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Woods makes plenty of noise with 65 at East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 10:24 pm

ATLANTA – Midway through Rickie Fowler’s post-round media obligations he was interrupted by a thunderous roar that echoed across East Lake.

“I don't know who it was. I just heard the roar,” Fowler said. Pressed on who might have caused such a distinct reaction, he shrugged, “no.”

There was a time when only one player prompted that kind of raucous response from the masses, but in Fowler’s defense it’s been a while.

Tiger Woods always cast an easily recognizable shadow over the game. The signature red and black wardrobe combination on Sundays, the savage fist pumps and emotional outburst, even the steely glare. It was all so unmistakable.

But for PGA Tour players of a certain age those moments are from another era, folklore stuff that veterans talk about, which at least partially explains Fowler’s confusion.

The current generation has repeatedly said that they would cherish the chance to compete against Tiger at his best, to hear those roars and feel those moments. The 14-time major champion isn’t there yet, but as his 28-footer for eagle at the last hole on Thursday at the Tour Championship trundled to the hole and ignited the gallery it was something of an “aha moment.”

So that’s what greatness sounds like.

Woods finished his day at the finale with a closing nine of 31 after a slow start and was tied with Fowler atop the season-ending leaderboard at 5 under par. He’s been in this position before from Tampa to St. Louis and was equally impressive two weeks ago at the BMW Championship when he opened with a first-round 62 for a share of the lead.

But Thursday at East Lake felt different. It felt better.


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“This was by far better than the 62 at [the BMW Championship],” said Woods, who is playing at East Lake for the first time since 2013. “Conditions were soft there. It's hard to get the ball close here. There's so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close.”

A better comparison might be his closing 64 at the PGA Championship, it was certainly louder, yet there was something complete and clinical about his 65 at East Lake.

On Wednesday Tiger talked of getting all of the parts of his game to fall into place at one time. When he’s driven the ball well, his putting has been off. When he putted well, his driving has let him down. You know, golf.

On Thursday he had the look of a complete golfer, a five-tool player whose only limitation was running out of holes. Statistically he finished inside the top 10 in strokes gained: off the tee (eighth), tee to green (third), fairways hit (fourth), driving distance (eighth), greens in regulation (fifth), proximity to the hole (sixth), scrambling (first) and strokes gained: putting (eighth).

“I felt in control today,” Woods said without even trying to hide the knowing smile that inched across his face. “I had a lot of control over my shots.”

Woods has said all season that as long as he’s healthy he was confident he’d figure out a way to be competitive. Although he said his plan starting the year was to put himself in contention and win, he also acknowledged that starting out the year he wasn’t sure how he was going to do that.

“The objective is to always win, but how am I going to do it when I had no game at the beginning of the year? Somehow I've got to find a way to piece it together and give myself a chance with what little game I had,” he said.

Woods’ march back to competitive relevance has seemed meteoric at times, particularly when you consider that at this juncture last year he still wasn’t sure if his surgically repaired back could withstand the rigors of Tour life.

He’s pieced together a game, swapping putters and drivers at regular clips this season in an attempt to match a new swing with a newly healthy body, and he’s put himself in contention. Getting that elusive victory would be the last piece of the puzzle, but he knows he’s on the clock with 54 holes remaining in his season.

There was a time when Tiger’s name atop the leaderboard was a reason for the field to take notice even on Day 1. That piece of his aura has also been elusive, but much like that 80th Tour victory that part of his mystique could also be within sight.

Fowler won’t have any problem deciphering roars on Friday when he’ll be paired with Woods in the day’s final group, it’s what he and the other members of the current generation have pined for and one of the final pieces of Tiger’s comeback.

“I've had the opportunity before, and I definitely am in a lot better position now than I was in the early part of my career,” said Fowler, who has been paired with Woods a dozen times in his Tour career. “There is a little bit of a comfort level that you have to get used to playing alongside him, especially in a big situation, in a final group. No, I look forward to it now.”

This is what everyone looked forward to, for those roars to be as distinctive as the man who has produced so many in his career.

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Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

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Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.


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Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.


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In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.



Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.