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  • Matsuyama defends title at 'Asia's Major'
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 23, 2017

    Hideki Matsuyama was the best player on the PGA Tour for much of last season, winning three times and leading the FedExCup standings heading into the playoffs before fading after playing close to 30 events around the world.

    • Matsuyama is back where he started his 2016-17 run, defending his title this week in World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

      "Sheshan has some very special memories for me," said Matsuyama, who became the first player from Japan to capture a World Golf Championships event and added the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to his dossier in August.

      "It was a great honor to become the first Japanese winner of a World Golf Championships and to do it against such a world-class field was very special. I believe the confidence I gained with such a big victory there has really helped me with my performances."

      Matsuyama, who is No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, started the new season with a tie for fifth in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, has a much bigger career goal, which seems to be well within his reach.

      The 25-year-old wants to become the first player from Japan to win a major championship.

      Isao Aoki recorded the best result by a Japanese golfer in one of the Grand Slam events when he finished second in the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Aoki entered the final round tied with Jack Nicklaus and finished two strokes behind the Golden Bear after closing with a 70.

      Matsuyama equaled that feat when he closed with a 66 to tie for second, four shots behind Brooks Koepka, last June in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

      "All I can do is my best," said Matsuyama, who has finished in the top 10 on seven times in the majors, including solo fifth in the 2014 Masters, a tie for fifth in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow and a tie for sixth in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. "I know a lot of us have tried from Japan to win majors. Hopefully someday it will happen. ...

      "I did play well at the PGA. I had a chance. Unfortunately, Justin Thomas played better than I did, and it was a bitter defeat for me. I was really hoping and praying and doing my best to win the PGA. But hopefully I can take that experience, what I learned there, to play better in majors to come, and hopefully someday, that first major will show itself."

      Matsuyama was tied for the PGA Championship lead with Kevin Kisner after shooting 64 in round two at Quail Hollow in August, and he was tied for second, one shot behind Kisner, entering the final round.

      However, after opening with 70-64, he played the weekend in 73-72 and finished three strokes behind Thomas.

      When Matsuyama appeared to gain a measure of revenge by defeating Thomas, 3 and 1, in Sunday singles at the Presidents Cup early this month, he told reporters that it wasn't about revenge.

      "I'm not sure about that, but I look forward to battling Justin at more majors in the future," who collected eight birdies and an eagle in the first 12 holes against Thomas, the PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedExCup champion.

      "Both of us were out there fighting. Neither one of us wanted to lose, and I'm happy I came out on top and got a point for our team. It's been a long time since I shot a good round like today, and hopefully this will be a steppingstone to better rounds in the near future."

      Matsuyama, who claimed three other victories around the world in the last year and has 14 titles in his pro career, still is not comfortable with interviews in English and always speaks through an interpreter.

      So reporters often seek out his peers.

      "It just looks like that guy right now has his priority set on playing good golf," said Jason Day of Australia, who was Matsuyama's teammate on the International team in the Presidents Cup.

      "He's (always) on the range and he's the last guy to leave. He's always putting. He's always doing something. He's working hard. And I feel like he's the hardest worker out here right now, just because he wants to win."

      Added Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland: "Once he gets going, he just keeps the hammer down and keeps it going. It's very impressive. He's played very impressively over the past 18 months with a lot of wins and a lot of good finishes. ... That's sort of the caliber of player he is."

      Matsuyama will make another bid this week to win the tournament known as "Asia's Major."

      One of these days, he figures to win one of the real majors.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 23, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Wednesday and Thursday (in the United States), 10 p.m.-2 a.m. EDT; Friday and Saturday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Hideki Matsuyama earned the first of his three victories in the 2016-17 season, coasting to a seven-stroke victory over Daniel Berger and Sweden's Henrik Stenson to become the first player from Japan to win one of the World Golf Championships. The 25-year-old Matsuyama, who has won six times around the world in barely more than a year, ran away from the field by posting scores of 65-66-68-65--265, 23 under par, to earn his third PGA Tour victory. Later in the season, he captured the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the second straight year and also won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to lead the FedExCup standings heading into the playoffs.

      PGA TOUR: Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss.

      TV: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Left-hander Cody Gribble claimed his first PGA Tour victory, shooting a bogey-free 65 to win by four strokes over 2011 Sanderson Farms champion Chris Kirk, Luke List and Greg Owen of England. Gribble, who bounced back from an opening 73, became the third straight first-time winner and fourth in the last six years at the Country Club of Jackson. Gribble got back into contention with a 63 in round two. After posting a 67 in the third round, he started the final round two shots behind co-leaders List and Kirk. He took control with birdies on the 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes to play the back nine in 5-under 31. Owen closed with 68, while Kirk and List both shot 70.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: PowerShares QQQ Championship, the second of three tournaments in the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs, at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Friday through Sunday.

      TV: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 5:30-8 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Tom Pernice Jr. won the tournament last season when it was the first event of the inaugural Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, claiming a one-stroke victory over Colin Montgomerie with a two-putt par on the final hole. Pernice, who played at nearby UCLA, closed with a 2-under-par 70 in wind and rain, sinking an 8-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and adding a 15-footer one hole later to hold off Montgomerie, who also finished with a 70. Pernice won for the fifth time on the PGA Tour Champions after claiming two victories during his career on the PGA Tour.

      LPGA TOUR: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on the East Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday, 6-9:30 p.m. EDT; Friday and Saturday, 8-10:30 p.m. EDT; and Sunday, 9 p.m.-midnight EDT; on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Shanshan Feng of China ended a two-year victory drought on the LPGA Tour, shooting 64-67 on the weekend to beat Suzann Pettersen of Norway by three strokes. It was her first victory since winning at TPC Kuala Lumpur two years earlier, and she also finished second there in 2013 in addition to tying for second in 2015. Feng was tied for the lead before sinking an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 14, and she added a 15-footer on the 15th. Pettersen couldn't catch her despite shooting 66. Feng, who earned the bronze medal in the Olympic Games two months earlier in Rio de Janiero, went on to win the Toto Japan Classic a week after winning in Malaysia. She added the LPGA Volvik Championship earlier this year to give her 20 titles in her pro career, including seven on the LPGA Tour.

  • Golf notebook: New chairman steps in at Augusta
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 23, 2017

    --Fred Ridley took the reins as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., replacing Billy Payne, who announced in August that he would step down.

    • Ridley became the seventh chairman at the club that hosts the Masters.

      "Throughout my life, (club founder and golf great) Bobby Jones has been my idol and role model," said Ridley, the first person who played in the Masters to hold the position. "I remember meeting (club chairman) Clifford Roberts during my first visit to Augusta National as an amateur invitee more than four decades ago.

      "I stand ready to embrace the responsibilities that come with this important position, strengthened by the lessons the sport teaches and the example of those who have provided leadership to me over the years."

      Ridley, 65, a resident of Tampa, Fla., is a business lawyer and partner at the international law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP, where he is the national chair of the real estate practice.

      He played in the Masters as an amateur from 1976-78 and has been a member at Augusta National since 2000.

      The only other chairmen at Augusta were Roberts (1931-1976), William Lane (1976-1980), Hord Hardin (1980-1991), Jackson T. Stephens (1991-1998), Hootie Johnson (1998-2006) and Payne (2006-2017).

      --The PGA Tour announced that the Champion Trace Course at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., about 10 miles from downtown Lexington, will be the new host venue of the Barbasol Championship from July 19-22, 2018.

      The first three editions of the Barbasol were played at the Grand National course in Opelika, Ala., on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Grayson Murray claimed his first victory on the PGA Tour in the tournament this July.

