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Tour Mash: Leishman closes the deal, Wattel wins his first

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Week three of the PGA Tour playoffs came to a close, setting the stage for a stirring FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta. The LPGA contested its last major championship of 2017 in France. Football may be in the air, but important golf balls fly higher. Have a sample of what mattered this week in our September 18th Tour Mash.

Leishman unleashed, finally, in Chicago

Marc Leishman of Australia heard the footsteps. They weren’t coming from playing partner Jason Day, who would counter every three birdies with a bogey or double. Instead, it was Justin Rose who was making a run at the leader. If ever an event felt owned by a golfer it was this one. Question was, could Leishman close the deal?

The massive Aussie had led since his opening 62, but when Rose reached 19-under at the 16th, Leishman had to feel threatened. He had two tour wins to his credit, including this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. None had ever given him a chance at the FedEx Cup, though, and Leishman was not to be denied. He closed with three birdies over the final quadrilateral, securing a 5-stroke margin of victory over Rose, who bogeyed the 17th to drop back to a second-place tie with Rickie Fowler, at 18-under. With the win, Leishman joined Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm in the playoffs top five.

Nordqvist wins 2nd major title at Evian

Anna Nordqvist is tough. She returned from a debilitating bout of mono this summer to feature prominently in the European Tour’s Solheim Cup challenge. On Sunday, the Swede defeated upstart American Brittany Altomare on the first playoff hole to win her second major title.

All golfers began the round behind Moriya Jutanugarn. The Thai golfer played well over her first nine holes, but played her final nine holes in two-over, dropping to 8-under and a gut-wrenching T3 finish, one back of the playoff duo. With Jutanugarn were Lydia Ko and Katherine Kirk.

Altomare and Nordqvist played the playoff hole in rainy conditions, unable to avoid the deluge that had lingered all day but never committed. Neither player offered her best in extra holes, but it was Nordqvist who squeezed in a clutch bogey putt to secure victory over Altomare’s double.

Snaps for Hadley after Boise victory on Web.Com

Chesson Hadley knew he would return to the PGA Tour in 2017-18, before the 2017 Web.Com Tour playoffs began. His sense of urgency might have diminished just enough to free up his game. On Sunday, the North Carolina native and Georgia Tech alum finished with fury, birdieing holes 15 through 17 at the Boise Open. He reached 16-under par, then watched his pursuers work in vain to catch him.

Close to Hadley were Ted Potter, Jr., and Jonathan Randolph. both men birdied 16 and 18 to sign for 15-under, one excruciating stroke shy of the top spot. For Randolph, the finish secured his PGA Tour card for 2017-2018. With his win, Hadley moved to the top of the Finals board, about $85K clear of 2nd-place Andrew Landry. The tour moves to Cleveland for the penultimate playoff event, before closing the season in Florida, in two weeks.

Jerry Kelly wins again on Champions Tour

Much like Hadley, Jerry Kelly sought vindication. He had been a tour winner, and when he finally won on the Champions Tour in late August, the pressure valve had opened and the pent-up steam of frustration, released. On Sunday at the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, it looked as thought Kelly would add a runner-up finish to that title, but Lee Janzen closed poorly, and Kelly took advantage.

Janzen stood at 16-under with four holes to play, but errant shots at the 15th and 17th led to bogey and double, dropping him to 13-under on the week. Kelly did nothing spectacular, simply going about business as usual. He birdied the 15th to get to 14-under, then closed with three pars to edge Janzen by one, for victory No. 2 on the senior circuit. Tommy Armour III and David McKenzie were a further stroke back, tied for third at 12-under.

Wattel a winner at last on European Tour

Romain Wattel trailed only Kiradech Aphibarnrat at the start of round four in Holland. Chasing his first European Tour victory, Wattel had to feel a bit positive as his day trended upward, while Aphibarnrat lost the handle and finished at 2-over on the day, 12-under overall and tied for ninth. Austin Connelly, the young Canadian, appeared from nowhere and the game was on.

