September 12, 2016
Powerful off the tee and relentless with the putter, Dustin Johnson didn’t give anyone much of a chance Sunday by closing with a 5-under 67 to win the BMW Championship by three shots and move to the top of the FedEx Cup.
Johnson won for the third time in his last eight tournaments dating to his first major at the U.S. Open, and this might have been his most complete performance.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in every part of my game,” Johnson said.
Paul Casey did just about everything he could, including two early birdies for two-shot swings that erased a four-shot deficit in two holes. Johnson answered with a pair of birdies and he was on his way. Casey made a 25-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole to get within one shot, but that lasted only as long as it took Johnson to make an 18-foot eagle putt on top of him to keep the margin at three shots.
Casey was runner-up in his second straight FedEx Cup playoff event, losing to Rory McIlroy a week ago. His consolation, along with $1,836,000 in those weeks, was the No. 5 seed at the Tour Championship in two weeks. That means he only has to win at East Lake to capture the $10 million bonus.
Rickie Fowler won’t have any chance at all.
Fowler, who started the week at No. 22 in the FedEx Cup, closed with a 71 and finished 59th at Crooked Stick. He was bumped out of the top 10 by the smallest margin in the 10-year history of the FedEx Cup - 0.57 points behind Charl Schwartzel, who closed with a 64.
The timing is particularly bad for Fowler because Davis Love III makes three of his captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup on Monday, with another one right after the Tour Championship. Fowler won’t have another chance to audition, though he might get picked on Monday, anyway.
Asked if he had done enough to be picked, Fowler said, “I would like to think so.”
“I’ve done basically everything I can do as far as schedule and playing,” said Fowler, who left the Olympics to play the following week on the PGA Tour. “It would have been nice to play better to make the pick a lot easier on him. But whether he has his mind made up or is still thinking, that’s up to him.”
Fowler’s hopes came down to J.B. Holmes in a finish that had nothing to do with the trophy. Fowler would have made it to the Tour Championship if Holmes made either a birdie or a bogey. Holmes would have been eliminated with a bogey.
He drilled it down the middle of the fairway, hit the green, lagged a 40-foot putt to 4 feet and made it for par for a 74.
“I envisioned it being a little bit better than that going into the day, but that’s how it is,” Holmes said. “You don’t always have your best game, and I was able to finish it off and get in the Tour Championship.
Holmes tied for fourth, key for him because the big hitter from Kentucky also needs a captain’s pick to play in the Ryder Cup. Holmes finished at No. 10 in the Ryder Cup standings, one spot ahead of Fowler.
’‘I feel like I played well enough to get that shot,” Holmes said. “We’ll see.”
Roberto Castro holed out for eagle from the seventh fairway on his way to a 67 to finish alone in third, sending the Georgia Tech grad and Atlanta resident home to play in the Tour Championship for the second time.
All this activity was far more compelling than the actual tournament, for Johnson never looked as though he was going to lose - no matter how well Casey played. Johnson already has introduced a fade to his powerful driving. He dialed in his wedges earlier this year, and is now among the best. And he changed to a different putter this week to help him start the ball on line, and it worked magnificently.
Johnson is regarded as golf’s greatest athlete, and to see every part of his game in order is a daunting sight. He played the par 5s in 15 under for the week.
Matt Kuchar closed with a 71 and tied for fourth, along with Ryan Palmer (70), Adam Scott (71), Schwartzel and Holmes. Palmer had a chance to get into the top 30 except for missing a 12-foot par putt on the 16th hole and a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
Fowler wasn’t the only player to drop out of the top 30. Sergio Garcia shot 73 and dropped from No. 25 to No. 32. Henrik Stenson also fell out of the top 30. He was at No. 24 and chose not to play this week to rest his knee for the Ryder Cup.
September 11, 2016
Dustin Johnson plays a different game than anyone else, and he wanted to keep it that way.
Right down to his putter.
The U.S. Open champion made a late change just before starting the BMW Championship, and so far he has no complaints. Johnson finished with four birdies over the last five holes Saturday on soggy Crooked Stick for a 4-under 68, stretching his lead to three shots going into the final round.
He is smashing his driver long and straight, just like always. He is hitting wedges good enough for multiple birdie chances.
And now the putts are going in.
''The strength this week has been putting,'' Johnson said. ''I'm rolling it really nicely. Even the putts that I'm missing still look like they're going in.''
He was particular about the change, though.
Johnson decided to switch to the TaylorMade Spider. But right before he teed off in the opening round, he was bothered by one aspect of his new weapon. It was red, just like the model world No. 1 Jason Day uses. He recalled that his brother and caddie, Austin, had a similar model.
''I was putting good with it and right before we were about to tee off on Thursday, I'm like, 'AJ, don't you have the same one in black?' And he says, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'Go get it.' I just didn't want to use the same putter Jason was - like, the exact same one. That was really the only reason I changed.''
Eighteen birdies and one eagle putt later, Johnson was at 18-under 198 and closing in on his third victory of the year.