      "We are excited to bring the PGA Tour and our players to Lexington in 2018," said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's chief tournaments and competitions officer. "We have been looking for the right opportunity to return to the area as it has been 20 years since we last held a PGA Tour Champions tournament in Lexington.

      "With the Bluegrass Sports Commission as the tournament's host organization and Global as the tournament operator, having a great facility and, of course, Barbasol as the title sponsor, we have a strong partnership in place that will make the 2018 Barbasol Championship a tremendous success."

      It will be the first PGA Tour event held in Kentucky since the Kentucky Derby Open was contested in Louisville from 1957-59. Gary Player claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the 1958 event.

      The PGA Tour Champions held the Bank One Classic in Lexington from 1983-97.

      The tournament is expected to have an economic impact in excess of $20 million for the Lexington area.

      --The LPGA Tour announced that 24-year-old Sung Hyun Park of South Korea mathematically clinched the 2017 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award with five events remaining on the season's schedule.

      Park, who captured the 2017 U.S. Women's Open Championship for her first LPGA Tour victory, had a 798-point lead over Angel Yin, which would mark the third-largest margin of victory in the history of the award.

      In Gee Chun of South Korea won by 778 points last year, trailing only Karrie Webb of Australia, who won by 1,030 points in 1996, and Se Ri Pak of South Korea, who had a 929-point margin in 1999.

      "I am honored to receive this award which was one of my goals from the beginning of the season," Park said. "This is really special because you only get one chance in a lifetime. Taking this opportunity, I want to be a better player."

      Park earned her second PGA Tour victory in the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. She has six additional top-10 finishes in 2017. She finished in the top 20 at four of the season's five major championships.

      A 10-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour, Park will receive the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award at the 2017 Rolex LPGA Awards ceremony on Nov. 16 during the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

      There are 10 winners of the award in the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame: Joanne Carner (1970), Amy Alcott (1975), Nancy Lopez (1978), Beth Daniel (1979), Patty Sheehan (1981), Juli Inkster (1984), Annika Sorenstam (1994), Karrie Webb (1996), Se Ri Pak (1998), and Lorena Ochoa (2003).

      --Derek Sprague, who was managing director at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., the past two years, was named general manager at TPC Sawgrass, the home of the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

      Sprague replaces Bill Hughes, now the regional director of operations for the TPC Network. Hughes served as general manager at TPC Sawgrass for 11 years.

      "I'm grateful ... for two great years at Liberty National," Sprague said of the New Jersey course, which recently hosted the Presidents Cup. "It's a special place, and hosting a successful Presidents Cup was the perfect capstone to my experience there.

      "The opportunity to lead a talented team at the PGA Tour's flagship property and help host the Players Championship each year is an extraordinary one, and I'm eager to get started."

      Sprague came to Liberty National from Malone Golf Club, in his hometown of Malone, N.Y., where he was general manager/director of golf for 27 years. He served a two-year term as the 39th PGA of America president through 2016.

      --Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea announced that he will be the latest PGA Tour player from his country to serve a mandatory two-year military commitment, beginning next month.

      The 26-year-old Noh, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, leaves soon after Sangmoon Bae, a two-time winner on the U.S. circuit, returned from his two-year commitment that began after he played in the 2015 Presidents Cup.

      The conscription applies to all South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35.

      K.J. Choi, South Korea's greatest men's golfer who has eight PGA Tour victories, including the 2011 Players Championship, began his service at the age of 22.

      Sung Kang, another of South Korea's young stars, received an exemption from military service by winning the gold medal in the men's team golf competition at the 2006 Asian Games.

      Noh finished inside the top 125 (at No. 110) of the FedExCup point standings during the 2016-17 season, and he had his membership status secured for this new season.

      It is expected that the PGA Tour will honor that under the Major Mandatory Obligation extension for the 2019-20 season when he returns, as it did for Bae this season.

      In his final event before beginning his service, Noh finished in a tie for 36th in the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges on Sunday at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island, South Korea, shooting 7-under-par 65 in round two.

  • Tiger Woods cleared to get back in swing
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 16, 2017

    Tiger Woods got the OK to schedule a tee time -- although it may not come on the PGA Tour for a while.

    • Woods, who hasn't played in a tournament in nine months, was medically cleared to resume golf activities, his agent told ESPN on Monday.

      The 41-year-old Woods, a winner of 14 major championships, received a thumbs-up after meeting last week with the surgeon who performed fusion surgery on his back in April.

      "He got a nice report and is allowed to proceed," agent Mark Steinberg said. "He can do as much as he needs to do. Tiger is going to take this very, very slowly. This is good, but he plans to do it the right way."

      Asked whether there was a timetable for Woods' return to the PGA Tour, Steinberg said that has not been discussed.

      "We will see what each day brings, what each week brings," Steinberg said.

      On Sunday, Woods posted a video on Twitter he himself hitting a driver, which he captioned: "Making Progress."

      Wood received the go-ahead to resume swinging a club at the end of August, although it was restricted to hitting balls with a pitching wedge at the time.

      That came just 2 1/2 weeks after toxicology reports revealed that Woods had five drugs in his system when he was arrested for driving under the influence near his home in Florida on Memorial Day.

      Woods was arrested around 2 a.m. on May 29 when officers found him unconscious in his Mercedes-Benz about 15 miles from his home in Jupiter, Fla. The car was awkwardly parked on the side of the road and the driver's side of the vehicle was damaged.

      He told officers he was taking the painkiller Vicodin and the anxiety medicine Xanax to deal with pain from April back surgery.

      Woods attempted a comeback earlier this year after a 17-month absence, and it didn't go well.

      He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January. The following week, he withdrew after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic due to back spasms.

      Woods held out hope he could play in the Masters in early April but eventually announced he was unable to play.

      He originally underwent microdiscectomy surgery to remove a fragment that was causing a pinched nerve in the spring of 2014. He later underwent another microdiscectomy surgery in September 2015 and a follow-up procedure the following month.

  • Ridley begins reign as Augusta National chairman
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 16, 2017

    Fred Ridley officially took over as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters on Monday, replacing the retiring Bill Payne.

    • Ridley becomes the seventh person to hold the position in the club's history dating to 1932. Payne, who turned 70 on Friday, announced his retirement in August after 11 years as chairman.

      Payne's retirement was effective at the beginning of the new club season on Monday and replaced by Ridley, a former United States Golf Association president (2004-05) who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur and served as chairman of Augusta National's competition committee since 2007.

      Ridley, 65, described the new job as "beyond humbling" in a statement released by Augusta National on Monday morning, citing club founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, the club's first chairman.

      "Throughout my life, Bobby Jones has been my idol and role model," Ridley said in the statement. "I remember meeting Clifford Roberts during my first visit to Augusta National as an amateur invitee more than four decades ago. So to become Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters is beyond humbling. I stand ready to embrace the responsibilities that come with this important position, strengthened by the lessons the sport teaches and the example of those who have provided leadership to me over the years.

      "As Chairman, I will always look to Jones and Roberts as a source of wisdom and inspiration. I fully subscribe to their mandate of constant improvement and their commitment to maintaining the highest standard in all that we do. I pledge to use my deep-rooted respect for the customs and traditions they established to further elevate our Club and Tournament, while continuing their mission of contributing to the development of the sport around the world."

      Ridley is a former University of Florida golfer who bested Keith Fergus in the 36-hole final of the 1975 U.S. Amateur, defeating Curtis Strange and Andy Bean earlier in the event.

      Ridley, who never turned pro, is a Tampa, Fla., attorney. He becomes the first Masters chairman to have played in the tournament, doing so three times (1976-78) and missing the cut in each appearance.

