September 5, 2017
The victories keep piling up for Justin Thomas, and all that does is make him want more.
In a Labor Day finish that was harder than the final margin suggested, Thomas kept his patience when Jordan Spieth shot out to a brief lead and Marc Leishman built a two-shot lead at the turn. Keeping his mistakes to a minimum, Thomas outlasted them both by closing with a 5-under 66 for a three-shot victory in the Dell Technologies Championship.
He started the PGA Tour season at No. 34 in the world with all of one PGA Tour victory.
Thomas won for the fifth time Monday, including his first major three weeks ago at the PGA Championship. He is No. 4 in the world. And barring Spieth running the tables the rest of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the 24-year-old Thomas would seem to be a lock to be voted PGA Tour player of the year.
''I have two events left. I have two more opportunities to win,'' Thomas said. ''And I'd love to make it six or seven wins.''
Thomas made only two bogeys all week, the last one putting him in a three-way tie with seven holes to play. He won on the back nine at TPC Boston with a sand wedge he gouged out of the rough to 6 feet on No. 13, a gap wedge to 4 feet on No. 15 for another birdie, and a 6-foot par save that kept him two shots clear.
Spieth wasted a start that riled up the New England crowd - birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie - by missing the 14th green with a 5-iron for bogey. Needing an eagle to stay in the game on the par-5 18th, Spieth pushed a 4-iron into a tough lie in the bunker, blasted over the green and made bogey for a 67.
Spieth was runner-up for the second straight week in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He lost a three-shot lead to Dustin Johnson on Long Island. There wasn't much he could have done to stop Thomas, his best friend in golf since they were teenagers.
''Came out firing, like I said we had to do,'' Spieth said. ''Eight through 14 is the meat of the golf course. You want to get through even. I got through over par and didn't get any coming in when I hit some good putts.''
Spieth still moved to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup with one more event before the $10 million prize is decided at the Tour Championship.
Leishman shot 30 on the front to build a two-shot lead, only for it to vanish quickly. He had to save bogey on No. 10 after an errant drive. He three-putted from long range for bogey on the 11th. He found a bunker on the 12th for a third straight bogey. And then he closed with two bogeys that only cost him money. Leishman shot 70.
Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world coming off his fourth victory of the season last week, started the final round three shots behind and was one of the few players who was never in contention. He took two to get out of a fairway bunker and made bogey on the par-5 second hole, and he closed with a 73 to finish 10 behind.
Spieth was simply dynamic at the start. He didn't need to make a putt longer than 12 feet to go 5 under for the opening four holes and briefly take the lead. Leishman, who won at Bay Hill in March, kept stride with six birdies on the front nine to match Spieth's 30 and move in front.
Thomas did his part to stay in the game.
He could hear the crowd celebrating Spieth's short birdie on the fourth hole, and then Thomas belted a low slider of a drive that barely cleared the deep bunker, hit into the shaggy collar and hopped onto the fringe. He holed that 30-footer for an eagle, and the race was on.
Phil Mickelson birdied three of his opening four holes. He couldn't keep pace. Neither could Jon Rahm or Paul Casey.
The final round was so tight that Thomas, Spieth and Leishman were tied for the lead with seven holes to play. But then it all changed when Spieth missed the green at No. 14, did well to hit a flop shot to 15 feet and narrowly missed his par putt.
Thomas steadied himself after his lone bogey on the par-3 11th. Equipped with a one-shot lead because of Spieth's bogey, Thomas hit a sand wedge to 4 feet on the 15th for a birdie and a two-shot lead. Equally important was his pitch out of deep rough to the right of the 16th to a green that ran away from him. He managed to hit it 6 feet and twice clutched his fist when it dropped for par.
Spieth grazed the edge of the cup with a 10-foot birdie attempt on the 17th, and then lost all hope with his approach into the bunker.
It was the first time Spieth has finished runner-up to Thomas, his best friend in golf since they were teenagers.
Kevin Chappell bogeyed his last hole and still managed to nudge Charley Hoffman by a fraction of a point to earn the 10th and final automatic spot on the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup.