Paul Casey did his best to stay with him. Casey, coming off a runner-up finish on Labor Day at the TPC Boston, matched two of Johnson's birdies during his late run until he had to scramble for pars on the last two holes. He still managed a bogey-free 68 and will be in the final group Sunday.
''We had a front row seat for something very special, and I'll get a front row seat for it tomorrow,'' Casey said.
Casey missed five fairways, his most this week in any round, yet still managed to keep bogeys off his card with smart shots out of the wet rough and solid putting. And he still matched Johnson's score, even though he didn't make up any ground.
''Not much you can do,'' Casey said. ''He's got maybe the best attitude in golf. When he gets on his game, maybe the best ball-striker in golf. Maybe the longest. And he showed it today. So, if he keeps doing what he's been doing - what he averaging, 6 under a day? - if does the same tomorrow, there's no catching him.''
Johnson will be going for his third victory of the year, which would move him to the top of the FedEx Cup going into the finale at the Tour Championship in two weeks and make him a heavy favorite to win PGA Tour player of the year and the Vardon Trophy.
Still in the mix was J.B. Holmes, who shot a 68 and was four shots behind. Holmes at least is making a compelling case to be a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup when Davis Love III announces three of his selections on Monday. Holmes finished 10th in the U.S. standings.
Roberto Castro, who began the third round tied for the lead, didn't make a birdie in his round of 74 and fell six shots behind. Worst yet, the Georgia Tech alum who lives in Atlanta hurt his chances of moving into the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship.
Barring a collapse by Johnson - it has happened before - his big finish after a rain delay earlier Saturday eliminated several players. Adam Scott finally got some putts to drop and with birdies on the last two holes, he shot a 67 and joined Matt Kuchar (68) at 11-under 205.
But they finished before Johnson was done making birdies, and both were seven shots behind.
''I'm certainly a long shot. I'm a long way back of the leaders and some great names on the leaderboard,'' Kuchar said. ''But I got a chance, and golf on Sunday in fun when you have a chance.''
Jordan Spieth had such a poor day putting that the distance of his total putts added to 30 feet, 6 inches. Spieth routinely makes one putt from that distance in a round. He was helped by two chip-ins, one for birdie and one for eagle , but closing with two straight bogeys gave him a 68. He was 10 shots behind, and his attention turned to a strong finish with hopes of getting one of the top five seeds at East Lake in the Tour Championship.
Anyone in the top five only has to win the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.
Other Ryder Cup hopefuls didn't shine. Bubba Watson had to settle for a 72, while Rickie Fowler shot 71 and was tied for 59th.
September 10, 2016
Reigning US Open champion Dustin Johnson fired a nine-under-par 63 to match US compatriot Roberto Castro for the lead after the second round of the US PGA Tour BMW Championship.
Johnson on Friday set a course record at the 7,516-yard Crooked Stick layout in Indianapolis, Indiana to stand on 14-under 130 after 36 holes in the penultimate event of the season-ending US PGA playoffs.
"I putted well," Johnson said. "Any time you shoot that good a score, you putt really well and did I. Drove it good, hit a lot of good iron shots, but I really rolled the putter nicely."
Castro, of Peruvian and Costa Rican heritage, fired his second consecutive 65 to share the lead as he bids for his first tour triumph.
"It was a good start," Castro said. "There are still a lot of holes but it's a good way to get into the weekend."
England's Paul Casey was third on 133, one stroke ahead of Americans J.B. Holmes and Chris Kirk, with another three strokes back to sixth-placed rivals Sergio Garcia of Spain and Americans Matt Kuchar, Kevin Na and Ryan Palmer.
Johnson started his historic round with an eight-foot birdie at the first hole and dropped a 10-foot birdie putt at the third, then added a 45-yard eagle chip-in from a greenside bunker at the par-5 ninth to signal a charge.
A tap-in birdie at the par-5 11th was followed by a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-3 13th, a 31-foot birdie putt at the 14th and he rolled in a 25-footer to eagle the par-5 15th.
Johnson, who has found success after making a putter switch on the eve of the event, seeks his 12th PGA crown.
"I really didn't make the decision until right before the first round," Johnson said. "I practiced with it a little bit. I just felt like I have been putting it pretty well, but I was just struggling to get my putter on the line that I was seeing and so I just grabbed one of these putters and started rolling it and Itsy Bitsy Spider -- it's a smaller Spider, the same one Jason Day uses.
"I played with him the last two weeks and saw him make enough putts and I was like, well, I got to try one at least. So I put it in play and been rolling it pretty good."
The son-in-law of ice hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, Johnson won the BMW in 2010 when it was played at Cog Hill near Chicago.
Castro, who lost to compatriot James Hahn in a playoff at Quail Hollow last May and placed second to American Bill Haas at the 2013 National, opened with a six-foot birdie and ran off three birdies in a row starting with a 30-footer at the par-4 third and ending with a 30-footer at the par-3 sixth.