      "I would like to thank Billy Payne, our esteemed chairman emeritus, who appointed me as his successor," Ridley said. "His confidence in allowing me this honor has already had a profound impact on my life. I am grateful to consider him a friend and mentor, both personally and professionally."

  • Golf notebook: Woods likely to miss Hero World Challenge
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 9, 2017

    --The Hero World Challenge again features another strong field, but as expected, tournament host Tiger Woods probably won't play.

    • Woods, recovering from his fourth back surgery in recent years, hasn't played since the Dubai Desert Classic early this year and wasn't listed among the 16 players announced by tournament officials for the limited field event.

      Two players will be added for the event, which is scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at Albany Resort in New Providence, Bahamas.

      Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama will be joined by top-ranked Dustin Johnson, PGA champion Justin Thomas, Open champion Jordan Spieth, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day of Australia, Justin Rose of England, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman of Australia, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Charley Hoffman, Francesco Molinari of Italy, Alex Noren of Sweden and Kevin Kisner.

      Woods has won the tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, a record five times since its inception in 1999, but his last title in the event came in 2011.

      --Xander Schauffele was voted 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year by fellow members of the tour.

      PGA Tour players who appeared at least 15 official money events last season were eligible to vote.

      "On behalf of the PGA Tour, congratulations to Xander Schauffele on being voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. "Being recognized by your peers is one of the highest honors a player can receive, and Xander's win at the Tour Championship during the FedExCup playoffs capped off what had already been a remarkable rookie season."

      The 23-year-old Schauffele, who played at San Diego State, held off Thomas, the FedExCup champion, by one stroke to become the first rookie to win the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He finished third in the point standings.

      Schauffele became the fourth player who graduated from high school in 2011 to become PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, joining Spieth (2013), Daniel Berger (2015) and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo (2016).

      "The award is a true honor," said Schauffele, who is No. 32 in the Official World Golf Ranking. "I'm trying not to let my head get in the clouds.

      "Jordan, Berger, Justin Thomas ... they've been in the limelight already, and they've managed to keep their foot down and keep going forward. Everyone talks about how great this is, but if I want to be in that company, I've got to keep my head down and apply to the situation."

      By winning the finale, Schauffele became one of six multiple winners during the 2016-17 season, joining Thomas, Spieth, Johnson, Matsuyama and Leishman.

      Schauffele also captured the Greenbrier Classic and tied for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

      --Valero Energy Corporation chairman Joe Gorder and Monahan announced a 10-year extension of Valero's sponsorship of the Texas Open in San Antonio.

      The Valero Texas Open on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio will be played on April 19-22 this season, but it will have a new spot on the schedule in 2019, a week before the Masters, April 4-7.

      "Not only is the Valero Texas Open one of the oldest and most storied tournaments on the PGA Tour, but since Valero became title sponsor in 2002, the tournament consistently has been one of the leaders in charitable giving," Monahan said.

      The 2022 Valero Texas Open will mark the 100th anniversary of the event's inception. It is the third-oldest tournament on the PGA Tour, behind the BMW Championship (1899) and the RBC Canadian Open (1904).

      The tournament's list of champions includes Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Corey Pavin, Zimbabwe's Nick Price, Zach Johnson and Australia's Adam Scott.

      Kevin Chappell claimed the title by one stroke over Koepka earlier this year.

      --Sandy LaBauve, founder of LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, was selected the winner of the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and the Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award by the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Membership.

      It is the first time one person claimed both awards in the same year.

      "Winning the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and the Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award is surreal," said LaBauve, who founded LPGA-USGA Girls Golf in 1989. "Like Ellen was, I am passionate about growing the game by empowering others.

      "I am especially grateful to the LPGA Foundation and our members that have grown my initiatives like LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. I celebrate this award in their honor."

      The Ellen Griffin Rolex Award was instituted by the LPGA T&CP Membership in 1989 to honor the late teaching professional Ellen Griffin. It recognizes an individual, male or female, who made a major contribution to the teaching of golf and who emulates Griffin's spirit, love and dedication to students, teachers, teaching skills and the game of golf.

      The Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award was created in 2007 and is given to an LPGA professional who emulates qualities valued by 48-time LPGA Tour winner Lopez -- leadership, passion, giving and approachability.

      "Nancy has been a role model for me since I was a teenager," LaBauve said. "She shines personally, professionally and is a true testament of what the LPGA is all about. I am proud to associated with her legacy."

      LPGA-USGA Girls Golf began with 10 programs but now is established in more than 400 communities around the United States. More than 500,000 girls have been introduced to the game of golf since the program's inception.

      --Thomas was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season after posting five victories, including the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, and claiming the FedExCup by finishing second in the Tour Championship.

      The 24-year-old beat out top-ranked Johnson, who won four times; Spieth, whose three victories included the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale; and Matsuyama, who collected three titles.

      "It's awesome because this will always be on my resume, and hopefully it's the first of many," Thomas told the Golf Channel after receiving the Jack Nicklaus Trophy that comes with the award.

      "It's pretty special. I've always had high expectations, but winning this award never really entered my mind because this is so early in my career."

      In the last two months, Thomas won the PGA Championship and the Dell Technologies Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs en route to the FedExCup title. He also posted a 3-1-1 record to help the United States retain the Presidents Cup.

      Thomas joined Nicklaus, Woods and Spieth as the only players since 1960 to capture five wins, including a major, in a season before the age of 25.

  • Thomas set to open defense of FedExCup
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 9, 2017

    A year ago at this time, Justin Thomas was simply hoping to prove that his victory in the 2015 CIMB Classic wasn't a fluke.

    • Thomas, 24, returns to the West Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this week seeking a three-peat only a matter of days after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup and being voted winner of the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award.

      "I still am having a hard time grasping and understanding that I leave for another event in a couple days," Thomas said after receiving the Jack Nicklaus Trophy that goes to the Player of the Year.

      "It's a tremendous honor. It really sunk in when I got the call from the commissioner (Jay Monahan). It was something I felt I may win because of ... how the year played out. I was with my parents when I got the call, so I was able to kind of share the moment with them a little bit.

      "Any time you can win an award with someone like Jack Nicklaus' name on the award, it definitely means a lot."

      Thomas, who won the CIMB Classic by one stroke over Adam Scott of Australia two years ago on the strength of an 11-under-par 61 in the second round, repeated his title when he shot 64 in the first and last rounds to beat Hideki Matsuyama of Japan by three shots.

      This week, he will try to go one better than Ryan Moore, who claimed the title in Malaysia in 2013 and 2014.

      "I feel like I would have played a lot of courses really well, but (TPC Kuala Lumpur) obviously suits my eye, and I think the fact that there's a lot of wedges and scoring clubs bodes well for me," Thomas said after winning the first of his five titles in 2016-17 en route to capturing the FedExCup.

      "It's great to win again here. It's obviously a place I'm very comfortable with and I think a lot of that is because of just everything that goes on here. I mean, the fan base and ... everything is done very well. It's very exciting to come back. This is by far my favorite place I've been out of the country or that we go to out of the country.

      "It's definitely worth the 24- or 25-hour travel day that it was to get here."

      Thomas followed that up by sweeping through Hawaii in January. He won the SBS Tournament of Champions by three strokes over Matsuyama before rolling to a seven-stroke victory over Justin Rose of England a week later at the Sony Open in Hawaii after opening with a tournament record 11-under-par 59.

      Even though he cooled off a bit over the next several months, he posted four finishes in the top 10, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in June. However, he saved his best for a sizzling finish to the season.

      The former Alabama All-American, who won six times for the Crimson Tide before turning pro in 2013, claimed his first major title by two strokes over Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Francesco Molinari of Italy in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

      A few weeks later, he shot 63-66 on the weekend to win the Dell Technologies Championship by three shots over his pal Jordan Spieth in the second week of the playoffs.

