Xander Schauffele is first rookie to win Tour Championship; Justin Thomas takes FedEx Cup

ATLANTA — Xander Schauffele ended his rookie season by winning the Tour Championship. Justin Thomas ended the best season with the FedEx Cup.

Schauffele, a 23-year-old worried about keeping his PGA Tour card just over three months ago, swirled in a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday for a 2-under 68 to beat Thomas by one shot and become the first rookie to win the Tour Championship.

Thomas had plenty of reasons to celebrate his runner-up finish. He capped off a season of five victories and his first major championship by claiming the $10 million bonus. He closed with a 66 after he narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

It was the first time since 2009 that the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup were won by different players.

SOURCE: ESPN

Lewis wins for Houston, donates $195K check

Birdies never meant so much to Stacy Lewis.

Every shot she hit at a flagstick Sunday, every putt she poured in at the Cambia Portland Classic did more than take her a step closer to the trophy at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

They led to a dramatic victory that brought the promise of more help to the people suffering in her Houston hometown.

Lewis played brilliant, inspired golf breaking through to end her three-year winless spell. She won her 12th LPGA title for those suffering from the epic rainfall and deadly flooding that destroyed so many homes and businesses in Houston.

Lewis won after announcing before the tournament started that she was going to donate her winnings in Portland to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.

Golf fans rallied behind her, cheering Lewis’ run at the $195,000 first-place check.

“We are going to be able to help people rebuild houses and get their homes back,” Lewis said. “That’s more important than any win.”

Lewis took a three-shot lead into Sunday and then held off a strong final-round charge by In Gee Chun. Lewis closed with a 3-under-par 69, finishing at 20 under for a one-shot victory over Chun (66). Lewis closed out with a two-putt par at the last.

In the end, Lewis was treated to some pleasant surprises. KPMG, one of her sponsors, announced it was going to match Lewis’ winnings in the relief effort. Also, Marathon Petroleum, yet another Lewis’ sponsor, informed her that it will be adding $1 million to her donation.

When Lewis walked off the green, her husband, Gerrod Chadwell, surprised her. He flew into Portland for the final round. She didn’t know he was there until he came out to hug her after that last putt fell.

Lewis’ family moved to suburban Houston when she was 11 years old. She grew up in The Woodlands. She and Chadwell bought a house in northeast Houston about a year-and-a-half ago.

It was spared from the ravages of the hurricane. So was her parents’ home, but she said the stories coming out of Houston moved her. She announced the day before the tournament started that she would donate her winnings from the week to the relief effort.

“When I said that, I had the goal of winning the tournament,” Lewis said. “You have to get a lot of things right, to go your way.”

Lewis said Saturday that she felt an unusual calmness as she played for Houston. She said Sunday she relinquished control to a higher power.

“Just kind of handed over control and said, `Take me, take me to the finish line. Let me know what happens, God,’” Lewis said. “It was just amazing how when you let go of the control like that how great you can play.”

Lewis was at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open last week when forecasts grew dire in her hometown. She stayed in close contact with Chadwell, who was back at their home. He is the University of Houston women’s golf coach. Lewis followed his struggles from afar as he worked to help his players when the campus shut down. He moved the team to he and Stacy’s home, and then he kayaked with the men’s golf coach into the team facility at the flooded Golf Club of Houston, where they salvaged clubs and office equipment.

“I was fine until Gerrod showed up, and then I started crying,” Lewis said. “Just to have him here, and have him support me, the last two and a half, three years … It’s been really frustrating at times.”

Lewis, 32, has endured some frustration trying to collect her 12th LPGA title. Since winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in June of 2014, she had gone 82 starts without a win. She played well in that run, stacking up 12 second-place finishes and winning more than $4 million, but she couldn’t break through to win until finding some special motivation in Portland.

“I’m excited to kind of get that monkey off my back and know I can do it, that I can hit the shots I need to and hit the putts when I need to,” Lewis said. “It’s nice to see yourself do that again.”

