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Big week for U.S. Ryder Cup hopefuls at PGA

By Ryan LavnerAugust 8, 2018, 7:39 pm

ST. LOUIS – Jim Furyk won’t just be focused on his own score this week at the PGA Championship.

He’ll also pay attention to the positions of all of his Ryder Cup team hopefuls.

The PGA marks the final week of qualifying for the U.S. squad. The top 8 players on the points list after the year’s final major automatically earn a spot on the roster. Furyk will make three of his four captain’s picks in four weeks, after the conclusion of the Dell Technologies Championship outside Boston, and then his final choice will be announced after the following week’s BMW Championship.

Only four players – Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed – are guaranteed to be in Paris. Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth, Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, in the standings, have just about locked up their spots.

The other two spots are very much up for grabs.

Currently ranked seventh, Rickie Fowler has a 359-point lead over No. 8 Webb Simpson.

The winner of the PGA earns two points for every $1,000 earned (3,780 points). Everyone else who makes the cut earns 1.5 points per every $1,000 earned, which means there’s potential for plenty of volatility over four days here at Bellerive.

“It’s stressful,” Furyk said Wednesday. “It’s like there’s two scoreboards – one for playing, and one you’re getting at home checking out the guys around you. I’ve come to the PGA in the seventh or eighth spot a couple of times. You’re trying to figure out how Nos. 9, 10 and 11 played. It definitely becomes a tournament within a tournament.”

Here’s a look at the contenders:

No. 9 Bryson DeChambeau

Trails by: 49 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $32,667

Skinny: Barring a total meltdown over the past month, Captain Furyk would be hard-pressed to leave DeChambeau at home. The 24-year-old won the Memorial, finished in the top 5 in three other events, and has the backing of Tiger Woods. There are some question marks, however, given his unorthodox approach, and he raised eyebrows with his back-nine implosion at the European Open. If he can’t handle the heat in a lower-tier event in Germany, how will he stand up to 50,000 screaming Europeans in Paris?


No. 10 Phil Mickelson

Trails by: 158 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $105,334

Skinny: Lefty would allow Furyk more flexibility if he qualified on his own. But even if he doesn’t crack the top 8, Mickelson will be on the squad as a pick. He’s the heart and soul of the U.S. team. The form he shows in the next two weeks will determine the number of matches he plays.


No. 11 Xander Schauffele

Trails by: 514 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $342,667

Skinny: The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year had a quiet sophomore campaign until he tied for second at The Players, sixth at the U.S. Open and then played his way into the final group at Carnoustie, eventually tying for second. So that’s how he earned the majority of his points. Another strong major performance at the PGA would go a long way toward proving to Furyk that he’s ready for the big stage, and he won’t have to try hard to get the captain’s attention – they’re grouped together for the first two rounds at Bellerive.


No. 12 Matt Kuchar

Trails by: 522 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $348,001

Skinny: Mr. Reliable has plenty of team experience, but 2018 has been his worst year in nearly a decade. His top-10 at The Open was just his fourth of the year, and his first since late March. If he can show any form over the next month, he’s a good bet to land one of Furyk’s captain’s picks. He’d be a steady hand when paired with an unproven rookie.


No. 13 Tony Finau

Trails by: 903 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $602,001

Skinny: Like Schauffele, he’ll play the first two rounds here with Furyk, and he also got some quality time with the captain during a scouting trip to Paris before The Open. One of the longest hitters on Tour could have a field day at Charmin-soft Bellerive as he looks to improve on his underappreciated major record. He’s the only player with top-10s in the first three majors of the year, but it’s still unclear whether his brawny game is an ideal fit for a plodder’s paradise like Le Golf National.


No. 14 Kyle Stanley

Trails by: 931 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $620,667

Skinny: Stanley has emerged from the abyss to challenge for an automatic spot or even a pick. Ranked 409th in the world just three years ago, he’s climbed all the way to 26th. He won last year outside D.C. and has a pair of runner-up finishes this season in big-money events – the Memorial, where he lost to DeChambeau in a playoff, and also last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Putting is his biggest weakness, however, and Ryder Cups always come down to the players who can shake in the most putts.


No. 15 Kevin Kisner

Trails by: 967 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $644,667

Skinny: He could have made this a lot easier on himself had he closed out a pair of major opportunities, both last year at the PGA and again last month at Carnoustie, where he shared the 54-hole lead. He’s struggled with consistency this year, but he’s deadly accurate off the tee, remains one of the best putters in the world and is a fierce competitor who wouldn’t back down from a challenge in Paris. A couple of good results could go a long way for Kiz.


No. 20 Tiger Woods

Trails by: 1,951 points

Earnings he needs to beat Simpson by this week: $1,300,667

Skinny: Basically, Woods needs to win to automatically crack the top 8, but it’s not going to matter. As long as he remains upright and somewhat competitive over the next month, he’ll be turning in his assistant’s walkie-talkie in exchange for a team bag.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”