      Thomas capped the season by finishing one stroke behind Xander Schauffele to claim solo second in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta to wrap up the FedExCup.

      So, where does he go from here? He is going to see three wise men.

      "I'll probably spend some time talking to Mr. Nicklaus or Tiger (Woods) because those are guys -- those are the only people -- or even Jordan, those are the only people I know that have had such success in one season multiple times," said Thomas, who is ranked fourth in the world.

      "I know how hard it is to do because of how deep the tour is right now and how many great players there are. ... (The five-win season is) something that's going to be tough to continue or tough to replicate, but I'm definitely going to give it my best.

      "I know I'm going to have to sit down re-evaluate things at some point, because this just doesn't happen every year."

      And he hardly had time to catch his breath before starting over.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 9, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: CIMB Classic on the West Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Wednesday and Thursday (in the United States), 10:30 p.m. EDT-2:30 a.m. EDT; Friday and Saturday (in the U.S.), 11 p.m.-3 a.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Justin Thomas kick-started his Player of the Year season by shooting 8-under-par 64 in the first and last rounds to successfully defend his title by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who closed with a 66. Thomas, who captured the first of his five titles during the 2016-17 season en route to winning the FedExCup last month, began the final round four shots behind leader Anirban Lahiri of India, who tied for third after a 72. Thomas took the lead with birdies on four of his first five holes and six of the first 10, then pulled away with two more on the 17th and 18th holes. A year earlier, he shot a course-record 61 in round two on the way to a one-stroke victory over Adam Scott of Australia, sinking a 6-foot par putt on the last hole.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., Friday through Sunday.

      TV: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2:30-5 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Doug Garwood claimed his first victory in his 44th start on the PGA Tour Champions, closing with an 8-under-par 64 to win by four strokes over 36-hole leader Bernhard Langer of Germany. Garwood, who never won on the PGA Tour and has three victories as a pro, took control by carding four consecutive birdies through No. 10 and pulled away with birdies on the 13th and 16th holes. Langer, who was on his way to winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race for the third straight season and the fourth time overall, could not keep up while shooting 70 in the final round.

      LPGA TOUR: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday, noon-4 p.m. EDT; Friday, noon-2:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30-2:30 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Carlota Ciganda of Spain came from five shots back in the final round, then blew her own five-stroke lead before beating Alison Lee with an 8-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to claim her initial LPGA Tour victory. Ciganda, who won the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational later in the season, took the lead with six birdies in the first 10 holes of the final round, then played the last five holes in 4 over par to finish off a 2-under-par 70. Lee suddenly had a one-stroke lead, but she hit her approach shot into the water on the 18th hole and carded a bogey to finish off a 75 that forced the playoff.

  • Duncan takes second-round lead in Safeway Open
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, October 6, 2017

    Tyler Duncan finished an uneven second round with two birdies and an eagle on Friday to grab a one-shot lead in the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

    • Duncan, who began the day tied for first, fired a 6-under-par 66 at the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa for a two-day total of 13-under 131, a stroke ahead of defending champion Brendan Steele, who shot a 67 on Friday.

      The tournament is the opener of the 2017-18 PGA Tour schedule.

      Duncan had an erratic round. Starting the day at the 10th tee, he had three birdies on his front nine, but then had three consecutive bogeys at the third, fourth and fifth holes on his back nine. He then righted himself and had a birdie-2 on the seventh hole, a birdie-3 on the eighth hole and an eagle-3 on his final hole, the par-5 ninth.

      Steele also had a bogey in his round, but he countered that with six birdies.

      Despite Duncan's up-and-down play, the story of the day may have been Chesson Hadley, who shot an 11-under 61 in the second round, leaving him alone in third place at 133.

      Hadley lost his PGA Tour card at the end of the 2016 season and dropped back to the Web.com Tour. He captured his third career win on that tour in July, at the LECOM Health Challenge, and that ensured his return to the PGA Tour.

      He carded 10 birdies, a bogey and an eagle on his round Friday to put himself in contention heading into the weekend.

      Tied for fourth, two strokes behind Hadley, were Zac Blair, who shot a 66 on Friday, and Tony Finau, who shot 65. Graham DeLaet of Canada and Brian Davis of England are another stroke back in sixth after shooting rounds of 67 and 66, respectively.

      Phil Mickelson shot a 69 in the second round and is tied for 15th at 138.

      K.J. Choi was among those who missed the cut.

  • McNealy puts business plans on pause for golf career
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 2, 2017

    Maverick McNealy makes his professional debut this week in the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., after a career at Stanford where he might have been the best thing in golf spikes since Tiger Woods.

    • For all his collegiate success, McNealy wasn't a lock to turn pro because he had numerous other opportunities after graduation last spring.

      He wanted to be sure he had a chance to excel as a pro golfer.

      "Those guys are really, really good at what they do," McNealy said of the players on the PGA Tour. "It wasn't until after my sophomore year that it even crossed my mind that I might be good enough to give it a shot.

      "With a huge amount of work, I have what it takes to be one of the best players in the world. Getting better at something is one of the most exciting and gratifying things for me in life, and I'm excited to see how good I can get at golf."

      The 21-year-old McNealy, from Portola Valley, Calif., is the son of Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. He wasn't at Stanford simply to play golf, which he did well enough to win 11 times, tying the school record set by Woods in 1996 and equaled by Patrick Rodgers in 2014.

      That is why he still was considering a business career after leaving Stanford.

      "He earned a four-year engineering and MBA-like degree while tying Tiger and Patrick, and winning just about every award he could," Scott McNealy said. "If he wants to go take five years or seven years and give this a heck of a run, he's earned it. I'm totally supportive. I just wanted him to understand if he wants to be the next Michael Dell or Mark Zuckerberg ... those guys got started when they were 17. ...

      "Maverick was taking finals on the Tuesday before playing in the (2017) U.S. Open (as a qualifier). So, I've also explained to him, 'You are three to four years behind despite what you've been able to do.' Justin Rose went pro at 17. Jon Rahm has been killing the world. Look at Jordan Spieth (who left Texas after one year).

      "'While you were studying, they've been out there winning tournaments. You'll be a couple to three years behind everybody.'"

      Maverick McNealy, who has been No. 1 among amateurs in the World Golf Rankings and the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings at times during the past few years, always had his father to let him know where he stood.

      After enjoying a season in which he won six times at Stanford and was College Player of the Year as a sophomore, McNealy got a phone call from Dad.

      "If you want to turn pro, this would be a great time," Scott McNealy said.

      Maverick was having none of it.

      "Dad, that's the craziest thing I've ever heard," he responded. "There's no chance I'm not coming back to Stanford."

      McNealy wasn't quite as dominant in his last two seasons with the Cardinal, perhaps because of his school workload, even though he increased his amateur victory total to 12 while playing on United States teams in the Arnold Palmer Cup twice, the Walker Cup twice and in the 2016 Eisenhower Cup.

      Still, he had some doubt about a pro career.

      "To be completely honest, there's one guy on each shoulder," McNealy told the Golf Channel. "One guy is saying, 'What are you doing, Maverick? These guys are extremely good.' But the other guy is saying, 'There's so much fun and potential to do cool things and have a blast.'

      "I'm nervous and excited (about turning pro), but I also realize it's not a walk in the park for a professional athlete, it's the furthest thing from a certain outcome and future. But I'm full bore ahead, trying to become the best player I can be."

      McNealy has made nine starts against the pros as an amateur, with his best finish a tie for 44th at the John Deere Classic earlier this year. He missed the cut in his three starts in the majors -- in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

      Interestingly, Woods didn't really light it up in his few forays against the pros while he was at Stanford.