Lewis reigned as the Rolex world No. 1 for 25 weeks over portions of the 2013 and ’14 seasons. She was twice the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year, but that didn’t make her winless spell any easier. Lewis said her husband helped her deal with it.

“You go through all the emotions of finishing second when sometimes it’s your fault and sometimes it’s not, and things just don’t seem to ever go your way and you get really frustrated at times,” Lewis said. “Gerrod went through all of that with me, and it was probably as hard on him as it was on me. So just to have him here and get to share the win with him was pretty special.”

SOURCE: GOLF CHANNEL

Golf’s biggest stars shine during FedEx Cup playoffs

NORTON, Mass. — The FedEx Cup playoffs have become the domain of superstars. The journeymen, the up-and-comers, the one-hit wonders — those guys must win during the regular season. Once it’s playoff time, only the biggest of big-time players prevail.

That might seem strange, considering it’s hardly the most important stretch of tournaments on the annual calendar.

Ask any elite professional golfer and he’ll quickly respond that major championships top his priority list. After that? The Players Championship — or for many European-grown players, the BMW PGA Championship, which is the flagship event overseas. Next on the list might be a virtual sudden-death playoff between the four World Golf Championship tournaments and the four FedEx Cup playoff events, though a $10 million carrot on the end of the stick might serve as an extravagant tiebreaker for the latter.

And yet, just check out the winners. The past nine playoff titles, in reverse order, have been captured by this list of who’s who: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Johnson (again), McIlroy (again), Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Day (again).

There’s an excellent chance that the 10th in a row will be won by someone with a similar pedigree.

Entering the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship, there are more than a half-dozen players within shouting distance of the lead who qualify. That doesn’t even include Paul Casey, who’s been a consistent performer for years, or Marc Leishman, Grayson Murray and Adam Hadwin, each of whom has already won a PGA Tour event this year and would be a worthy champion come Monday afternoon.

Nothing against those players, but the rest of the leaderboard at TPC Boston is a veritable amplitude of greatness.

There’s Justin Thomas, in his second start since winning his first major, tied for the lead. There’s Spieth, two months removed from his third major, just 2 strokes back. World No. 1 Johnson is 3 back; so is No. 5 Jon Rahm. At 4 back, Phil Mickelson still qualifies for this list on name brand alone. And Fowler and Justin Rose are another stroke behind.

One week after Johnson defeated Spieth in a playoff at the first playoff event, even more star-power is on display here in the heart of New England, though it leaves us pondering one important question: Why?

“I imagine there’s more at stake and maybe that just plays a role, and so a little bit more experience in the bigger events or having a chance to win bigger events brings it up,” Spieth offered after a third-round 66. “I think just a little more sense of calm with certain players that allows them to free up.”

That’s one theory — and it certainly holds some weight.

The best players aren’t usually worried about what they need to do in order to advance to the next playoff event. They’ve usually already won at least once or twice during the regular season, so they’re not seeking an elusive victory, all of which, as Spieth said, frees them up.

But other explanations are equally valid.

“We treat these four events as a major,” said Thomas, who posted an 8-under 63 on Sunday. “We are trying to be peaking this time. We are trying to be peaking come Atlanta. We try to take time off before the majors; I took a week off before the playoffs to try to get my game ready to get rested and kind of get going. Obviously, the PGA changed that a little bit, but for good reason. I don’t know. I would just say that we all want to win, but it’s kind of like trying to win a golf tournament in four events. We want to win and I guess it’s happened to be that way.”

Then there’s the idea that, when the cream of the crop really needs a big week, whether it’s to salvage their season or move into that all-important top-five entering the Tour Championship, they all have the talent to make it happen.

“Sometimes not being in a good position, back is up against the wall and knowing they need to make something happen,” Fowler explained of this rationale. “I think in a lot of cases, when that happens, not every time, but guys that are the best players in the world find a way to just get the job done. Not necessarily winning, but just a good, solid week. Maybe a good performance; hey, you need to finish top-five this week, and just find a way to go do it … It’s no coincidence, I don’t think.”

It might be no coincidence on Monday, either, if the winner of this tournament is a player who resides in the current top-10 or owns a few major championships to his name.

