ST. LOUIS: Rickie Fowler, seeking his first major title despite eight top-five major finishes, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry charged into contention Saturday at the PGA Championship while Tiger Woods lurked six adrift.
With Gary Woodland setting the pace on 10-under par 130 for 36 holes, one ahead of fellow American Kevin Kisner, ninth-ranked Fowler completed a three-under-par 67 to share third with US Open champion Brooks Koepka on 132.
Lowry, who hasn’t had a top-10 finish this year, shot 64 to share fifth as a storm-interrupted second round resumed in the year’s final major tournament at rain-soaked Bellerive Country Club.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Fowler said. “If you miss a fairway the rough is thicker with the rain. The golf ball being wet makes it a little tougher to control.
“It can be dicey at times but nice that we navigated our way around and ready for the weekend. It’s going to be a long day.”
Woods, a 14-time major winner in the eighth month of his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, finished a round of 66 to stand on 136, boosted by a quick birdie at the par-5 eighth.
“It was a nice way to start the morning,” Woods said.
The 42-year-old American sandwiched five-foot par putt misses for bogeys at the 10th and 12th holes around a birdie from half that distance at the 11th. He later made a tap-in birdie at the par-5 17th and a five-footer to par the 18th.
“I missed two short ones that I’ve been making. That kind of stemmed the momentum a little bit,” Woods said.
“Hopefully I can go shoot a low one. It’s going to take that. I just have to make birdies.”
A relevant piece published earlier:
Leader Gary Woodland and many of his closest pursuers were set to tee off early as today’s second round of the 100th PGA Championship began while Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy make afternoon starts.
Woodland, who has never finished better than 12th in 27 major starts, fired a six-under-par 64 Thursday to seize a one-stroke lead over fellow American Rickie Fowler at Bellerive Country Club.
“I’ve started to feel pretty comfortable this week and it was nice to see results,” 44th-ranked Woodland said.
“I’ve been hitting the ball very well. Now when I get out of position I have the short game to give myself a chance. And to see putts go in was very, very cool.”
Woodland sank a career-high 153 feet of putts in round one and begins round two in the seventh group off the 10th tee with Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, and Kevin Kisner, among a pack of 11 golfers sharing fifth on 67.
Two-time major winner Zach Johnson and South African Brandon Stone, who share third on 66, will be in hot pursuit quickly. Stone was in the first group to begin on the back nine while Johnson is two groups behind Woodland.
World number one Dustin Johnson, Britain’s Justin Rose and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters are also early starters in the pack on 67.
Woods, a 14-time major champion in his comeback season after spinal fusion surgery, drew the largest crowds in a supergroup with McIlroy and second-ranked defending champion Justin Thomas. But Woods and McIlroy ground out par 70s to share 48th place with Thomas little better on 69.
“Just hung in there. I was able to grind out a score,” Woods said. “It kept me in the golf tournament.”
They figure to command attention again as the fifth-to-last group off the first tee but moving their way up the leaderboard will be the bigger challenge on greens that were iffy even before absorbing two days of tournament punishment.
“They’re bumpy, for sure,” Woods said. “The shorter putts are a little more interesting because they’re a little chewed up.”
World number nine Fowler, this year’s Masters runner-up, has eight top-five major finishes without a victory but matched the low major round of his career with a 65.
He starts in the fifth-afternoon group off the first tee with Britain’s Ian Poulter, in the group on 67, and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, another shot back.
“It was fun to feed off each other,” Fowler said of his trio’s success. “Hopefully we can do that again.” Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, ranked eighth, can complete a Career Grand Slam with a victory this week. But the 25-year-old American opened with a double bogey and shot 71 Thursday to share 62nd.
Relevant piece: American Gary Woodland, who has never cracked the top-10 in 27 major starts, fired a six-under-par 64 Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler late in the opening round of the 100th PGA Championship.
On a day when Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy ground out level par, unlikely Woodland – who snapped a five-year PGA win drought by winning in February at Phoenix – unleashed the best-putting round of his career at Bellerive Country Club.
“When I see putts go in, that just gets me going,” Woodland said. “It’s really starting to click. I thought I was putting well. It was nice to see them go in.”
World number 44 Woodland, whose best major finishes have been shares of 12th at the 2011 PGA and 2016 British Open, sank seven birdie putts in 10 holes to pass Fowler, who matched the best major round of his career with a 65.
Ninth-ranked Fowler, twice a top-five finisher in every major, is without a win to show for it, having finished second at the Masters in April.
“I always have hope. It’s not something I necessarily worry about,” Fowler said. “Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention. We’ll just keep beating down that door.”