Connelly birdied the 18th hole at The Dutch, reaching 14-under with his second consecutive round of 66. Wattel remained poised, however. Although his final birdie came at the 10th hole, he closed with seven consecutive pars, enough to secure his debut victory on the European circuit. Wattel moved to 55th spot in the Race To Dubai rankings, while Connelly ascended to 71st.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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  1. Timbleking

    Sep 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Bien joué, Romain !!!

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Tiger Woods fires third-round 65, takes a three-shot lead into final round

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Tiger Woods walked to the first tee at East Lake today like a gladiator entering an amphitheatre. Beginning the third round of the Tour Championship with a share of the lead, a sea of supporters were there to hoot and holler as he strode purposefully towards the opening tee. Expectancy was in the air, as after all Tiger Woods has converted a 36 hole share or solo lead into a win a remarkable 77 percent of the time throughout his career.

Both at Valspar and the Open Championship, Woods was unable to find that extra gear when he found himself atop the leaderboard. Today, however, was a different story, and Woods delivered the performance that came so natural to him when he was in his pomp.

Woods began his round with a piped drive down the first fairway, and after his approach shot landed just outside 20 feet on the first green, it appeared that the 14-time major champion was on his way to a steady start. However, when he rolled that birdie putt into the center of the cup, the galleries of East Lake responded with a cacophony of noise. Tiger Woods was on the march.

After a two-putt par at the second hole, Woods began a charge that turned into the performance he had been searching for all year when he’s found himself in contention. Woods birdied the third hole after stuffing a wedge to eight feet and burying the putt, and when he then birdied the par-4 fourth hole measuring 479 yards after nailing another putt from outside 20 feet, the crowd and Woods began to believe that today could be special.

To say Woods fed off that sublime birdie and the energy of the crowd would be an understatement. The 79-time PGA Tour champion put on a clinic over his next couple of holes, draining consecutive birdie putts from inside 10 feet, The great man then produced a scintillating approach shot from the fairway bunker on seven which just crept over the greenside trap and settled five feet away from the hole for an opportunity for Woods’ fifth straight birdie. Woods slammed the putt right in the middle to take him to six-under par for the day and 13-under par for the event.

Woods’ one blemish on the opening nine came on the tricky par-3 ninth hole, double-crossing his tee shot and failing to get up and down from off the green. Despite the error, Woods’ opening nine scorecard made for an imposing sight. 30 strokes that included six birdies and gave him a four-shot lead.

A clutch seven-foot par save on 11 kept the momentum rolling and it didn’t take long for the American to capitalise on that impetus, cutting his iron approach into the par-4 12th to seven feet. He then walked that birdie putt in to take him back to 13-under par.

Woods then parred his way to the 16th hole, a hole which he took a six on in round two, and it looked set to be another big number on the cards for Woods after he missed the green with his approach and then saw his ambitious flop shot run back to his feet. But Woods executed a nerveless bump into the hill with his next shot that took all the sting out of the ball and trickled out to tap in range for a superb bogey save.

On Woods’ penultimate hole, he barely missed his birdie putt, and after popping in his par putt, he approached the 18th tee with a three-shot lead. Woods striped his driver down the middle of the fairway, but a pulled approach into the back greenside bunker and a disappointing splash out meant Woods had to settle for a par to finish a thrilling round of 65, giving him a three-shot lead entering tomorrows final round.

Ask any Woods supporter, and they’ll tell you the one element missing from the great man returning to the winner’s circle in 2018 has been his inconsistent driving. Well, the decision to change recently from the Mitsubishi Tensei Orange shaft that he had been using for most of the year, to the Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Whiteboard shaft may well be the final piece of the complicated Tiger Woods puzzle. Woods looked as good as ever off the tee with the chief in hand on Saturday afternoon, finding 10 of 14 fairways on day three.

