Getty Images

Phil highlights FedExCup bubble boys at BMW

By Will GraySeptember 16, 2017, 11:04 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – There’s a trophy at stake at the BMW Championship, a nice piece of silver that will look great in pictures and, in all likelihood, will belong to Marc Leishman by Sunday night.

But whether or not the Aussie converts his five-shot lead, another tournament will play out in a different section of the high-definition leaderboards lining Conway Farms Golf Club.

Each stop along the FedExCup Playoffs brings with it a bubble watch, but nowhere is the cut more dramatic than here. Players talk all season long about hoping to make it to the season-ending Tour Championship and giving themselves a shot at a $10 million bounty.

In the case of Phil Mickelson, it could provide a satisfying conclusion to a tumultuous year.

Mickelson hasn’t made it to East Lake since 2013, and earlier this season it appeared he would end that drought with ease. The southpaw continued his winless run but amassed a string of high finishes, stockpiling points along the way.

But then he switched caddies, and missed the cut in the season’s final two majors. Suddenly Mickelson entered this week’s event outside the bubble at No. 34, still with work to do.

Saturday’s round served as a bit of a microcosm for Mickelson, as he raced out with three birdies over his first six holes to move comfortably inside the top-30 projections. He then played his next 12 holes in 2 over and watched his name drift back to the wrong side of the bubble.

“It was a little disappointing,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got a good round in me. [I'm] playing too well not to go out and shoot a number and get in the top 10 to make it to next week.”

Mickelson will start the final round in a tie for 15th, 32 projected points behind Gary Woodland, who clings to the 30th and final spot. He will be one of several players whose postseason fates will be determined by the permutations of the final-round leaderboard.

Some will stay glued to the standings with each projected change – but not Mickelson.


BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


“I just kind of set a number,” he said. “I know I’ve got to shoot probably 4, 5 under par. Like I said, I’m playing well enough to do that with ease. I let a lot of shots slide today.”

The final-round stakes extend far beyond a bigger piece of the prize pool in Atlanta. Make it to East Lake and you’re in the first three majors of 2018, not to mention the WGC-Mexico Championship.

It’s an enticing prospect for rookie Mackenzie Hughes, who has worked his way from 31st to 24th in the projected standings through three rounds, as well as Patrick Cantlay, who started the year on a major medical extension but will still tee off Sunday inside the top 30.

But young and old, the benefits of making the season’s final event are unmistakable.

“If you’re in the top 30, your schedule is just different,” said Stewart Cink. “You’re just in all the tournaments you want to be in, and you can look ahead to things.”

Cink knows full well the spoils of making the Tour Championship. He was there each of the first three years of the FedExCup, and the former Georgia Tech standout relished an opportunity to play in front of partisan crowds. But he hasn’t been back since 2009.

Now 44 years old and eight years removed from his last win, Cink bogeyed the final two holes of his third round to drop from inside the projected top 30 to No. 44. So there’s work to be done, but he’s not shying away from the stakes.

“There’s no point in trying to hide from it, because there’s no way you’re not going to see it or hear it, or something’s going to alert you to it. And then what are you going to do?” Cink said. “You can’t un-know it or un-hear it. So I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to ignore it. You have to embrace it.”

It’s an interesting dynamic here in the season’s penultimate event. The top 20 or so players have already booked hotels for Atlanta, while most of those who started the week outside the top 50 know full well that they are heading into their final competitive round until next season.

But for the handful of players in the middle, those with realistic aspirations of either staying inside the top 30 or crashing the party at the last minute, there’s everything still to play for and only 18 holes left to make a move.

“Where I am, and the season so far and my career, and my age and all that stuff, I’ve got nothing to lose except to go out there and try to go all out tomorrow,” Cink said. “One good round might just be enough to get me in the Tour Championship.”

Getty Images

Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

Getty Images

LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off Thursday at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round in front of a large contingent of South Korean fans.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Getty Images

Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

Getty Images

Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.