      One thing McNealy learned about life on the road, including the travel and the solitary hotel rooms that are common for the touring pro, is that it's not so bad.

      "I thought I'd hate it, but I actually really enjoyed it," said McNealy, who particularly liked taking part in a junior clinic two days before the start of the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev.

      "I'd love to be a great role model and an inspiration, but for any of that to matter, I have to play well and succeed."

      McNealy will tee it up this week at Silverado in a field that includes major champions Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen and John Daly.

      The kid has done his homework and believes he can compete with them or he wouldn't be there.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 2, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: Safeway Open on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 4-8 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 5-8 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Brendan Steele claimed his second PGA Tour victory by collecting birdies on the last three holes to cap a 7-under par 65 and beat Patton Kizzire by one stroke. A year earlier, Steele took the lead into the final round at Silverado but closed with a 76 and tied for 17th. This time, he overtook Kizzire down the stretch with a 3-foot putt on the 16th hole, an 18-footer on the 17th and a 7-footer on the last to win for the first time since the 2011 Valero Texas Open. Kizzire, who opened with a 64 and took the lead with a 66 in round three in search of his first PGA Tour victory, closed with a 70 that included only a par on the par-5 final hole when a birdie would have forced a playoff.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., Oct. 13-15.

      TV: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2:30-5 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Doug Garwood claimed his first victory in his 44th start on the PGA Tour Champions, closing with an 8-under-par 64 to win by four strokes over 36-hole leader Bernhard Langer of Germany. Garwood, who never won on the PGA Tour and has three victories as a pro, took control by carding four consecutive birdies through No. 10 and pulled away with birdies on the 13th and 16th holes. Langer, who was on his way to winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race for the third straight season and the fourth time overall, could not keep up while shooting 70 in the final round.

      LPGA TOUR: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, Oct. 12-15.

      TV: Thursday, noon-4 p.m. EDT; Friday, noon-2:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30-2:30 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Carlota Ciganda of Spain came from five shots back in the final round, then blew her own five-stroke lead before beating Alison Lee with an 8-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to claim her initial LPGA Tour victory. Ciganda, who won the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational later in the season, took the lead with six birdies in the first 10 holes of the final round, then played the last five holes in 4 over par to finish off a 2-under-par 70. Lee suddenly had a one-stroke lead, but she hit her approach shot into the water on the 18th hole and carded a bogey to finish off a 75 that forced the playoff.

  • Golf notebook: Els wins superintendents' honor
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 2, 2017

    --Ernie Els of South Africa was selected as recipient of the 2018 Old Tom Morris Award by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

    • The Old Thomas Morris Award, the highest honor presented by the group, has been presented annually since 1983 to an individual who is committed to the welfare of the golf in a manner and style exemplified by Morris.

      "I am honored and humbled to be asked to receive the Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association," said the 47-year-old Els, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

      "As I have grown in my involvement with the game of golf, from professional golfer to golf course designer, I have come to value more and more the role of golf course superintendents. They are as vital to this game as ever, and as vital to this game as anyone."

      Els, who has 71 victories in his career, including four major titles, founded the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009, plus the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation in 1999 to identify talented underprivileged teens in South Africa and give them a chance to reach their full potential in sport and education.

      Morris, golf's first great champion with four victories in the Open Championship, was the longtime superintendent at St. Andrews in Scotland until his death in 1908.

      --The 13th Presidents Cup will be played on Dec. 12-15, 2019, when it returns to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock, Australia, for the third time in the biennial event's 25-year history, tournament officials announced.

      The Presidents Cup previously was held at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and 2011. No other international venue has hosted the event more than once.

      "Australia has proved to be an incredible host for the Presidents Cup in the past, and we expect nothing short of the first-class hospitality and welcoming culture that our fans, players, their families, our guests and our staff have received in each of our previous two events in Melbourne," Presidents Cup executive director Matt Kamienski said.

      "We promise the 2019 edition will again showcase Melbourne to the world when the best players from around the globe come to the Royal Melbourne Golf Club."

      Royal Melbourne was the site of the only International team victory in the series in 1998, when captain Peter Thomson's team defeated the United States team led by Jack Nicklaus, 20 1/2 to 11 1/2.

      In 2011, captain Fred Couples led the U.S. team to a 19-15 win over captain Greg Norman and the Internationals.

      The U.S. has a commanding 10-1-1 lead over the Internationals after finishing off a 19-11 victory on Sunday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

      Royal Melbourne Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Australia, founded in 1891 and moved to its current location in 1926, in what is known as the Sandbelt.

      The East and West courses were designed by designed by legendary Alister MacKenzie and both are ranked in the World's Top 100 courses.

      In 1959, 12 holes of the West Course and six from the East Course were combined to create what is known as the Composite Course, where the biggest events, including the Presidents Cup, are played.

      Jason Day and Adam Scott of Australia captured the 2013 World Cup of Golf on the Composite Course.

      --Acushnet Holdings Corp., which produces Titleist golf equipment and FootJoy golf shoes, announced that president and chief executive officer Wally Uihlein is retiring effective Jan. 1.

      Uihlein joined the company in 1976 and as a senior executive has been a major player in the golf industry since 1995.

      "We thank Wally Uihlein for his 40-plus years with Acushnet and the terrific leadership he has provided during this time," Acushnet chairman Gene Yoon said.

      "Acushnet will continue to benefit from his extensive knowledge and experience in areas such as strategic planning, acquisitions, player promotion and golf equipment regulatory matters."

      According to a company release, Uihlein will remain as a member of the Acushnet board of directors and an adviser to the chairman.

      Chief operating officer David Maher, who has been with Acushnet since 1991, will become CEO.

      Maher is senior vice president for Titleist worldwide sales and global operations, and before that was vice president of Titleist U.S. sales. He became COO in 2016.

      During Uihlein's tenure, Titleist developed the Pro V1 golf ball, Scotty Cameron putters and Bob Vokey wedges, all ranked among the best products in golf.

      Uihlein's son, Peter, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion, claimed his third pro victory early this month in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship during the Web.com Tour Finals and earned his PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season.

      --The PGA Tour announced that it renewed its agreement with Twitter to be the exclusive global platform to distribute, on a free basis, more than 70 hours of live competition from PGA Tour Live across 31 tournaments during the 2017-18 season.

      Twitter will begin live streaming at the CareerBuilder Challenge on Jan. 18 and continue through the season-ending Tour Championship in September.

      "We have seen tremendous growth of PGA Tour Live during our streaming partnership with Twitter," said Rick Anderson, chief media officer of the PGA Tour.

      "The positive feedback from our fans was resounding following the initial year of streaming PGA Tour Live to Twitter's global audience. We look forward to continuing the relationship to reach new audiences and driving new value for our advertisers."

      Coverage of PGA Tour events on Twitter will include the first 60 to 90 minutes from the early Thursday and Friday morning hours of PGA Tour Live's Over-The-Top subscription window, on a global basis.

      Additionally for 2018, Twitter also will exclusively distribute the PGA Tour's live 360 video coverage for select holes at top-tier tournaments, including the stadium-like 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the 17th hole at the Players Championship, with its famed island green, stemming from the Tour's recent virtual reality deal with Intel.

      The live coverage will be available globally to Twitter's logged-in and logged-out audience and can be found at pgatourlive.twitter.com and via @PGATour.

      The PGA Tour and Twitter initially teamed up to live stream tournament coverage during the first two events of the 2016 FedExCup playoffs.

      The companies formalized their live stream relationship in January 2017.

      --Steve Williams of New Zealand, one of the most well-known caddies in the world, parted ways with Scott, whom he helped reached No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for 11 weeks in 2014.

