DJ, Ryder drama, FedEx points set up wild Sunday

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 11, 2016, 12:50 am

CARMEL, Ind. – The final round of the BMW Championship might be the only time all year that the most compelling action isn’t at the top of the leaderboard.

Brace yourselves, because there’s a lot to keep tabs on Sunday at Crooked Stick.

Sure, there’s the actual tournament, where Dustin Johnson surged to a three-shot lead after four birdies in his last five holes Saturday. But even tighter races are playing out for the Ryder Cup captain’s picks, as well as the top five and top 30 in the FedEx Cup.

U.S. captain Davis Love III will make three of his four wildcard picks on Monday morning. Phil Mickelson suggested last week that the picks were “fairly obvious,” but that’s news to just about everybody else.

Matt Kuchar seems the most logical choice, with an Olympic bronze medal and nine top-10s this season. (He is also tied for fifth through three rounds here at the BMW.) But after that, you can make a case for – and just as easily against – as many as a dozen other Americans.

J.B. Holmes is making the strongest statement, likely moving into position to secure a spot with his strong play at Crooked Stick. Ranked 10th in Ryder Cup points, he now has shot three consecutive rounds in the 60s and is in solo third, four shots behind Johnson.

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“Winning takes care of a lot of things,” Holmes said. “I’m going to go out there, play the best I can and let things happen as they may.”

There aren’t many other standout contenders.

Rickie Fowler has had three chances to win this season, most recently at the Barclays. But he’s projected on the FedEx Cup bubble, No. 30, after another pedestrian showing.

Bubba Watson is ranked seventh in the world, but he doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour in six months. Jim Furyk has the most losses in Ryder Cup history (20) and, because of a wrist injury earlier this year, didn’t even reach the third leg of the playoffs.

Hoping to add the hottest player heading into the biennial matches, Love will make his final selection on Sept. 25, after the Tour Championship and five days before the first tee shot is struck at Hazeltine. It’s possible that no other American will step forward before then, leaving Love to sort through a handful of unimpressive candidates.

The race for the top 30 might be even more unpredictable.

Every player in the 69-man field began the week with a mathematical chance to advance to the Tour Championship, but the picture has focused only slightly after three days.

According to the projections, Fowler trails No. 29 Daniel Berger by one FedEx point. Jason Kokrak is the odd man out, 69 points behind, but the player stinging most Saturday night should be Roberto Castro. He shared the halfway lead with Johnson and was projected to rocket to sixth; after a no-birdie 74, he is projected at 32nd.

“I still have a very obvious objective,” Castro said, “which is to play really well and try to win the tournament or come close.” 

Every year, the final round of the BMW offers thrills and spills in equal measure as players jockey for position. Last year, Harris English and Justin Thomas swapped top-30 positions when they were in the scoring trailer. It’s usually that close. 

Not that the players usually keep an eye on all of the fluctuations, mind you.

“It changes so much it’s just really hard to watch,” Berger said. “You can’t really pay attention to it.”

Even the top five players have something to play for Sunday. Finishing the event in that position would allow them to – all together now – control their own destiny at East Lake. Those in the top five can take the $10 million prize if they win the season finale.

Adam Scott, who already has a pair of top-4 finishes in the playoffs, is currently projected to finish fourth in points, while Paul Casey, who will be in the final group Sunday with Johnson, is fifth. Just outside are Rory McIlroy (T-35) and Jordan Spieth (T-9), respectively.

“You would be pretty unlucky if you were sixth and won East Lake and didn’t win the FedEx Cup, but it’s possible,” Scott said. “So if you rule out one variable, that’s a good thing. I would like to stay in the top five, and good play takes care of that.”

Seems that's the proper mindset for this day, because it’ll also take care of the BMW, Ryder Cup decision and top-30 race, too.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain fired a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

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Local favorite Yu Liu was in sole possession of seventh place after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

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

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

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"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.