These playoff events have brought out the best in the best players over the past few years. Based on the leaderboard, it’s happening once again this week.

SOURCE: ESPN

A look at the changes made to Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship

A professional golf tournament has not been played at Quail Hollow since James Hahn beat out Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson in the 2016 Wells Fargo Invitational in May. That’s because this year’s Wells Fargo Invitational was bumped to Eagle Point because of the upcoming PGA Championship at Quail.

Since that tournament, though, the golf course itself has undergone some serious renovations in front of hosting its first major championship. Let’s take a look at some of those with the year’s final major just two weeks away.

These changes to the course took place in a very condensed amount of time. As Hahn was finishing off his second PGA Tour win on the back nine of the course, the front nine was already undergoing treatment.

Few places in Charlotte are reimagined more frequently — and more privately — than the exclusive club on Gleneagles Road. This past May 8 (2016), as soon as the last group teed off on the final day of the Wells Fargo Championship, construction crews descended on the course and began a 12-week renovation process that would have taken five or six months on most other courses. But Superintendent Keith Wood didn’t have that kind of time. The club’s president, Johnny Harris, wanted to have the course open to members by the fall.

That led to one of the most remarkable renovations of a golf course in the country, involving three new holes, overhauled fairways, reshaped greens, and the addition of areas for grandstands and spectators — all in three months. “I don’t think I’ll ever come up with any project like this again in my career,” says Wood, a 20-year veteran in the industry.

Here are three other changes to the Quail Hollow track.

1. New Bermuda: A type of grass called Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass has been installed on the greens at Quail Hollow. It will be as pure as the driven snow, and it should erase all memories of that nightmare 2013 event at the course in which the bentgrass greens were as splotchy as any PGA Tour event in recent memory.

2. Thousands of trees removed: We will see a sparser Quail Hollow than when we last saw it in 2016. Many of these trees were removed to allow more sunlight to hit the greens, but some were removed to re-shape the golf course, according to the Charlotte Observer.

3. Four-ish new holes: The first and second holes were meshed into a single hole, a 540-yard par 4. The fifth hole was changed from a par 5 to a par 4. A new second hole was built, a par 3. The 11th was given extra bunkering. This is an oddity, for sure, but not much has changed in terms of the actual landscaping of the track.

Golfers will see a totally different front nine (and greens) than they have seen in past years at this course. Jimmy Walker thinks it could lead to higher scores because of thickened rough and a faster track.

Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, said he was a bit dubious about reformatting the course some 16 months before this year’s major, but Quail Hollow nailed it.

“They lay out all these plans on the table, and thank God we were sitting down; 16 months before the 99th PGA Championship (they) want to totally rebuild three holes and change the green on No. 11,” Haigh told reporters. “I’m not sure anywhere else we could have had that faith to make such significant changes to what is already a fantastic golf course.”

This may not make a material difference in who wins the golf tournament. Quail Hollow has produced some big boy winners in the past including McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Fowler, and given what we’ve seen in the last few years at major championships, that’s not likely to change in two weeks at the 99th PGA Championship.

SOURCE: CBS SPORTS

Jordan Spieth grabs Open lead; Matt Kuchar two shots back

SOUTHPORT, England — The flight of Jordan Spieth’s 3-wood from the light rough looked about as ugly as the weather at The Open. The outcome was about as bright as his chances of getting his name on another major championship trophy.

Spieth seized control Friday at Royal Birkdale with a shot that he hit a little off the neck of his 3-wood. It was low and hot, and ran fast along the rain-soaked turf until it skirted by a pot bunker and rambled onto the green to set up an 18-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th.

“I mishit the shot, which is probably why it looked so gross,” Spieth said. “I hit it low off the heel, which is easy to do when you’re trying to carve a cut. And it just … one hop, scooted around the group of bunkers there, and then it was obviously fortunate to get all the way to the green.”

Even in gusts that topped 30 mph and occasional downpours so strong that play was briefly stopped, Spieth managed a 1-under 69 to build a two-shot lead over Matt Kuchar going into the weekend.

