Getty Images

Reed leads Masters, with major task ahead

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2018, 1:09 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Used to big spots and even bigger pressure as the lightning rod on all of those U.S. teams, Patrick Reed finds himself in a new position at the Masters: Solo leader, with a host of major champions lined up behind him.

Reed ran off three consecutive birdies on three different occasions Friday during a 6-under 66 that gave him a two-shot lead over Marc Leishman at Augusta National.

But if Reed thought Hazeltine was rocking, just wait until Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson charge up the leaderboard this weekend.

Of the top 13 players here, eight have won a major. That includes McIlroy, who is gunning for the career Grand Slam. And Spieth, in the mix for another green jacket. And Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world. And Justin Thomas, the hottest player in the game.

It’s a daunting task, outlasting all of those boldfaced stars, but when has Patrick Reed backed down from a challenge?

Asked what the stacked leaderboard means for his approach, Reed replied flatly: “Nothing. I’m going to do the same thing I’ve been doing. My game plan has gotten me to this point, and I have 36 more holes to stick to my game plan.”   


Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Working in the frontrunner’s favor: Augusta National is a difficult course on which to make up ground. Even the pursuers acknowledge this. “When you start to go for pins and you start chasing it,” McIlroy said, “that’s when you can bring in some trouble and make mistakes.”

Everyone seems likely to make mistakes in the third round. The challenge here is already immense, trying to land shots in a three-yard window on firm, speedy greens, but the issues could be compounded Saturday by heavy rain and 30-mph gusts.

“With the weather conditions (expected),” Leishman said, “we’re gonna have to worry about ourselves and not what everyone else is doing.”

At least they don’t have to worry about the game’s two biggest stars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They blew themselves out of the tournament with sloppy second rounds, and they now sit 13 and 14 shots back, respectively.

Playing in the same group as Woods, Leishman shot 67 to earn his spot in the final group. His round was highlighted by his bold decision on the par-5 15th. Needing to keep pace with Reed, Leishman (who almost exclusively hits a cut) had no choice but to play a 40-yard hook around the pines for his 223-yard approach. The margin for error was razor-thin – any shot that doesn’t carry the front edge rolls back into the creek, and a ball racing over the green leaves a tricky up-and-down – but his shot was perfect. His ball landed on the front edge and trickled within 6 feet of the cup for eagle.



“To win this tournament you’re gonna have to take a chance at some point,” he said, “and that was one where the reward was worth the risk.”

Leishman, 34, has significantly more big-game experience than the 27-year-old Reed. The burly Australian lost a playoff at the 2015 Open, and five years ago, he had a front-row seat to greatness here at Augusta, riding shotgun during Adam Scott’s breakthrough victory in 2013.

“I saw first-hand what it takes to win around here,” he said.

Reed has been a menace in team events, the American version of Ian Poulter, but to this point has failed to deliver in the game’s biggest individual events. Reed shared the halfway lead at the 2015 U.S. Open, but in 16 career major starts, he has posted just one top-10 finish – last August, at the PGA, where he finished in a tie for second but bogeyed the 72nd hole to clear the way for Thomas.

“It’s not a position I feel is really any different,” he said.

Despite leading nearby Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2010-11, Reed hasn’t enjoyed the same success at the home of the Masters. He’d broken par in just two of his previous 12 rounds here.

This week, Reed has 22 one-putt greens and birdied all eight of the par 5s to take his first outright lead in a major, at 9-under 135.

“I feel like I’m in a better frame of my golf game and mentally coming in,” he said. “I’ve done all the work. I know where I need to leave the golf ball, and it’s now just going out here and executing the game plan and staying disciplined enough to actually stick to that game plan.”

The big-name major winners behind him understand that it’s not always that simple.

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

Getty Images

LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

Getty Images

For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

Getty Images

Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.


Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.