A victory tomorrow would be Woods’ first since 2013. His first win since four back surgeries that threatened to end his career. His first win since the majority of golf’s talking heads declared he had the chipping yips. His first victory since he suffered public derision after he received a DUI which turned out to be the cause of a toxic mix of prescription drugs. There is no way to downplay it, a win for Woods tomorrow would be one of the most memorable of his career. He has pulled himself off the canvas to within touching distance of his third Tour Championship victory. Should he claim that victory tomorrow, it may well be Woods’ finest hour outside of his 14-major championship wins.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Driver now a weapon, Tiger leads | What makes Bryson so good | Paulinagram

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 21, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Tiger in front again
Another FedEx Cup playoff event, another Tiger Woods first-round lead.
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Woods finished his day at the finale with a closing nine of 31 after a slow start and was tied with Fowler atop the season-ending leaderboard at 5 under par. He’s been in this position before from Tampa to St. Louis and was equally impressive two weeks ago at the BMW Championship when he opened with a first-round 62 for a share of the lead….But Thursday at East Lake felt different. It felt better.”
  • “This was by far better than the 62 at [the BMW Championship],” said Woods, who is playing at East Lake for the first time since 2013. “Conditions were soft there. It’s hard to get the ball close here. There’s so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can’t get the ball close.”
  • “On Thursday he had the look of a complete golfer, a five-tool player whose only limitation was running out of holes. Statistically he finished inside the top 10 in strokes gained: off the tee (eighth), tee to green (third), fairways hit (fourth), driving distance (eighth), greens in regulation (fifth), proximity to the hole (sixth), scrambling (first) and strokes gained: putting (eighth).
  • “I felt in control today,” Woods said without even trying to hide the knowing smile that inched across his face. “I had a lot of control over my shots.”
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall noted Woods’ warmup didn’t suggest a low number was forthcoming…”It was not an auspicious start. The warm-up wasn’t smooth, a fair share of drivers sailing over the left-field fence that separates the East Lake range from the 16th hole. The irons were a little thin, and he wasn’t dropping many putts on the practice green. There were a few grabs towards his back, the infamous part of his frame that kept him sidelined for so long. That someone forgot to tell the golf gods to turn on the A/C-a couple degrees from an Atlanta record high, apparently-wasn’t helping matters, the print of his shirt already unrecognizable from sweat when he arrived to the tee.”
“So when Tiger Woods three-jacked from 30 feet on the first hole, it felt like the opening salvo to a song-and-dance we’ve seen too many times before.But not on the only face that mattered.”
2. Also, Rickie
A PGA Tour.com report notes that Fowler (who co-leads the Tour Championship with El Tigre) is feeling good”Now he’s tied for the lead in the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake, his 5-under 65 holding up for the best score of day one with Tiger Woods.”
  • “I haven’t been on any type of painkillers,” Fowler said of his strained right oblique, which kept him out of the first two Playoffs events, THE NORTHERN TRUST and Dell Technologies Championship. “Like just standard Advil. And the big thing and reason why, I didn’t want to mask anything, just because if something did come up, I wanted to get the real response from my body.”
  • “Fowler’s body responded most especially on the greens, where he made nearly 92 feet of putts and ranked second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.”
3. The big stick delivereth
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…”Ever since making adjustments to his driver – which included adding loft and changing the shaft – at The Northern Trust, Woods’ long game has become one of his greatest assets.”
  • “Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways in the first round at East Lake Golf Club, which led to hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation.”
  • “It’s not as though Woods has completely traded distance for accuracy. He hit his drive on the par-5 18th 320 yards and hat helped produce an eagle.”
  • “It’s more like he now has the ability to control his driver. Those wayward tee shots we had become accustomed to seeing aren’t so offline. That means sometimes he’ll send one 296 yards – like he did on the first hole – and sometimes he’ll gear up and knock one 328 yards – like he did at the fifth.”
  • Woods had this to say…“[I]f I hit it normal, I hit it just as far. And so that’s to me like 300 yards in the air,” he said. “But … the neat thing about this one is that if I miss it and spin it a little bit, those spinners stay in play instead of chasing off on me, and I can turn this ball.
  • “And so, yeah, if I hit controlled shots, they’re in play and they’re shorter. But if I go ahead and step up and launch one, I’m just as far. The neat thing is I don’t have to swing it as hard to hit the ball as far. And so it puts a little less toll on my body. I don’t have to have my speed up there at 120, 121, 122 miles an hour to carry it 305, 310 like I did before.”
4. Paisley
Meanwhile, on the Web.com Tour…AP Report…”Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.”
  • “The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.”
  • “I think just all around was really good,” Paisley said. “I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.”
5. What makes Bryson so good?
Our Peter Sanders takes a headfirst dive into the data.
A few morsels…
  • “He averaged over 300 yards, 15 yards longer than the field, and hit more fairways than the 2017 winners.  Further, Bryson (Blue arrows below) had 35% fewer driving errors than those made by the 2017 winners.”
  • “Bryson did hit more greens-in-regulation (blue arrows below). BUT remember he hit more fairways and made fewer errors. Finally, Bryson’s proximity when he hits the greens* is closer to the 2017 Tour average than it is to the 2017 winners”.
6. Rory PACIlroy?
A Golf Channel report indicates Mr. McIlroy may have a seat at the Player Advisory Council table…”I’m not on the PAC. I’m probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what’s going on and give your input and whatever.”
  • Input and whatever! McIlroy also said he likes the new Tour Championship format, sort of.
  • “I like it for the FedExCup. I don’t necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don’t know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There’s a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it’s good.”
7. New Web.com schedule
Golfweek’s Brentley Romine with the details...”The 2019 Web.com Tour season will now end on Labor Day, the PGA Tour announced on Thursday.”
  • “The new schedule features 27 events, including three new events and a three-event Finals (down from four). The three new events are the Suncoast Classic Feb. 14-17 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., Evans Scholars Invitational May 23-26 in Chicago and TPC Colorado Championship July 11-14 in Berthoud, Colo. The Finals will consist of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (Aug. 15-18), Albertsons Boise Open Aug. 22-25) and Web.com Tour Championship (Aug. 30-Sept. 2).”
  • “The Web.com Tour has enjoyed tremendous momentum in recent years and has created a platform from which graduates are enjoying immediate success on the PGA Tour,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “The revamped schedule will allow for a more natural cadence to the season for our fans, while providing an earlier finish that enhances the visibility of the Web.com Tour Finals.”
8. JT pain free
Golf Channel report...”After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.”
  • “Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.”
  • “If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn’t have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I’m going to get as many points for the team as possible.”
9. Interpreting Paulinagram
Charles Curtis of For The Win on an Instagram story Paulina Gretzky posted that features the Great One’s daughter listening to a song.
  • “As some people have noted, these are the lyrics to the Dustin Lynch song attached to that photo:..I’d be jealous too, if she was with you…I’d be out of my mind, watching her move…If I was just a guy with across the room view….I’d be jealous too, if she was with you, with you.”
What does it mean? Who knows? Who cares? Some combination of the two?

