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Did Sunday cement Woods-DeChambeau Ryder Cup pairing?

By Will GraySeptember 2, 2018, 8:48 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Under sunny skies on a balmy New England morning, Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau shook hands and shared a smile on the small putting green that sits next to the opening tee box at TPC Boston.

Four weeks from now in Paris, the weather will likely be cooler. The crowds lining the first tee box will certainly be more numbered and far less partisan. But if Jim Furyk wants to lead the Americans to their first road Ryder Cup victory in 25 years, the pairing should stay exactly the same.

It’s hard to find two more unexpected seasons this year than those authored by Woods and DeChambeau. While much has been written about Woods’ 2018 renaissance, DeChambeau started the year barely inside the top 100 in the world rankings. But after two wins against stacked fields, he teed off this week’s Dell Technologies Championship as the FedExCup points leader.

On the surface, the relationship between the two certainly seems unexpected. As he started perhaps the biggest comeback of his career, Woods could have called upon any player on Tour to join him for a friendly practice round or two. But on multiple occasions, he opted for tee times with DeChambeau – the quirky, methodical whiz kid who many viewed as an outsider and who referred to Woods Sunday as his “childhood idol.”

In fact, when Woods launched his comeback at the Hero World Challenge in December in the Bahamas, DeChambeau was mixed in among the gallery marching through the sand at Albany.

Fast forward nine months, and DeChambeau’s win at The Northern Trust likely ensures his name will be announced along with Woods’ come Tuesday when Furyk makes the first three of his four picks. It will mean that the budding bromance between the greatest player of one generation and the most analytical of another could soon reach across the Atlantic.

“The one thing I can say is that he really cares,” DeChambeau said in May after pairing twice with Tiger for practice sessions at TPC Sawgrass. “Not just about how he’s playing, but at least for me, he cares about how the young guns are coming up and playing.”

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While some players may shirk from the limelight that comes with being in close proximity to Woods, DeChambeau has seemed to embrace it as his career has blossomed. That includes earlier this week, when he was asked about the prospect of potentially pairing with Woods in Paris should both men find their way on to Furyk’s squad as expected.

“It would be an honor to play with him,” DeChambeau said. “I think we could have some great chemistry out there and hopefully maybe intimidate some people, that would be nice.”

Bold words, certainly, for someone who has yet to strike a shot in the Ryder Cup. But perhaps it’s a glimpse of the underlying moxie that has drawn Woods to the 24-year-old in just his second full season on Tour.

“He’s fantastic to play with. He’s great,” Woods said after a 3-under 68. “We’ve played in practice rounds quite a bit this year, and he’s fantastic. It was two friends going out there, competing and playing.”

DeChambeau backed up his confidence in style during the third round, closing birdie-birdie-eagle to shoot a sizzling 63 to move into contention while leaving Woods in his dust. It marked the lowest score any player has shot on Tour while paired with Woods since a 63 from Jordan Spieth at Torrey Pines in 2014.

While Woods struggled with the putter coming down the stretch, the two scorecards still added up to a best-ball 61 on the par-71 layout. And after his first-ever competitive round alongside the player he has admired “my whole entire life,” DeChambeau grinned at the thought of reuniting for pride and country later this month at Le Golf National.

“I think if all the stars were to align, and that were to happen, I think we could feed off of each other pretty well,” he said.

In all likelihood, Furyk will face far tougher choices about who to sit for each of the four team match sessions than how to dispense his four captain’s picks in a couple of days. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the defending champs, one that he will have to cull through carefully when sending each quartet of pairs out to battle.

But the notion of spanning the spectrum with a Woods-DeChambeau pairing – one that seemed like a fantasy in February but picked up plenty of traction in recent weeks – now looks like the most efficient way to maximize two of the presumptive picks.

And if Sunday’s play is any indication, there will be plenty of fireworks.

“If he goes around and shoots 8 under par every time,” Woods said, “that will work.”

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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 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.

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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.