Woodland, 34, opened with a bogey but closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies then sank a 44-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th and added 23-foot birdie putts at 12 and the par-3 16th.
At the par-5 17th, Woodland dropped his approach three feet from the cup and tapped in for a birdie to seize the lead, then closed with a par.
“It was nice to get the jitters over early,” Woodland said. “I really settled in. I played great all day.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion making a comeback after spinal fusion surgery, battled back all day to overcome a bogey-double bogey start.
“It kept me in the golf tournament,” Woods said. “I could have easily gone the other way, but I hung in there and turned it around.”
The 42-year-old American battled back with birdie putts from four feet at 18, nine feet at the first and eight feet at the par-5 eighth.
“Just hung in there. I was trying to chip away at it, pick away at it,” Woods said. “I was able to grind out a score today.”
Four-time major champion McIlroy found a bunker at 10 and made bogey, then sank birdie putts at 11 13, but made bogey at 18 and parred in from there.
“It wasn’t that easy out there,” said McIlroy. “I gave myself a few chances. I finished off with nine pars. It could have been a little better.”
Fowler, a back-nine starter, found 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. He birdied 14 but landed in a bunker at the par-3 16th and made bogey, then bounced back with a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 17th, a 14-footer at the first and six-footer at the third.
Fowler followed with a 31-foot birdie putt at the par-4 seventh hole and blasted from a bunker to eight feet to birdie the par-5 eighth.
“I’m definitely happy about the start and we’ll see if we can keep that rolling,” Fowler said. “I kept it very stress-free. Just play within me.”
South African Brandon Stone, who won July’s Scottish Open, shot 66 to share third with US two-time major winner Zach Johnson.
“The game felt really good,” Stone said. “Just tried to stay calm and I made a few great putts.”
Johnson saved par at 17 from a bunker and dropped his 155-yard approach two feet from the cup to set up a closing birdie.
“That was big at 17 and then I had the right distance at 18,” Johnson said.
Among those in a pack on 67 was Britain’s Ian Poulter, who birdied three of his first six holes in quest of his first major title.
“I got off to a flying start,” Poulter said. “It was a good day. I feel pretty comfortable.”
Also on 67 was Australian Jason Day, the 2015 PGA winner who birdied two of the last three holes.
“I’m very happy with how things progressed out there,” Day said. “It’s always nice to get around in like this, start your week knowing that you’re in the right direction.” (Published on 11th August 2018).
Golf: Masters’ Final Round begins
AUGUSTA (USA): Tiger Woods teed off in today’s final round of the Masters chasing his 15th major title, trying to capture his fifth green jacket to end an 11-year major drought.
The 43-year-old American superstar, back on form after 2017 spinal fusion surgery following years of nagging back pain, played alongside compatriot Tony Finau and Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the last group at Augusta National Golf Club.
Reigning British Open champion Molinari seized the 54-hole lead on 13-under par 203 with Woods and Finau two strokes behind.
Brooks Koepka, last year’s US Open, and PGA Championship winner, began three adrift with fellow American Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open, and England’s Ian Poulter four off the pace.
“It’s golf, so the favorite is probably the golf course out there waiting for us,” Molinari said.
“We’re all very close. It’s nice to be a little bit ahead, but you might just need one hole to change. You never know how it’s going to go, especially around a course like here.”
Augusta National advanced the final round to Sunday morning in a safety move with thunderstorms expected to arrive Sunday afternoon, when leaders would typically be battling for the Masters crown.
The storms, with hail and high winds producing tornadoes, led to three deaths and severe damage in moving across the southeastern United States.
The Masters, which has not had a Monday conclusion since 1983, decided to cancel its green jacket ceremony after the finish in order to hurry spectators to the exits faster due to the approaching storm.
Racing nature’s fury to finish on the weekend added more tension to the unfolding Masters’ drama, which centered on Woods and his chance to win his first major title since the 2008 US Open on the same course where he won his first-ever major in 1997.
“At 23, I had a lot more years in front of me,” Woods said. “At 43 I don’t. It’s just reality.”
Woods, who could move nearer Jack Nicklaus’s the all-time major win record of 18, contended last year at the British Open and PGA before snapping a five-year win drought by capturing the Tour Championship, his 80th career US PGA title leaving him two shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record.
Electrifying shotmaking this week at Augusta National cheered on by supportive crowds anxious to witness history, has Woods on the verge of a fairytale conclusion to a fightback from back pain so crippling he was unable to play with his children.
Woods has never fired so low in a Masters and not won the title but he has also never won a major title when not leading after 54 holes.
