Local Favorite Leading in Houston

By Sports NetworkApril 26, 2003, 4:00 pm
HUMBLE, Texas -- Fred Couples fired a 5-under 67 Saturday to grab a one-stroke lead after three rounds at the Shell Houston Open. Couples is at 16-under-par 200, one stroke ahead of Mark Calcavecchia, who shot a 68 Saturday.
 
Australian Stuart Appleby is in third place by himself at 14-under-par 202 after a third-round 66. Trevor Immelman is one shot behind him at minus-13.
 
Couples, who was one of three players to share the lead after round two, made a late charge to grab the lead. On the front side, he carded three birdies but also had a bogey and a double bogey.
 
The 1992 Masters champion birdied the first before three-putting for bogey the third. He recovered that stroke with an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fourth.
 
After a pair of pars, Couples double bogeyed the par-4 seventh after his second shot found water. He got one of those strokes back with a birdie at the ninth.
 
'A big part of the round was I hit it in the water on seven and then I hit a beautiful iron to the eighth hole,' said Couples. 'I missed the putt on eight and was screaming at myself all the way to the next tee. I wanted to be more aggressive.'
 
On the back nine, Couples ran off four straight birdies from the par-5 12th to move into a share of the lead with Calcavecchia at minus-15. The longest putt during that run was from 12 feet and Couples sank a 10-footer for birdie at the last hole to take over first place.
 
'I played great the back nine,' said Couples. 'It has been a long time since I've been in this position. If I go out and play well, I should be fine. I just have to do what I did today.'
 
Couples, a University of Houston graduate, is trying to become the first Houston alum to win the hometown event. He has led 19 times entering the final round on tour and has won eight of those tournaments. However the last four winners and nine of the previous 15 on the PGA Tour this season have been come-from-behind victors. .
 
'Tomorrow is going to be a slugfest, or a puttfest, whichever way you want to look at it,' said Couples, whose last win came at the 1998 Memorial. 'I can't worry about being in the lead or what is going on out there. But I know there is going to be a slew of birdies out there and I just hope to go out and play well.'
 
Calcavecchia had two birdies and a bogey on the front side. He made back-to- back birdies from the 12th to get to minus-14 and he birdied the 15th just before Couples to briefly hold the lead by himself. At the last two holes, Calcavecchia was unable to convert birdie opportunities.
 
'Playing with Fred tomorrow should be fun. We've played a lot of golf together, including a couple of Ryder Cups,' said Calcavecchia. 'I will definitely look at the scoreboard tomorrow. I like to know what is going on out there.'
 
Appleby, who has gone 27 holes without a bogey, rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the first. He later drained a 15-foot birdie at the par-4 sixth. The Aussie stuck a 5-iron within three feet at the eighth to setup another birdie.
 
On the back side, Appleby carded back-to-back birdies from the 11th. He climbed into third place with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th.
 
'I had a long streak of bogey-free golf at the Masters, but I didn't really do that well there,' said Appleby, who went 50 holes without a bogey at Augusta. 'I'd have to say around here, you don't want to make too many bogeys, but you certainly need to make three times as many birdies.'
 
Hank Kuehne, who shared the lead with Couples and Calcavecchia after Friday's second round, shot an even-par 72 and is tied for ninth at 11-under-par 205. Defending champion Vijay Singh is tied with Kuehne among a group of six players tied for ninth five shots behind Couples.
 
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    McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

    ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

    Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

    “I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


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    For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

    The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

    McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

    “I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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    Glover trails Straka at Web.com Tour Championship

    By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

    ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

    With the top 25 earners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

    ''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

    Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Web.com Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

    ''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''


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    Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

    ''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

    Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

    McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

    The series features 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. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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    Woods' dominance evokes an old, familiar feeling

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:14 am

    ATLANTA – It felt so familiar – the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods’ direction.

    For the handful of players who were around when Woods made a mysterious and maddening game seem simple, it was like old times, times that weren’t necessarily good for anyone not named Tiger.

    “I’m kind of nostalgic,” admitted Paul Casey, who turned pro in 2000, when Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, one of his nine PGA Tour victories that year.

    Casey’s 66 on Day 3 at the Tour Championship vaulted him into a tie for sixth place, but as the Englishman quickly vetted the math he knew those numbers were nothing more than window dressing.