 

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Tiger Woods catches fire after a slow start, shoots 5-under 65 at Tour Championship to tie lead

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Tiger Woods, who came to the Tour Championship 20th on the FedExCup points list, is making early moves at the Tour Championship at East Lake. After an opening-hole 3-putt from 25 feet for a bogey, and then three straight pars, Tiger played the rest of his round 6-under par (birdies at 5, 6, 12 and 14), capping it with a 27-foot eagle putt at the 18th hole. In the end, it was a 5-under 65 for Tiger, who currently sits tied for the lead with Rickie Fowler.

Here’s his approach to the par-5 18th hole, which measures 590 yards in total:

And here’s the eagle putt, to which he reacted with a few casual fist pumps and a putter raise.

As we’ve reported, Tiger recently switched back to his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter with which he’s one 13-of-14 majors throughout his career. He may have found the spark of old on the greens.

The only problem is, even if Tiger wins this week’s Tour Championship, he’s going to need some help winning the FedExCup and $10 million payout. Here are the scenarios he needs to happen:

But hey…

Here’s where the top-5 players on the FedExCup points list sit currently on Day 1:

  1. Bryson DeCheambeau (+3 thru 15, T27)
  2. Justin Rose (-2 thru 15, T6)
  3. Tony Finau (-2 thru 16, T6)
  4. Dustin Johnson (+2 thru 16, T23)
  5. Justin Thomas (-3 thru 16, T4)

Who do you think is going to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup?

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