Wild weather continues to be a factor on PGA Tour

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2013, 11:11 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – They don’t keep official statistics for such things, but it’s safe to assume Mother Nature is staked to a commanding lead at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

A bitterly cold morning that began with ominous clouds soon became a sideways rain that eventually turned into a heavy snow, coating the fairways and greens at Dove Mountain on Wednesday and reducing grown men to snowball fights and amateur photography.

Brent Henley, Robert Garrigus’ caddie, laid down and made a snow angel.

A few other loopers scurried to the top balcony of the clubhouse, found the best angle of attack and lobbed snowballs at their unsuspecting colleagues.

WGC-Accenture Match Play scoring

WGC-Accenture Match Play: Articles, videos and photos

Every player with a smartphone posted a photo on social media.

As for Jason Day, who authored one of the most impressive performances Wednesday?

“Well, there’s a bunch of yummy chocolates in (the locker room),” he said, “and you just sit there and eat chocolates and drink a lot of Coca-Cola.”

Sure, it was fun and games and gorging on snacks, but it also was some of the wackiest weather a few longtime Tour observers have ever seen. Asked where this ranks on his personal list of weird-weather occurrences, Mark Russell, who has worked for the Tour for the past 30-plus years, nodded his head and said softly, “It’s right there.”

Russell has gotten plenty of face time this season, which is always an alarming sign for golf fans. Already this year there has been a wind (Kapalua), fog (Torrey Pines) and now a snow delay. Next week the Tour heads east for the Florida Swing. Tour officials would be wise to brace for a locust attack.

Though unusual, this isn’t the first time it has snowed at a Tour event. In fact, in the last 40 years, it has snowed six times – four of which, incredibly, have come in the Tucson area. That includes the 2011 Match Play final here, when Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer awoke that Sunday morning to a dusting of snow and were delayed, albeit briefly, by a sleet-coated fairway.

Oh, was this different.

About an inch and a half of snow fell before play was officially called for the day at 1:05 p.m. local time. None of the 32 first-round matches were completed. Twenty of the 64 players have yet to reach the first green, including Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who were still an hour away from teeing off.

At least Webb Simpson hit a shot – OK, one. He smacked his opening tee shot, only to hear the horn sound to signal the suspension of play. So he marched down the fairway to mark his ball, then retreated – quickly – to the clubhouse as heavy snow and sleet began to fall.

Such conditions reminded the reigning U.S. Open champion of a college tournament in Las Vegas. During a delay, Simpson and his Wake Forest teammates purchased toboggans in the pro shop and charged them to the head coach’s credit card. “He wasn’t happy about it,” he said.

The snow also brought back good memories for Vermont’s own Keegan Bradley, once an avid skier who now must be considered one of the favorites here at Dove Mountain, especially if the Match Play becomes a slalom competition. Yes, he has played in snowy conditions “a million times,” but of Wednesday’s match against Marcus Fraser (in which he is all square through three holes), Bradley said, “This was pretty bad.”

Not like the players were ill-prepared. Day wore four layers of clothing, and said afterward that only the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s posed worse conditions. Of course, he seemed unaffected by the frigid conditions Wednesday. He went out in 4-under 32, including concessions, and built a 6-up lead over Zach Johnson with eight holes to play.

Justin Rose was on a similar tear, jumping out to a 4-up lead through five, only to lose a few holes and take a 2-up advantage into the back nine.

“It’s been amazing how accurate the forecast has been,” said Rose, uttering words never before spoken. “They’ve been talking about snow for about four days, and pretty much at 11, the forecast time, boom, it was down and the end of the day.”

After play was called, Tour meteorologist Stewart Williams soon arrived at the media center, always an ominous sign.

Russell joked that he prefers for Williams to have walk-around days – “That means he can walk around, goof off, do whatever he wants to do, and doesn’t have to sit there and look at that computer,” Russell said.

Wednesday at the Match Play was not one of those walk-around days, not even close, unless you count trudging from the course to the clubhouse in wet snow and socks.

“I worked the last two (at Pebble Beach and Riviera) and had a light two weeks,” Williams said, “so now I’m paying for it today.”

Getty Images

Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot 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.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

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).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh 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.

Getty Images

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.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"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."

Getty Images

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.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"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."

Getty Images

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.