Stewart Cink closed with a 68 to finish 12th, more than enough for him to advance to the third FedEx Cup playoff event outside Chicago for the first time in seven years. Emiliano Grillo and Rafa Cabrera Bello also moved into the top 70 to advance to the BMW Championship in two weeks.
September 4, 2017
The best players are on top of their games for the second straight week of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Now there's just a lot more of them.
Justin Thomas failed to birdie any of the par 5s on the TPC Boston and still turned in a tournament-best round of 8-under 63 on Sunday, giving him a share of the lead with Marc Leishman and setting up a Labor Day finish filled with some of the biggest names in golf at the Dell Technologies Championship.
One week after Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth produced a compelling duel on Long Island, they are part of a chasing pack at the TPC Boston.
So is Paul Casey, who now is 53-under par over his last 15 rounds of these playoff events. Jon Rahm couldn't keep pace and lost his two-shot lead, though the 22-year-old from Spain remained just three shots behind.
Throw in Phil Mickelson, perhaps even Rickie Fowler, and a forecast that shifts from rain to sunshine, and it could be quite a show.
Thomas and Leishman were at 12-under 201, one shot ahead of Casey, two ahead of Spieth, three ahead of Johnson and Rahm.
''There is a heightened something to these playoff events that bring out certain champions for the most part,'' Spieth said after finishing with two straight birdies to nudge closer to the lead. ''It's going to be a throw-down tomorrow.''
Thomas had his third round this season at 63 or better - a list that includes his 59 at the Sony Open and a 63 at the U.S. Open - to turn a five-shot deficit into a share of the lead and a chance to win for the fifth time this year.
He birdied six of the first 10 holes, the longest at about 12 feet. He played down the 13th fairway on the redesigned 12th hole for the third time this week and holed a 50-foot birdie putt, and then added a pair of 25-foot birdie putts.
And he didn't even birdie any of the par 5s.
''I just felt I had total control of my game,'' Thomas said. ''But it's crazy to think I did that and parred all the par 5s. That's a little bit of a bummer, if I could somehow have a downside to the day. But like I said, I'm extremely pleased and put myself in a great position to win the tournament.''
Casey played in the final group at the TPC Boston last year, but Rory McIlroy ran him down with a 65 to overcome a six-shot deficit. Casey also played the three par 5s without a birdie, missing a 12-footer on the final hole that would have given him a share of the lead.
''Even though I'm not leading, I feel a bit better about my game,'' Casey said. ''The cons are I've got way more talent around the leaderboard than there was last year. It just looks like depth up the top of that leaderboard right now.''
The forecast for Monday was mostly sunshine, and if the course remains softer from rain, this could be a typical shootout. Leishman figured the winning score would be in the 15- or 16-under range.
''That would be my plan, to just try and do what I've been doing - give myself as many chances as I can and try and make them,'' he said.
Rahm had a two-shot lead and still had the lead until running into trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys until he ended his round with a birdie for a 71. .
The finish was especially critical for Johnson, who played the third round with Thomas and couldn't buy a putt. Johnson, coming off a playoff victory last week in New York, sarcastically pumped his fist when he made a birdie on No. 14, and then he kept right on going. The only hole he didn't birdie coming in was at No. 17, where he missed a birdie chance for 10 feet.
''I just wanted to get myself in position to be in range of the leaders,'' Johnson said.
He was three behind Spieth going into the final round of The Northern Trust and ended up winning in a sudden-death playoff.
PGA Tour rookie Grayson Murray (67) and Adam Hadwin (68) were at 10-under 203 along with Spieth, who has made only two bogeys over his last 45 holes. Spieth shot a second straight 66 and was surprised that left him two shots behind, all because of Thomas and Leishman.
''I couldn't have shot a whole lot better,'' Spieth said. ''I thought four back starting the day, if I could cut that in half, then that would be a tremendous goal. So goal achieved, maybe.''
Mickelson had a 69, making this the first time he has opened with three straight rounds in the 60s since the St. Jude Classic in June. Monday could go a long way in persuading U.S. captain Steve Stricker to pick him for the Presidents Cup.