Spieth was at 6-under 134. It was the 12th time he has been atop the leaderboard at a major, including the fourth rounds of the Masters and U.S. Open that he won in 2015. Spieth is the sole leader at a major for the first time since the third round of the Masters last year, when he was runner-up to Danny Willett.

“Anytime you’re in the last group on a weekend in a major … you get nervous. And I’ll be feeling it this weekend a bit,” Spieth said. “But I enjoy it. As long as I approach it positively and recognize that this is what you want to feel because you’re in the position you want to be in, then the easier it is to hit solid shots and to create solid rounds.”

Kuchar played in the morning in steadily strong wind, but without rain, and pieced together a solid round until a few mistakes at the end for a 71. He was at 4-under 136, and it would have been a good bet that he would be leading with the nasty weather that arrived.

“I think that’s what people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there,” Kuchar said. “Today is my day. I get to kick back in the afternoon and watch the guys just try to survive.”

He wound up watching another short-game clinic from Spieth.

The key to his round came in the middle, starting with a 10-foot par putt on No. 8 after he drove into a pot bunker. The biggest break came at No. 10, when the rain was pounding Royal Birkdale. Spieth hit into another pot bunker off the tee, could only advance it out sideways, and came up short of the green in light rough. He was looking at bogey or worse when he chipped in for par.

“Massive,” he said about the par. “Nothing said `4′ about this hole. I feel a little guilty about taking 4 on the card.”

And he wasn’t through just yet. Spieth rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt across the 11th green, and then after watching Henrik Stenson’s tee shot on the par-3 12th land softly, Spieth realized he could take on the flag. He hit 7-iron to 2 feet for another birdie, and followed that with a beautiful pitch to tap-in range for par on the 13th.

Even so, his work is far from over.

The chasing pack features U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who failed to make a birdie but stayed in the hunt with 16 pars in a 72, and Ian Poulter with his newfound confidence, which is growing even higher with the support of the English crowd. Poulter shot 70.

Not to be overlooked was Rory McIlroy, who recovered from a horrific start Thursday to salvage a 71, and then kept right on rolling. McIlroy, who was 5 over through the opening six holes of the tournament, ran off three birdies with full control of every shot on the front nine.

And much like Spieth, he kept his round together with crucial par saves when the wind was at its worse.

McIlroy posted a 68 and was at 1-under 139, only five shots behind with only five players in front of him.

“To be in after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I’m ecstatic with that,” McIlroy said.

Not everyone got off so easy.

Justin Thomas, who started the second round just two shots behind, drove into the gorse on the first hole and took double bogey. That wasn’t nearly as bad as the sixth hole, where he tried three times to hammer out of the thick native grass well right of the fairway. He couldn’t find the ball after the third one, and he wound up taking a quintuple-bogey 9. Thomas made another double bogey on the 13th hole and shot 80.

Charl Schwartzel was tied for the lead after four holes. And then his approach to No. 5 sailed over the green and led to double bogey, leading to a downfall so severe that the former Masters champion shot 78.

Spieth never looked as if he was under any stress, except for his tee shot into the bunker on No. 8. A British writer suggested a lip-reader could have detected some choice words coming out of his mouth. Spieth smiled and replied, “I speak American. You probably didn’t understand me.”

The language of his clubs was all too familiar. For the first time this year, he is making his normal share of putts — a lot — to go along with ball-striking that has been strong all season. And he established himself as the target for the weekend at Royal Birkdale.

SOURCE: ESPN

Rickie Fowler not getting ahead of himself after fast U.S. Open start

ERIN, Wis. — Here’s the problem with hype: It has an expiration date. At some point, it overstays its welcome, lingering in the air like month-old milk.

Perhaps no young golfer in recent years has been more hyped than Rickie Fowler. Consider it a combination of his sponsors’ initiative and his supporters’ loyalty. Since his early days on the PGA Tour, the orange-tinted frenzy around Fowler continued to peak until, well, it expired.

It’s not his fault. Not even close. Younger players with similar hype, notably Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, won major championships right away, emulating the early-career ascendancy of Tiger Woods.