      Williams, who was working for Scott only on a part-time basis recently, caddied for American Danielle Kang last week in the New Zealand Women's Open.

      "I'm not going to caddy for Adam next year, he'll return to having a full-time caddie," Williams told the New Zealand Herald. "He's had a job-share where he's had two caddies for the last two seasons, but he wants to return to one caddie next season."

      The 63-year-old Williams, who was alongside when Scott became the only Aussie to win the Masters in 2013, plans to retire from caddy work within the next year, but he will continue until then with part-time jobs.

      His work with Kang was Williams' first with a female golfer in 39 years as a caddie.

      "I've never caddied at any professional women's event before, so it'll be a good experience to see if I can learn something from how they do things," Williams said before the tournament. "Danielle is a good player, and once you start the tournament, you want to win, so nothing will change there."

      Williams is most famous for being on the bag for Tiger Woods from 1999 to 2001, and Woods was the best player in the world during most of their partnership.

      --The 2018 European Tour season will feature a new event, the Belgian Knockout, from May 17-20 at Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp, Belgium.

      Thomas Pieters, a 25-year-old who has won three times on the Euro Tour, will host the first event held in his country since 2000.

      "I think it's going to be exciting," said Pieters, who tied for fourth in the Masters this year. "We are going to see an innovative new format and it will make it really exciting for people who come along to watch and also for people watching it at home on TV."

      The four-day event will combine match play and stroke play, starting with 36 holes of match play to trim the field to 64 players.

      From there, the remaining field will play one-on-one battles over nine holes, eliminating half the field each time.

      There will be three rounds of nine holes on Saturday, with the final eight players moving to the final day, then three more nine-hole rounds will determine the winner.

      The event is the latest unique event on the European Tour, which last year debuted GolfSixes, in which where 16 two-man teams compete in six-hole matches.

  • U.S. team looks to continue dominance in Presidents Cup
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    There is no doubt that the United States has history on its side as it prepares to defend its streak of six consecutive wins at the 12th Presidents Cup this week at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

    • However, it will take more than the swagger from past successes for the Americans to beat the International team when play begins Thursday.

      The International side had arguably its best collection of players since it forged a tie with the U.S. squad in 2003 in South Africa after just missing a victory in 2015, when it lost 15 1/2-14 1/2 in Inchon, South Korea.

      Of the 11 matches played since this competition began in 1994, the U.S. team has won nine times, the International team has won once, and one match was a tie, ending famously in the dusk at Fancourt in South Africa as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els of South Africa could not finish after three halved playoff holes.

      For the Presidents Cup, the International team is made up of players not from Europe, and in this case, that is not a disadvantage.

      The competition consists of 30 matches. Thursday begins with five foursomes (alternate shot) matches, and Friday will have five four-ball (best ball) matches.

      Saturday's schedule will offer four foursomes matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon. Sunday's slate will consist of 12 singles matches, with every player from both teams on the course.

      There are no tiebreakers, with each side receiving a half-point if a match is tied after 18 holes. In a change inspired by the events of the 2003 Presidents Cup, if the match is deadlocked at the end of singles play, the competition will be deemed a tie and the teams will share the Presidents Cup.

      The American team consists of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman and Phil Mickelson.

      Hoffman and Mickelson were chosen for the team by captain Steve Stricker, who is the head of the American squad for the first time.

      "My message to my players is that I don't really care what's happened the last 11 Cups or how many we've played," Stricker said. "We're here for what's going on this week and to take care of business this week and not worry about that. You know, our team has a job to do and they know that, and I'm sure that's what they are going to be worried about when it comes time to play."

      The 12 players on the International team are Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; Jason Day, Adam Scott, and Marc Leishman of Australia; Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace of South Africa; Si Woo Kim of South Korea, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela; Adam Hadwin of Canada; Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Anirban Lahiri of India.

      Grillo and Lahiri were the two captain's picks of Zimbabwe's Nick Price, who is the captain of the International team for the third consecutive tome. All except Kim, Hadwin, Vegas and Grillo were on the team that lost by one point to the Americans two years ago.

      Price said the eight players returning from the close loss in South Korea have developed a strong bond that should help them in this year's competition.

      "Even though we are a hodgepodge of a team from all around the world, we are all competitors and we like to compete and don't like to get beaten -- that's the bottom line," Price said. "This team is made up of a lot of golf's young guys who probably have another four or five Presidents Cups in them. They have realized how important this event is now, and they want to take it to the next level."

      Liberty National Golf Club, designed by Tom Kite and the late Bob Cupp and opened July 4, 2006, is one of the world's most picturesque golf courses. It is located along the Hudson River with striking views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline. The normal sequencing of holes on the course have been altered for this event, with play beginning on the fifth hole and playing to order from that point.

      The change makes it more likely that all of Liberty National's most memorable holes -- the ones near the clubhouse and with the iconic views of Manhattan -- will be played before a match ends.

  • Tiger facing uncertain future, may not golf again
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    Tiger Woods admitted on Wednesday what many have suspected for some time -- that he might never play competitive golf again.

    • "I don't know what my future holds for me," Woods said during a news conference at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., in advance of the Presidents Cup, where he is serving as an assistant to U.S. captain Steve Stricker.

      In his first public comments since his fourth back surgery in April, Woods said he remains optimistic.

      But asked whether there was a scenario in which he would never return to competitive gold, Woods said, "Yeah, definitely. I don't know what my future holds for me. As I've told you guys, I'm hitting 60-yard shots."

      Last week, Woods said on his website that he had started hitting 60-yard shots, but was not cleared to hit full shots because of the twisting that would be involved.

      "Overall, I'm very optimistic how I'm progressing," the 14-time major champion said. "Like I said, the pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like because I haven't hit a golf shot yet.

      "So that's going to take time to figure that out and figure out what my capabilities are going forward. And there's no rush."

      The 41-year-old Woods missed all major championships the past two years, and he made attempts to return to competitive golf late in 2016 and early this year. He withdrew after a first-round 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 2.

      "I've been out of the game for a while," he said. "First things first. Get my health organized, make sure the pain goes away. Then, basically, just as I said, just keeping waiting for what my surgeon says. I've given you guys the updates on what I can do as I progress, and that's all I'm doing.

      "I'm still training. I'm getting stronger. But I certainly don't have my golf muscles trained because obviously I'm not doing anything golf-related."

      Asked why he wants to return to golf, given his back problems, Woods said, "I think it's fun. I've been competing in golf tournaments since I was, what, 4 years old. From pitch, putt and drive to playing major championships, it's always been fun for me."

      Woods did not comment on his May arrest for driving under the influence, and his subsequent acknowledgement that he entered a treatment facility.

  • It wouldn't be Presidents Cup without Mickelson on U.S. team
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    There was speculation that Phil Mickelson might be left off the United States team for the Presidents Cup this week at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

    • However, Steve Stricker polled the 10 players already on the team and his vice-captains before making his two captain's picks, and the decision was unanimous.

      Everyone wanted Lefty on the squad.

      "We all know what Phil brings to the table," Stricker said in making the pick after the 47-year-old Mickelson tied for sixth in the Dell Technologies Championship, the second event of the FedExCup playoffs.

      "He's been on 20-plus (United States teams). He's an important part of all these teams. He, too, is starting to play better. He guarantees me he's on the right track."

      Mickelson has played on 23 consecutive U.S. teams in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. He has never missed the Presidents Cup as the Americans have built a 9-1-1 advantage over the International team.

      Stricker knows what Mickelson means in the team room, with a younger teammate in the doubles events and to the fans in the New York-New Jersey area.

      "I played with Phil in a U.S. Open at Bethpage (also in New Jersey), and it's incredible how much support he gets from those people," Stricker said of New York area sports fans. "So hopefully he'll use that to his advantage. He'll be ready. He's shown that over the years.