Plenty of rivals were in place to deny Woods his long-sought next major trophy.
Molinari, whose first Masters appearance was as a caddie to older brother Edoardo in 2006, outfought Woods last year at Carnoustie to win his first major title. The Italian then went 5-0 in a heroic Ryder Cup turn in France over an American team on which Woods went 0-5.
“The key for me is really going to go out and just do my thing. Staying aggressive,” Molinari said. “Hit the shots. Hit the middle of the clubface as often as I can and make smart decisions, and we’ll just take it from there.”
Finau, the US PGA’s first player of Tongan and Samoan heritage, leads the week in driving distance with 318.8 yards.
“I’m driving the ball nicely,” Finau said. “And on this golf course, I can attack the golf course if I’m hitting my driver well.”
Lurking as well is Koepka, who seeks his third victory in the past four majors — a success rate seen only by Ben Hogan’s three in a row in 1953 and the “Tiger Slam” four in a row by Woods in 2000-01.
“I’m pretty comfortable being up there on the leaderboard in a major come Sunday,” Koepka said. “I feel good and I like my chances.”
Golf: Kupcho gives women Masterful magic!
AUGUSTA (USA): Forget such magical Augusta National moments as the Tiger Woods miracle putt, Phil Mickelson off the pine straw or Bubba Watson from deep in the trees to win the Masters.
For a generation of young women golfers who never before had an idol to emulate, it’s going to be about Jennifer Kupcho’s epic eagle in Amen Corner to win Saturday’s inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“That’s one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Kupcho said of her approach at the par-5 13th to set up the only eagle of the tournament.
“I knew I needed to make a big move. I never thought about laying up. That’s pretty cool to be the only person who did that.” The 21-year-old world women’s amateur number one went five-under on the last six holes in a five-under-par 67 final round to win by four strokes over Mexico’s Maria Fassi.
“This tournament shows how good we are and what younger girls have to look forward to,” Kupcho said. “To start a movement where we’re going to start getting followed, I think that’s a big moment.”
Kupcho, the reigning US college champion, won the historic first title for women at once all-male Augusta National, which didn’t have women members from its 1933 founding until 2012.
Crowds enjoyed a final-pair duel for the title that went down to the last of 54 holes, the first two rounds having been played at nearby Champions Retreat before the closer at Augusta.
“It probably won’t set in for a little while,” Kupcho said. “There were just so many people. Just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with all of those fans, it was an experience unlike any other.”
Two shots down with six holes to play, Kupcho hit an impressive approach at the par-5 13th hole to six feet and sank a tense eagle putt to equalize, then birdied the par-5 15th, par-3 16th, and par-4 18th to seal the milestone victory.
“To do it on this big a stage is probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever been able to do,” she said. “It was quite a day. It’s an amazing feeling.”
She and Fassi will now have greater attention when they make their LPGA debuts. “I know we’re going to have a great time out there next year in the LPGA,” Kupcho said. “That’s something everyone is going to look forward to watching.”
Golf: Top-ranked Kupcho pleased with practice
AUGUSTA: Top-ranked leader Jennifer Kupcho was pleased with her practice Friday ahead of the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at the famed home course of the Masters.
Kupcho stood on 5-under par 139 with a one-stroke lead over Mexico’s Maria Fassi after 36 holes at nearby Champions Retreat with Americans Kaitlyn Papp and Sierra Brooks and Thailand’s Pimnipa Panthong another stroke adrift.
All 72 competitors enjoyed a practice round Friday at Augusta National but only the top 30 advanced to compete over 18 holes, women battling for a trophy at the iconic course for the first time.
Kupcho and Fassi will tee off in the last group at 10:20 a.m. while Americans Anna Redding and Allisen Corpuz tee off in the first pairing at 8 a.m. Saturday after ceremonial first-tee shots by former LPGA stars Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and Nancy Lopez.
Kupcho worked Friday with caddie Brian Murphy, her bagman when she toured the course in 2017 with her Wake Forest University team and again in the final round.
“It was just a lot of fun to see the course again,” Kupcho said. “I played really well and was hitting the ball well. So I think I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Fassi, a University of Arkansas senior, reached the green in two shots on all four of Augusta National’s par-5 holes on Friday.
“It was unreal,” Fassi said. “It’s really hard to describe how amazing everything was out there. I was excited on every single shot I hit and just hitting those putts and seeing how much they break.”
Her college coach, Jose Maria Sanchez, will be her caddie today. “It is going to be a battle out there, not only between me and Jennifer but like two or three groups behind us as well,” Fassi said.