Fowler has never won a major. Not yet, anyway. In 29 career major appearances, he still hasn’t raised any hardware above his head on a Sunday evening. He has come close, with five career top-5 finishes, including at all four majors three years ago. Unlike McIlroy and Spieth and other elite players, though, he has never experienced the mixed sense of delight and relief that comes with winning one.

And that’s perfectly all right.

Dustin Johnson, this week’s defending champion at the U.S. Open, didn’t claim a major until he was 32. Phil Mickelson was famously shut out until he was 33. Sergio Garcia didn’t get the monkey off his back until he was 37 at the Masters in April.

All of which explains why, after an opening-round 7-under-par 65 on Thursday, the 28-year-old Fowler wasn’t anxious or nervous about the prospect of going after the victory this weekend. In fact, he couldn’t have seemed calmer.

“The first thing is getting off to a good start Thursday, keeping that rolling and getting ourselves in contention Sunday,” he explained. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. But yeah, I’m ready to be out there. Having a win this year at Honda, being in contention at majors in the past, and having the Players win has definitely done a lot for me.”

Granted, this year’s edition of the U.S. Open, so far, appears easier than usual, but Fowler handled the first round like it was Tuesday morning at the local muni. He posted seven birdies, 11 pars and no bogeys in matching the lowest opening score in relation to par in modern-era tournament history.

His caddie, Joe Skovron, called it a “stress-free” day of golf, which previously would’ve sounded like a U.S. Open oxymoron.

“Just how you draw it up,” he said with a smile. “He just kind of dissected the golf course.”

Skovron has been alongside Fowler every step of the way, from a near miss at Royal Liverpool in 2014 in the Open Championship to another at Valhalla the next month to a torrid three-round start at this year’s Masters that ended in disappointment. He has seen the hype around his boss, but more importantly, understands the long-term view of the journey.

They both know that anyone in a rush to just win majors is probably focusing on the endgame more than the process.

“We still only have four PGA Tour wins,” Skovron continued. “We’re just trying to get wins at this point, you know? Obviously, he wants majors; that’s a big thing to him — he’s made that clear. I think it’s just a process to get there. You’ve got to be around these things and do it a bit. Some guys take longer. You look at how long it took Phil, and he still got five of them.

“Everybody is a little bit different. I think because we haven’t won 10, 12, 15 times, we’re still trying to get wins. It would be great to get a major in there while we’re trying to get them.”

Trying to focus on that process while everyone else keeps asking about the end result must be like driving the speed limit in the right lane on a highway while a procession of cars flash their bright lights behind you.

Now that Garcia has claimed a green jacket, Fowler is being hailed by some as the best player in the world without a major championship — golf’s version of the ultimate backhanded compliment.

He was asked after Thursday’s round whether he considers that more homage or burden. His answer was revealing.

“I take it as a compliment,” Fowler answered. “There are a lot of really good players out here that haven’t won a major. So it would be nice to get rid of that at some point. I’m not saying that this is the week or isn’t the week. But I like the way this golf course suits me, and we’re off to a good start.”

The hype surrounding Fowler has expired. He’s no longer the next big thing, no longer a young kid among the seasoned veterans.

What he understands, though, is that winning a major championship has no expiration date. He’d love for it to happen this week, but he knows — even after an opening 65 — there’s no race to the finish line.

“It’s cool, but it’s just the first round,” he said. “I’d rather be remembered for something that’s done on Sunday.”

SOURCE: ESPN

Jason Dufner erases 4-stroke deficit, wins at Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio — Jason Dufner never lost sight of the big picture even after losing a big lead. It paid off when he made a 30-foot par putt on the final hole that wrapped up his victory in the Memorial.

Dufner lost a five-shot lead Saturday. He started Sunday four shots behind. And then he kept his composure through two rain delays and closed with a 4-under 68 to get that handshake with host Jack Nicklaus.

Four players had at least a share of the lead in a final round in which seven players were in the hunt. Dufner saved his best golf for the back nine. Not only did he hit every green until the 18th, all but one of his birdie chances were from 12 feet or in.