      "Phil brings a unique dynamic to New York. He's loved everywhere, but especially New York. He's a favorite son."

      Mickelson owns a 23-16-12 record in the Presidents Cup, although he is only 3-5-3 in singles. He has a chance this week to pass Tiger Woods (24-15-1) for the most matches won in Presidents Cup history.

      Lefty is grateful to get another chance, even though he hasn't won since claiming his 42nd PGA Tour victory and fifth major title in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.

      "It means a lot to me," said Mickelson, who finished in the top 10 on eight occasions this season. "What means a lot to me this year is that the captains and the players wanted me on the team even though I didn't get the spot on my own. It meant a lot that they wanted me there, because I really love being around these guys. I respect and know how great these guys are. And this team is a special team."

      Mickelson also was a captain's pick by Jay Haas two years ago, posting a 3-0-1 record as the U.S. pulled out a 15 1/2 to 14 1/2 victory at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.

      Lefty's experience might be extremely valuable this time because Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman and Brooks Koepka are rookies on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

      "We do have a lot of first-timers, (so) we're going to have to be cognizant of putting them with guys who have been around the block many times," Stricker said in setting up is team for the two-man foursomes and four-ball matches. "You have to make them as comfortable as you can because it is nerve-wracking. You get excited and you start swinging differently, you get more amped up.

      "But these young kids are fearless. Kisner doesn't look like a first-timer. He just rammed it down our throats at Colonial. These guys are bulldogs. Chappell has been there a lot and finally got his first win this year. And Justin played great this year. These guys are ready."

      Not to mention that Koepka is the U.S. Open champion and Thomas won the PGA Championship.

      The U.S. team has won six consecutive Presidents Cup since a memorable 17-17 tie in 2003 at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club in George, South Africa, where Woods and Ernie Els played three extra holes in an effort to break the deadlock before darkness halted play.

      The only International victory came by a 20 1/2 to 12 1/2 score in 1998 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock, Australia.

      International captain Nick Price of Zimbabwe will try to break the losing streak with a team that includes Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman of Australia; Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace of South Africa; Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; Si Woo Kim of South Korea; Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela; Adam Hadwin of Canada and captain's picks Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Anirban Lahiri of India.

      Stricker will be counting on veterans Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson because even U.S. team members Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are relatively young.

      "(Mickelson) certainly has whatever that 'X factor' is that you can use in the team room," Kuchar said.

      The consensus is that Stricker made the right choice in Lefty.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: 12th Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday, 1-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. EDT on the NBC; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

      2015: Bill Haas, who made the United States team as a captain's pick by his father, captain Jay Haas, beat Sang Moon Bae of South Korea, 2 up, in the final singles match to give the Americans a 15 1/2 to 14 1/2 victory at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea. The U.S. claimed its sixth consecutive victory over the International team after the singles matches were split, 6-6. The Americans lead the series 9-1-1. Phil Mickelson, who has played in all 11 Presidents Cups, posted a 3-0-1 mark, including a 5-and-4 victory over Charl Schwartzel of South Africa in singles, and Zach Johnson also went 3-0-1, including a 3-and-2 singles victory over Jason Day of Australia. South Africans Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen combined for a 9-0-1 mark for the Internationls, with Oosthuizen halving his singles match with Patrick Reed.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., Oct. 13-15.

      TV: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2:30-5 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Doug Garwood claimed his first victory in his 44th start on the PGA Tour Champions, closing with an 8-under-par 64 to win by four strokes over 36-hole leader Bernhard Langer of Germany. Garwood, who never won on the PGA Tour and has three victories as a pro, took control by carding four consecutive birdies through No. 10 and pulled away with birdies on the 13th and 16th holes. Langer, who was on his way to winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race for the third straight season and the fourth time overall, could not keep up while shooting 70 in the final round.

      LPGA TOUR: McKayson New Zealand Women's Open at Windross Farm Golf Club in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 3-4:30 a.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, noon-3 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Inaugural event on the LPGA Tour schedule. The tournament has been played since 2009 as part of the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Lydia Ko of New Zealand won by two strokes over Felicity Johnson of England, amateur Hye-Jin Choi of South Korea and Nanna Madsen of Denmark last year at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch, New Zealand, successfully defending her title.

  • Golf notebook: Tiger's event searches for sponsor
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    --The National, a PGA Tour event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and has been played for the past 11 years, is without a title sponsor for 2018 and will not be played at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., where it has been contested seven times.

    • Quicken Loans sponsored the event the last four seasons and is in negotiations to continue, but apparently there were some snags.

      "We are in discussions with Quicken on extending our partnership, but as we sit here today, we have not concluded those discussions," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said recently.

      AT&T sponsored the tournament in its first seven years.

      The National, which has a military theme and is held on or around the Fourth of July weekend in the Washington, D.C., area, remains on the 2018 PGA Tour schedule for the weekend of June 28-July 1.

      "The event, at this point, is not going away, I want to be clear about that," Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at Excel Sports Management, told the Washington Post. "We are looking for a title sponsor in the D.C. area. Where that event would be played is still up in the air. We don't know the answer to that.

      "We have to work on the economics and finances. But we're actively looking, and we have a number of good leads and sponsors and are talking to them daily."

      There is speculation that the tournament might return to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Potomac, Md., where Kyle Stanley won in July.

      Tournament host Tiger Woods won in 2009 and 2012 at Congressional.

      --Le Golf National in Guyancourt, France, which will host the 2018 Ryder Cup, has been selected as the site of the men's and women's golf competition in for the 2024 Olympic Games.

      Paris was recently selected as the host city for the Games, and Guyancourt is a southwest suburb.

      "Golf, as one of the 28 sports, is excited about the opportunity that this creates for the continued development and growth of our sport around the world," the International Golf Federation said in a statement.

      "We look forward to building upon the success of golf's return to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and working with the organizing committee of Paris 2024 to create a memorable experience for our athletes and fans, and a lasting legacy for golf."

      Golf also will be played during the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

      Le Golf National, which has hosted the Open de France on the European Tour every year but one since 1991, also is the site of the Paris Legends Championship on the European Senior Tour.

      When golf was played in the Olympics last year in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1904 in St. Louis, Justin Rose of Great Britain won the gold medal, Henrik Stenson of Sweden took the silver and Matt Kuchar of the United States won the bronze in the men's tournament.

      In the women's event, Inbee Park of South Korea captured the gold, Lydia Ko of New Zealand claimed the silver and Shanshan Feng of China took home the bronze.

      --Catriona Matthew of Scotland was appointed captain of the European team for the 2019 Solheim Cup, which will be played on the PGA Centenary Course at The Gleneagles Hotel near Auchterarder, Scotland.

      The biennial event will be played Sept. 13-15, 2019.

      "It's a great honor and a dream come true to be the captain at home in Scotland," said the 48-year-old Matthew, who lives in North Berwick, Scotland. "Since my first appearance in 1998, I have always loved playing in the Solheim Cup. It's always such an incredible atmosphere, and over the years that I've played, I've enjoyed it more and more.

      "From the extremely high standard of play, to the enormous crowds, huge infrastructure and fantastic media coverage, the event just keeps getting bigger and better.

      "Scotland will provide the perfect stage for the 2019 Solheim Cup, and Gleneagles will be a terrific venue. I was lucky enough to win (the McDonald's WPGA Championship) there in 1998, and there is nothing better than winning in your home country."

      Matthew was selected by captain Annika Sorenstam as a vice captain for the Solheim Cup last month at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, but wound up playing when Suzann Pettersen of Norway was sidelined by an injury.

      To the surprise of absolutely no one, Matthew posted a 3-1 record, including a 1-up victory over Stacy Lewis in singles.