    “Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he’s 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like,” Casey laughed. “I think I’m just posturing for position.”

    Casey wasn’t giving up. In fact, given that he outdueled Woods earlier this year to win the Valspar Championship he could have hedged his comments and left the door cracked however slightly. But he’s seen, and heard, this too many times to allow competitive necessity to cloud reality.

    On Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was his best version. Throughout this most recent comeback he’s offered glimpses of the old guy, the guy whose name atop a leaderboard echoed through locker rooms for the better part of two decades. After starting the day tied for the lead with Justin Rose, Tiger quickly separated himself from the pack with a birdie at the first.

    He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he’d extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake.


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    This was what so many had waited for. This was the Tiger that Casey and others grew up dreading, a machine that never misses iron shots and makes clutch putts look like tap-ins.

    “The crowds were electric,” said Rose, who was paired with Woods. “He was running the tables there. He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.”

    Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

    He would finish with a round-of-the-day 65 for a three-stroke lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy. The next closest players were a dozen strokes back, including Casey at 5 under par who didn’t need to be reminded of Woods’ 54-hole conversion rate.

    There are no guarantees in sports but Tiger with a 54-hole lead has been about as close to a lock as one will find this side of Las Vegas. He’s 42-for-44 when going into the final round with the outright lead and the last time he blew a 54-hole lead was at the 2009 PGA Championship.

    Of course, he hasn’t had a 54-hole lead since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Truth is, he hasn’t had much of anything since ’13 when his dominance was sidetracked by an ailing back. As intimidating as Woods’ play has been this week there was an unmistakable sense of, let’s call it curiosity.

    Asked if Woods’ lead felt different than it may have a decade ago, Rose’s response was telling. “Maybe,” he allowed after a pause. “It's a little more unknown now. Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable. They're incredible. But he's human, and there's a lot on it for him tomorrow, as well as the rest of us.”

    Rose wasn’t trying to trick himself into thinking the impossible was possible, although many have when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, it was simply the truth. Woods has had multiple chances this season to complete the comeback and he’s come up short each time.

    It was a poor iron shot off the 72nd tee at the Valspar Championship and an even worse drive a week later at Bay Hill’s 16th hole. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it’s unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive.

    Nor was Rose being disrespectful. It’s simple math, really, and Woods’ body of work to this point, although wildly impressive considering how far he’s come in 12 months both physically and competitively, paints a clear picture. Given multiple chances to break through the victory ceiling he’s failed to deliver the way he did before injury and multiple back procedures.

    “I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, (and) when I grabbed the lead at The Open Championship,” Woods said. “Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory, I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.”

    In many ways the script couldn’t have been written any better for Woods. It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the bases are loaded for the 14-time major champion. Hero time, his time.

    He’s been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.

    The ultimate test still remains, but for 18 holes on Saturday it felt so familiar.

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    Woods, McIlroy in Sunday super group in finale

    By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 12:12 am

    ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy has made known his disdain for “super groups” in early tournament rounds.

    Well, he’s now got one on Sunday at the Tour Championship. And it doesn’t get more super than this.

    McIlroy will play alongside Tiger Woods in the final pairing, in the final round at East Lake Golf Club. Woods leads McIlroy – and Justin Rose – by three shots.


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    “All I can do is worry about myself,” McIlroy said. “It doesn't matter who it is I'm playing with. It's obviously exciting for the golf tournament. It's exciting for golf, in general, that he's up there. But for me, all I can do is concentrate on myself. The game is hard enough without having to – without looking at other people. Go out there, take care of my business, and hopefully that's good enough.”

    This is the fifth time that McIlroy and Woods have been grouped this year. They were alongside one another in the first two rounds of the Genesis Open and the first two rounds of the PGA Championship.

    In the four previous rounds, McIlroy finished better twice, Woods once, and they tied once.

    “It's going to be fun. We haven't done that much of late, because I've not been there,” Woods said of going head-to-head with McIlroy for a title. “He has been there, and he's won a bunch of tournaments. So it's nice for us to go back out and play against one another, be in the mix.”

    We know Woods will be wearing his traditional red in the final round. As for McIlroy?

    "I think I'll wear red," McIlroy joked. "No, geez, I've regretted wearing black out here today. It was hot."

    They go out at 2:05 p.m. ET.