DIVOTS: Kevin Chappell shot a 69 and moved into position to overtake Charley Hoffman for the 10th spot in the Presidents Cup standings. This is the final week to qualifying. ... Sergio Garcia damaged his putter after banging it into a sprinkler on the fourth green. He putted the rest of the day with his 3-wood, driver and 3-iron and shot 75. ... The top 70 in the FedEx Cup after Monday advance to the third playoff event.
September 3, 2017
Jon Rahm accomplished so much so quickly that he began to wonder what else was left for him to achieve in his first full year on the PGA Tour.
He now has 10 million reasons to play his best golf.
Already very much in the hunt for the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus, Rahm took another step Saturday when he made an eagle and five birdies over his last 10 holes for a 5-under 66 and a two-shot lead at the halfway point of the Dell Technologies Championship.
Rahm already has a short history of strong finishes in his first trip to the TPC Boston.
One day after he birdied four of his last five holes, he made a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th and then shot 31 on the front nine to reach 9-under 133.
No one could catch him in the afternoon, least of all Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, the world's No. 1 player who had a one-shot lead going into the second round, had a pair of double bogeys after a quick start and needed a birdie on the 18th hole to keep from falling further behind. Johnson shot a 72 and was five shots behind.
It's already been an amazing year for Rahm. The 22-year-old Spaniard was No. 137 at the start of the year. Now he's at No. 5. His two main goals were to get to East Lake for the Tour Championship and win a tournament.
But after a runner-up at Colonial, he has missed the cut twice and finished out of the top 25 in three other PGA Tour starts.
''It's probably because I got to the point where I had accomplished so much more than I had set myself to in the beginning of the year that I felt like there was nothing else to do,'' he said. ''It made me complacent of what I had accomplished all year. I didn't play with the same intensity. I really didn't have a goal.
''It's taken me two months to realize what I've done, and hopefully I can keep surprising myself.''
Paul Casey, who played in the final group last year until Rory McIlroy ran him down, had a 65 and was two shots off the lead along with Adam Hadwin (65), Kevin Streelman (65) and Kyle Stanley (68). Streelman is at No. 90 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 70 after the Labor Day finish advance to the third playoff event in two weeks outside Chicago.
Rahm was only part of a cool, calm day that left a large crowd entertained, and at times surprised.
Lucas Glover (No. 16) and Grayson Murray (No. 8) each made a hole-in-one that the PGA Tour estimated were 65 seconds apart. Phil Mickelson dropped only one shot on his way to a 67. He was just three shots off the lead at 6-under 136, his best 36-hole score since the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. Jordan Spieth also turned around his fortunes. Despite missing a pair of birdies inside 7 feet, Spieth still shot a 65 and was in the group four shots behind.
Spieth attributed his slow start in the opening round Friday to waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
''For me, it was just a matter of just stop being cranky,'' Spieth said. ''I don't know what to tell you. I was getting more mad at bad breaks than you should. It was a bad day at the office yesterday and a really good one today. I'm going to need two really good ones again. But to be within four shots after yesterday's round is a tremendous accomplishment.''
McIlroy, meanwhile, was headed home after missing the cut as the defending champion for only the second time in his career. McIlroy also missed the cut as defending champion in the 2012 U.S. Open.
McIlroy will still advance to the BMW Championship, though he will need a top finish to get to East Lake for the Tour Championship.
That's no longer a concern for Rahm. He is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup, already assured of going the distance. He won at Torrey Pines in January. He even won his first European Tour title at the Irish Open.
And he now has a very clear goal over the next few weeks.
''I think we all have the same goal in the next few weeks, which is the FedEx Cup,'' he said with a smile.
He still has a long way ahead of him at the TPC Boston. Twenty players were within five shots of the lead with two rounds to go, and players were bracing for a Sunday of wet weather. The tee times were moved back and will be played in threesomes because of the forecast.
The cut was at 3-over 145, which spared the likes of Bubba Watson, who is at No. 72 in the standings. Watson missed a 3-foot par putt on the par-5 18th hole and figured he would miss the cut until Patrick Rodgers hit into the junk on the 18th hole, had to take a penalty drop and made bogey.
Adam Scott wasn't so fortunate. He came up short of the 18th with a sand wedge and missed a 6-foot par putt, giving him a 75. He wound up missing the cut by one shot after flying in from Australia to try to extend his season.
