Watney leads Wyndham as Sunday shootout looms

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2014, 11:45 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – If the third round of the Wyndham Championship is any indication, the PGA Tour’s regular season is about to end with a birdie barrage.

The leaderboards at Sedgefield Country Club were coated with red numbers Saturday, as players jockeyed for position in the final event before the FedEx Cup playoffs. At one point 13 names were separated by a single shot, and seven players will begin the final round with a realistic shot at hoisting the trophy.

The man they’ll all be chasing is Nick Watney, who grabbed sole possession of the lead when he buried a 19-foot putt from off the fringe on the 18th hole. His third-round 65 came on the heels of a 6-under 64 in Round 2, and Watney has made only one bogey through 54 holes thanks to a hot putter.

“This is probably the best I’ve putted for three days so far in a row, for a week or for the year,” he said. “When you’re making putts, the game gets a lot easier.”

Watney has suffered through a disappointing season, and after beginning the year ranked No. 30 in the world he teed it up this week ranked No. 75. Two weeks ago, he teed it up at the Barracuda Championship when he missed his first WGC event since 2009.

Watney’s poor play reached a low when, after missing the cut at the Open Championship by one shot, his fate for the FedEx Cup playoffs seemed in doubt. He pointed to the trans-Atlantic flight that followed as a turning point.

“I sort of went to Canada and said, ‘I feel like my game is headed in a really good direction. Haven’t been getting the results but we just need to put our head down and play every week and just enjoy it,” he said. “I was getting to the point where, I don’t know what number (in the standings), I felt I stopped looking because it was kind of depressing.”

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The turnaround began the following week at the RBC Canadian Open, where he tied for 12th, then continued with a T-8 in Reno. With his spot in the postseason now secure, Watney is turning his attention toward winning for the first time since 2012.

“I know I’ve had good years when I haven’t won,” he said. “So having a year like this and end up winning a tournament…it would be a huge bonus, and kind of I guess affirm what I’ve been working on.”

Watney, though, is not the only player poised for what could be a season-defining moment. Brad Fritsch is the newest poster child for the FedEx Cup bubble madness, and Sunday will be playing not just for his first PGA Tour win, but his card for next season.

The Canadian entered this week at No. 163 in the points race, and likely needs a two-way tie for second to punch his ticket to The Barclays, although he could lock up his card for 2014-15 with a two-way tie for third, which would allow him to crack the top 125 in earnings.

Of course, Fritsch could take care of everything – and cement his status through 2016 – with a victory. He’ll begin the day at 13 under, one shot behind Watney and playing in the final group for the first time in his career.

“I’m just going to focus on not making mistakes, hitting good shots,” said Fritsch. "I try my best every shot, and whatever happens will happen tomorrow.”

Fritsch is no stranger to these 11th-hour stakes. Last year he finished No. 129 in the FedEx Cup standings and had to play in the inaugural Web.com Tour Finals. After missing the first three cuts in the four-event series, he closed with a final-round 66 to tie for second at the Web.com Tour Championship and earn a return trip to the main circuit.

“I put my back against the wall several times, and usually come out okay on the other end,” Fritsch said. “Last year I made nine birdies in the final round to get my card. It’s always something to fall back on.”

The chase pack also extends beyond Fritsch to include Heath Slocum and Fredrik Jacobson, a pair of PGA Tour winners who are both two shots off the pace with one round to go. Slocum, who played in Saturday’s final pairing, hasn’t cracked the top 10 since winning the 2010 McGladrey Classic but continues to enjoy the thrill of contending after a 2-under 68.

“Golf is just way more fun this way,” he said. “I think maybe getting my butt kicked for a few years and not being in contention for a while, you get back and you remember how much fun it was, and you miss it so much.”

Lurking in the distance, just one shot further back at 11-under 199, are two of the field’s biggest names. Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson are both former Wyndham champions, and the two will be paired together for the third time this week as they look to reclaim the Sam Snead Cup.

“I think it takes pressure off, knowing that all the guys around 10, 11 under have to go out and shoot a really low number,” Simpson said after a third-round 66. “It’s not like we’re going out trying to hang on to the lead.”

With favorable pin positions anticipated, the target score for the final round remains anyone’s guess. Fritsch felt the winning score could be as low as 20 under, a barrier not reached at Sedgefield since Arjun Atwal’s improbable win in 2010.

The leaderboards at Sedgefield will certainly turn red once again on Sunday, but that’s not an issue according to the man in front.

“It doesn’t really change,” Watney said. “I assume that when I tee off, I probably won’t be in the lead or tied for the lead, so it’s not like I’m protecting anything tomorrow. Just more of the same.”

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''