Kuchar's flubbed finish opens door to Humana lead

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 25, 2015, 1:27 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – The answer to the question seems slap-in-the-face obvious: Of course players want to hold the lead heading into the final round of a tournament. Sure, there’s the added pressure and the sleepless night and the big target on the first tee, but at least there’s the built-in cushion.

Except at the Humana Challenge, that’s not always a good thing.

Last year, Patrick Reed led by a touchdown heading into the final round, then held on for dear life as four players directly behind him shot 65 or better. He won by two after a Sunday 71.

The year prior, Scott Stallings staked himself to a five-shot lead, only to come back to the field when his game briefly went AWOL. He didn’t even make the three-way playoff after a final-round 70.

So, at the event that surrenders the most birdies each year, we ask: Is it better to lead or pursue?

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“I guess you could look at it both ways,” co-leader Justin Thomas said, “but regardless, you’re going to have to make a lot of birdies. That’s just how it is here.”

Good luck picking the winner off this board.

When all of the contenders marched into the media center Saturday at PGA West, they figured they’d be a few shots back and in pursuit heading into the final round. Not anymore.

With Matt Kuchar’s late collapse during the third round, there are four players tied for the lead, four others one shot back and 15 guys within three.

This event doesn’t always favor the frontrunner. This time, there isn’t one.

Birdie-fests like the Humana wouldn’t work every week on the PGA Tour, but those who like pyrotechnics will really enjoy the swan song here at PGA West’s Palmer Private. Ending its relationship with the event after this year, the Private always produces great drama on the closing stretch with a variety of risk-reward holes:

• The 15th is dainty par 3 with a kidney-shaped green.

• The 16th is a short par 4 that rewards strong wedge play.

• The 17th is a gut-check par 3 that requires only a wedge, but is one of the most intimidating shots players will face all year.

• And the 18th, well, the home hole is a very reachable par 5 that either crowns potential champions (David Duval, 1999) or crushes them (Stallings, 2013).

Of the four co-leaders, only Bill Haas has experience holding a 54-hole lead. The 2010 champion has converted only two of those five opportunities into a victory, and he was so concerned about how he’d fare this week after four months off that he told his wife that he was going to be in trouble.

Not exactly. At 17-under 199, he is tied with two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, journeyman Michael Putnam and Thomas, the stud rookie.

Haas fractured his left wrist when he fell down a flight of stairs last April and went winless for the first time in five years. Per doctor’s orders, he sat out the past four months, skipping range work and playing only corporate outings. Rust or not, he’s in position for his sixth career title.

“I was unsure how I’d be able to score,” he said. “So obviously very pleased to be anywhere near the lead.”

A victory by Compton would not just be a remarkable golf story, but one of the all-time great sports stories.

Making his 113th PGA Tour start, Compton will soon learn how his body handles the rigors and stresses of a lead on the final day. The 35-year-old tied for second at last year’s U.S. Open, but he was already out of it, five back after 54 holes.

“Confidence,” Compton said, when asked what’s changed since Pinehurst. “Probably more at ease with myself and not really feeling like I have to prove anything. Confidence is huge in this game.”

Belief isn’t lacking for Thomas, the former Alabama star who has drawn favorable comparisons to fellow 21-year-old Jordan Spieth. At last week’s Sony Open, Thomas shared the halfway lead but backed up with a pair of weekend 70s. He was more patient Saturday, carding a 4-under 68 in windier conditions.

“Some days you’re not going to have it,” he said of his experience in Honolulu, “and it’s just a matter of what you make of it."

Kuchar has his own self-reflection to do after frittering away three strokes on the last four holes, the last coming on the par-5 finishing hole, when his 3-hybrid didn’t cut and found the water over the green. To make matters worse, he missed a 5-footer for par.

“Regardless of what happened (on 18), I was still going to have to make a lot of birdies tomorrow,” he said.

Don’t worry, Kooch. At the Humana, it’s usually no lead, no problem.

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

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Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”