September 2, 2017
Now that he's finally won again, Dustin Johnson is starting to look as dangerous as ever.
One week after Johnson ended a five-month dry spell brought on by a back injury, he easily handled the early cold and a steady wind at TPC Boston for a 5-under 66 to take a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Dell Technologies Championship.
And the world's No. 1 player made it look easy on a tough day for scoring.
He started with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 10. He made the turn with a 6-iron from 220 yards that sailed high and rode the left-to-right wind into 4 feet for eagle. When another big tee shot settled into a divot on the reachable par-5 second hole, he laid up short of the water and still made birdie.
''Put together a pretty good score,'' Johnson said.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia opened with five birdies on the front nine, and then saved his day with a par on his final hole. He hooked his tee shot into the trees, got a bounce into the rough, laid up and then hit wedge to 12 feet and made the putt for a 67.
Jon Rahm also had a 67 that he felt was the best he could have possibly done. It helped that the 22-year-old Spaniard birdied four of his last five holes in the afternoon as the temperature warmed slightly and the wind never went away.
Marc Leishman and Kyle Stanley also were one shot back among the early starters who had to face the surprising chill of morning, a cruel reminder that the end of a New England summer is not far away.
Phil Mickelson, in his last tournament before the picks are made for the Presidents Cup, felt more energy after seeing a doctor and kept his focus on enough good shots for a 69.
''It was nice to have a solid round,'' Mickelson said, who had not broken par in the opening round since The Greenbrier in early July. ''I played well tee-to-green, and it made for a stress-free day on a very difficult day.''
Johnson played in the group featuring the top three in the FedEx Cup. PGA champion Justin Thomas made 16 pars in his round of 71. British Open champion Jordan Spieth, who lost to Johnson in a sudden-death playoff last week on Long Island, didn't make a birdie until his 13th hole and shot 72.
''Each part of my game was a little off,'' Spieth said.
Nothing looked wrong with Johnson, except for one bad swing and one aggressive putt.
His 25-foot birdie attempt on the 14th hole ran about 5 feet by the cup, and he missed that coming back to slow some early momentum. He bounced back with a wedge into 6 feet for birdie, made eagle on the 18th to reach the turn at 4 under and then had a simple iron off the tee at No. 1. But it sailed right into the woods in a hazard, and he punched out and missed an 8-foot par putt.
Otherwise, there was very little stress except for one young fan who kept referring to him as ''Shank.''
''When you win, you're playing well, so it gives you a lot of confidence,'' Johnson said. ''For me, that was one thing that was probably lacking a little bit the last few months is just the confidence, because I wasn't seeing the shots that I wanted to see. I wasn't consistently hitting them. But after last week, I've got a lot of confidence now. I feel like the things I've been working on, they are back to working.''
That was as close as a dissertation on golf as the No. 1 player will allow. Johnson doesn't spend deep analysis over the way he plays. He sees the shot, pulls a club and usually hits it where he's aiming. That's what led him to three straight victories going into the Masters until he wrenched his back when he slipped on the stairs and had to withdraw from the first major of the year.
The victory last week was his fourth of the year, tied with Thomas for most on the PGA Tour this season.
As easy as it looked for Johnson, it was anything but that for Kelly Kraft. At No. 64 in the FedEx Cup, his season might be over after he took a 12 on the par-5 second hole. Kraft hit his third into the water and his fifth shot over the green. He tried to hit a shot from a native area, took another penalty drop to go back to the fairway and hit that one into the water. He eventually two-putted for a 12 and withdrew after 14 holes with a sore foot.
Ryan Moore, who missed time with a shoulder injury this summer, had four double bogeys in his round of 82. He also withdrew.
|T18||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-7||-||72||68||72||65||277|
|T47||TPE||Cheng Tsung Pan||Par||-||69||72||74||69||284|
|T47||USA||Harold Varner III||Par||-||77||67||73||67||284|
|T75||USA||J. J. Spaun||7||-||72||71||74||74||291|
|CUT||USA||Charles Howell III||7||-||73||76||-||-||149|