestled into the branch of what can best be described as a Pete Dye tree. “It’s nice going into the final day, if we get it finished, in a great position.”

If McIlroy ultimately emerges from the wind and rain with his second major, historians will likely remember his stellar Saturday start, but it was his persistence on Friday that should receive equal billing.

Four over through 14 holes, McIlroy rallied in the worst of the Round 2 tempest to post a 75 and keep pace with the leaders. In the not so distant past that start may have caused the worst kind of attitude adjustment but his work with short game guru Dave Stockton Sr. has softened that edge in recent weeks.

“We made a slight adjustment to my routine and my stroke, and it made a huge difference last week. I felt so much better on the greens than I did at the Open,” McIlroy said. “(Stockton) sort of just said to me, ‘You know, just go out there and have fun and enjoy it and smile.’ That's something that I've really tried to do the last two weeks, and it's definitely helped.”

On Saturday Singh wasn’t doing much smiling. With all the congeniality of an unwanted blind date the Fijian and Tiger Woods set out in the anchor match. On the 32 occasions Woods and Singh have been paired together on the PGA Tour Woods holds a 21-8-3 advantage.

Although not a complete game, Singh should add one to the “win” column following Saturday’s abbreviated frame. He birdied the first and seventh, had little to say to his playing partner and held a share of the lead when he was whisked to safety. While Woods missed three makeable putts in his first three holes, hit three fans with errant shots and signed almost as many gloves as Phil Mickelson on his way to a 3-over-par start.

To make matters worse, when players retreated to the clubhouse they were greeted by a re-air of the 2009 PGA, exactly what Woods needed: another poor putting performance to watch.

“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” said Woods, who had an 8-footer for par on the eighth hole and was five strokes back when Mother Nature began turning little puddles into big ones late in the afternoon. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”

Sunday will not be a two-man race, and Saturday’s delay was a timely TO for the world No. 2, but if a player is going to emerge from a high-profile pack to challenge Singh and McIlroy it seems Stevie Williams’ new boss has a better chance.

Adam Scott matched McIlroy with an outward 32 that featured four birdies over his final five holes of the day. If the Aussie is still reeling from Lytham he’s hiding it well.

Since undergoing an extreme Grand Slam makeover at the start of the 2011 season – new putter, new caddie, new attitude for the majors – the perennial also-ran in the game’s biggest events has four top-10 finishes, and two runner-up showings. In the 38 installments before that shift he had a total of four top 10s and no runner-ups.

His Open meltdown last month hasn’t changed that reality, just the subtext surrounding it.

“I did come down (to Kiawah) last Monday, Tuesday before Bridgestone to play here and felt that was really worthwhile,” said Scott, who opened with a 68 and survived Friday with a 75. “That's part of my thing is coming in before and getting a really good understanding of the course before I get here tournament week.”

The only thing we’ve learned about Kiawah through 2 ½ frames is that Mother Nature, more so than the players, will likely have the ultimate say at “Glory’s Last Shot.”

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.