"I was glad to have those early in the round," Castro said.
In a bogey-free round, Castro made three-foot birdie putts at the ninth and 13th and a tap-in birdie at 15 to claim his share of the lead.
Casey had six birdies in a bogey-free round but still ended up a distant third, three strokes adrift, as one of the players who had to finish his first round Friday morning before playing his full second round as well after storm delays disrupted play Thursday.
"It has been a long day. I'm not as young as I used to be," Casey said. "Trying to conserve energy. Really happy with the way I did that."
As for how to challenge on the weekend, Casey said, "I've got no idea. Get some sleep first. No problem with what I've done so far."
Saturday's third round will begin in the morning with threesomes off the first and 10th tees in hopes of completing play before more storms in the weekend forecast.
The top 30 finishers in the season points race after this event will qualify for the Tour Championship at Atlanta, where the points winner will capture a $10 million bonus prize.
The top five in points can simply win the 30-man event for the bonus payoff. Entering the weekend, those five were Johnson, Australia's Adam Scott, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, American Patrick Reed and world number one Jason Day of Australia.
McIlroy, Day and Reed were in a pack on 140.
September 9, 2016
Roberto Castro wants nothing more than to go home to Atlanta, and he took a soggy step in the right direction Thursday in the BMW Championship.
Castro was just as good before the rain as he was after the storms cleared at Crooked Strick, running off eight birdies until a bogey on his last hole for a 7-under 65 and the temporary lead.
Storms and heavy rain caused a 3 1/2-hour delay and changed the nature of Crooked Stick from fast and firm to greens that were soft and accessible. The delay meant that just under half the 69-man field finished the round.
The first round was to resume at 8 a.m. Friday, with more bad weather in the forecast.
Brian Harman got right back into gear. He was in position to potentially lock up his spot in the Tour Championship until closing with a 77 from the final group at the TPC Boston on Monday. He opened with a 66, with an eagle on the par-5 15th hole and no bogeys on his card.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson was within one shot of the lead until he sent his drive into the lake to the right of the 18th fairway and made bogey, giving him a 67 along with Jason Dufner.
Among those still on the course, Chris Kirk was at 5 under at the turn, while Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey and Adam Scott were at 4 under on the back nine. Casey had the 54-hole lead last week at the TPC Boston.
Castro went to Georgia Tech and still lives in Atlanta, about 15 minutes from East Lake. That's the destination for everyone in the field trying to get into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup and advance to the Tour Championship for a shot at the $10 million bonus.
Castro, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, made it to the Tour Championship in 2013 with a pair of top 10s in the playoffs.
''I told myself the last two weeks really to play like I had nothing to lose, and to make a bunch of birdies is a good way to start,'' Castro said. ''Sure, it's a hometown tournament for me. It's the hardest one to get to, unfortunately, but it's still a great tournament. I would love to be back.''
Castro had three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine, including a chip-in on the 14th hole.
He is at No. 53 in the FedEx Cup and likely would need to finish fourth at Crooked Stick to have a chance.
The BMW Championship is back at Crooked Stick for the first time since 2012, when Rory McIlroy won on a rain-softened course. This time, it was blazing hot during the pro-am Wednesday and players had a look at how tough it could play - at least until the rain.
Jason Day played a wedge out of the rough on the second hole, landed it some 30 feet short of the pin and watched it race across the green and into thick rough. After the delay, it was an entirely different golf course. Patrick Reed, who is leading the FedEx Cup, hit a short iron out of dense rough that plopped down 12 feet from the cup.
The course could be attacked, and that's what the players did.
McIlroy, coming off a victory at the TPC Boston, was at 3 under through 10 holes. Jordan Spieth was at 2 under, both birdies on par 5s on the front nine.
But it was another struggle for Rickie Fowler, bidding for a Ryder Cup captain's pick. After squandering a chance to make the U.S. team at The Barclays, Fowler was in the middle of the pack at the Deutsche Bank Championship and opened the BMW Championship with a 75.
Bubba Watson, also hopeful of a pick, was 1 under through 13 holes. He followed three straight birdies with three straight bogeys on the front nine.
Day, meanwhile, is set for the Tour Championship and assured of being in the top five in the FedEx Cup, meaning he would only have to win at East Lake to claim the cup and its lucrative bonus. The Australian looked out of sorts after the rain delay, however, missing fairways, missing greens and missing putts. The frustration mounted on the 16th green when he flipped his ball into the water after his third bogey on the back nine.
Day's biggest putt came on the next hole, however, a birdie from 25 feet that he struck before Reed could even mark his ball. It stopped his slide, sure. But it allowed him to head over to the 18th tee and hit his shot to make sure that his group finished before the horn sounded to stop play.
|T20||KOR||Si Woo Kim||-7||-||71||68||71||71||281|
|T42||USA||Billy Hurley III||-3||-||70||72||72||71||285|
|T47||USA||Charles Howell III||-2||-||69||72||78||67||286|