SOURCE: ESPN

 

Summerhays takes advantage of Dufner collapse at Memorial

 

Dufner missed the second green to the left from the rough and made bogey. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the third, then hit into the right bunker on the par-3 4th and made another bogey. And then he three-putted the par-5 fifth for a fourth straight bogey.

Dufner was still tied for the lead when his wedge on the par-5 11th spun back down the green and into the water, leading to double bogey. It was a three-shot swing when Summerhays made birdie, and Dufner never caught up.

He had said his breathing exercises over putting didn’t mean he would always have good days, and this was a bad one. Dufner had a pair of three-putts, and he twice missed birdie putts from 6 feet. He capped off his day by pulling his tee shot into the water and making another bogey.

“The tournament is not over,” Dufner said. “It will be over tomorrow.”

“Today was pretty pathetic on all accounts, so have to play better tomorrow,” he said.

 At least he was still in the game, along with plenty of company.

Summerhays was at 13-under 203. Matt Kuchar, who won the Memorial four years ago, ran off three straight birdies on the back nine and shot a 67. That put him in the final group with Summerhays as Kuchar tries to end three years and 82 starts without a victory on the PGA Tour.

“I’m excited to have another chance here,” Kuchar said. “It looked like after 36 holes that none of us were going to have a chance at it.”

Bubba Watson overcame a heckler on the 18th hole with one last birdie for a 68. He was four shots behind along with Justin Thomas (69) and Dufner. Rickie Fowler (72) salvaged an up-and-down day and was five behind.

Watson turned and acknowledged the heckled after his birdie putt.

“Obviously, not a Bubba Watson fan,” he said. “It started about 50 yards short of the green. He kept going. I’m taking a guess, he wasn’t drinking water like I was all day. But it’s one of those things.”

This is a rare chance for Watson, the two-time Masters champion who hasn’t been a factor all year. He has gone 14 months without finishing in the top 10 at a PGA Tour event with a full field.

But even for Watson, it all started with Dufner’s bad day.

Dufner missed the second green to the left from the rough and made bogey. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the third, then hit into the right bunker on the par-3 4th and made another bogey. And then he three-putted the par-5 fifth for a fourth straight bogey.

Dufner was still tied for the lead when his wedge on the par-5 11th spun back down the green and into the water, leading to double bogey. It was a three-shot swing when Summerhays made birdie, and Dufner never caught up.

He had said his breathing exercises over putting didn’t mean he would always have good days, and this was a bad one. Dufner had a pair of three-putts, and he twice missed birdie putts from 6 feet. He capped off his day by pulling his tee shot into the water and making another bogey.

“The tournament is not over,” Dufner said. “It will be over tomorrow.”

Summerhays wasn’t thinking about cutting into the lead when he started. He wasn’t thinking much about anything except the shot at hand, and he kept hitting good ones in the midst of Dufner’s streak of bogeys.

“A train wreck can happen at any moment,” Summerhays said. “And that’s why it’s such a great golf course because it does test everything. Legitimately from the first hole to the 18th hole, there’s a double bogey somewhere in there.”

Jordan Spieth knows the feeling. He was right in the mix until catching a downhill like in the bunker left of the par-3 eighth. He tried to play a perfect shot and barely got it out, then chipped down to 5 feet and missed the putt, making double bogey. Spieth started the back nine with two straight birdies only to follow with two straight bogeys. It added to a 71, and he was six shots behind.

The biggest surprise this week at Muirfield Village has been the weather — sunshine for three straight days, which has made the course fast and opened up more possibilities of little mistakes turning into big numbers.

Storms have been in the forecast for Sunday, though not early enough for the PGA Tour to move up the tee times. Another dry day, and anything can happen.

The last three winners of the Memorial had never won on the PGA Tour, and Summerhays fits that mold. The 33-year-old from Utah is in his seventh year.

“I really don’t have any goals tomorrow besides give all my efforts into each shot,” Summerhays said. “And I feel like I did that today.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SOURCE: AP