      Matthew has played in nine Solehim Cups, recording a record of 18-11-1, including 6-2-1 in singles. With 22 points, she is third on the all-time list for the European team.

      She has 11 victories in her career, including the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

      --The PGA Tour announced its new Integrity Program, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and has entered into an agreement with sports data-technology service Genius Sports to monitor betting markets worldwide for suspicious activity.

      The Tour has a longstanding policy prohibiting players from betting or related activities at Tour-related events, but the new Integrity Program is more comprehensive.

      "(We) felt it was important to move forward with an Integrity Program to further protect our competition from betting-related issues," Monahan said in a release announcing the deal.

      "The bedrock of PGA Tour competition are the inherent values of golf and the honesty and integrity of our members. We recognize, however, that no sport is fully immune from the potential influence of gambling. ...

      "Genius Sports will provide essential support as we roll out the Program across the entire PGA Tour."

      The PGA Tour Integrity Program will cover all facets of competition and operations on the six tours overseen by the PGA Tour, including players and their support teams, all tournament staff and volunteers, the PGA Tour staff and the PGA Tour Policy Board.

      The Integrity Program's stated mission is: "To maintain integrity and prevent and mitigate betting-related corruption in PGA TOUR competitions -- ensuring competitions always reflect, and appear to reflect, the best efforts of the players, while protecting the welfare of the players and others involved with the PGA Tour -- through clear policies and regulations, ongoing education and training, and effective and consistent monitoring and enforcement functions."

      The PGA Tour will work with Genius Sports to develop a tailored educational program that will help players, caddies and officials to identify, resist and report incidents of potential betting corruption.

      --The PGA Tour released the full 2017-18 schedule, which includes a record of 49 tournaments as part of the season-long race to the FedExCup.

      Included are two new events, the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges at Nine Bridges Country Club in Jeju Island, South Korea, on Oct. 19-22, 2017, and the Corales Punta Cana Resort and Club Championship from March 22-25 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

      Total prize money for the 49 events will be a record of more than $363 million.

      "You go back to 1967, there were 47 events on our schedule; the schedule started the first week in January, ended the second week in December," Monahan said.

      "You go back 60 years ago, there were 48 events on our schedule. So this schedule's been pretty consistent for a long period of time, and I expect it to be that way going forward."

      The Nine Bridges will be the first official PGA Tour event played in South Korea.

      The Punta Cana event, which has been contested the last two seasons on the Web.com Tour, will be played opposite the limited field WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin (Texas) Country Club.

      The Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, which was played opposite the WGC Match Play in recent years, will move to March 1-4, opposite the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

      With the addition of the two new international tournaments, the PGA Tour schedule includes nine tournaments in eight countries outside the United States.

      The AT&T Byron Nelson on May 17-20 is moving from TPC Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, to the new Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

      As for the majors other than the Masters on the first week of April at Augusta National, the U.S. Open (June 14-17) returns to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., for the first time since 2004; the Open Championship (July 19-22) rotates to Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland; and the PGA Championship (Aug. 9-12) will be held at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, for the second time, the other being in 1992.

      The season opens next week with the Safeway Open on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.

  • Tiger not close to returning to golf
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 22, 2017

    Tiger Woods offered an update on his progress in a personal blog post on his website Friday indicating he is still nowhere close to returning to competitive golf.

    • The 41-year-old Woods, a 14-time major champion, said he is not hitting full golf shots and does not have a timetable for his attempted comeback from a fourth back surgery.

      "I'm starting to hit the ball a little further -- 60-yard shots. I have not taken a full swing since my back fusion surgery last April, but continue to chip and putt every day," Woods wrote in a long "Tiger's Blog" post.

      "I'm working out six days a week, alternating between the treadmill, bike riding, swimming and lifting twice a day. My muscle tone is coming back, but I'm not in golf shape yet. That's going to take time."

      Woods has not competed since withdrawing after an opening-round 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic in early February.

      "I have my six-month back X-rays coming up," Woods wrote. "Once my surgeon takes a look, he'll give me the parameters of what I can do moving forward.

      "Playing wise, I'm not looking ahead yet because I don't know what kind of swing I'm going to use. I just don't know what my body is going to allow me to do. Until I do, I'm going to listen to my doctors and continue to take it slowly."

      Woods will be on site for next week's Presidents Cup at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., where he will serve as a U.S. assistant captain under Steve Stricker, a role he first held at last year's Ryder Cup under Davis Love.

      "It will be great to be around the guys and try to help our team any way I can to win," Woods wrote. "I had a blast doing it last year at the Ryder Cup and we have another great captain in Steve Stricker. We tried to keep the band together with Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and myself, and added Fred Couples, to maintain consistency and unity."

      Woods began his blog with a message of support to all those affected by the recent natural disasters.

      "I want to express my sympathy and concern for all who have been affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico," Woods wrote. "Many lives have been lost, families disrupted and displaced, and I want to send my sincere condolences. I want to thank all the first responders and volunteers who continue to provide assistance to those in need during these difficult times.

      "I think everyone on the PGA Tour has a connection to someone in one of the geographic areas that got hit. I designed a golf course outside of Houston (Bluejack National) and have friends in the area, as well as throughout Florida and up into Georgia and South Carolina. The damage to their homes, power outages and debris has been staggering. Stay strong. We are all behind you."

      Woods was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence near his home in Florida on Memorial Day. Toxicology reports revealed Woods had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in his system at the time of the arrest.

  • Top 30 players vie for Tour Championship, FedExCup title
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 20, 2017

    The PGA Tour's year-long schedule that began last October in California and featured tournaments that sent players from Hawaii to Mexico to Canada to England and back comes to a furious finish this weekend at the Tour Championship.

    • The tournament, which begins on Thursday, will be contested at venerable East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

      The Tour Championship is the last of four events of the FedExCup Playoffs and the finale to the PGA Tour campaign for the 11th consecutive season. The top 30 players in the FedExCup standings following the BMW Championship are on hand this week chasing a total purse of $8.75 million and a chance at a $10 million bonus that comes with winning the playoffs.

      Those who got cut after the three previous playoff events receive a little bit of the FedExCup's $35 million bonus pool. Those who finished Nos. 125-150 in the standings each will receive $32,000.

      The top five players in the standings -- Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman of Australia and Jon Rahm of Spain -- are in control of their chances to win the championship and would claim the FedExCup with a victory at East Lake.

      The winner of the tournament walks away $11.575 million richer if he also wins the FedEx Cup.

      "There's a lot of money on the line here, but that's not what I'm focused on -- I want to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup and the amount I can win is just a nice bonus," Johnson said. "I'm in the position I wanted to be going into the Tour Championship. I'm feeling good, and I feel my golf game is in good form and this is a golf course I really enjoy playing."

      Rory McIlroy, the 2016 FedExCup champion, finished 58th in the FedExCup standings and did not qualify to play this year in the Tour Championship. Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Spieth (2015) remain the only FedExCup champions to advance the following year to the Tour Championship.

      "I feel right now the way I felt the first two legs of the playoffs (he finished second in both The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship) and if we were starting a major championship I would be pleased with where I'm at," Spieth said. "This is essentially a major and we've had a very hectic schedule heading into this week, so I'm doing what I can to conserve energy and take as much energy as I can into the tournament."

      Spieth is the only past FedExCup champion who made it to East Lake this year and is looking to join Tiger Woods (2007, 2009) as the only two-time winner of the FedExCup. Spieth also finished tied for second in 2013.

      "I remember here in 2015 I had one of my worst ball striking rounds of the year but I found a way to kind of scrape it around," Spieth said. "I just chipped and putted so well that I was able to win. I don't want to have to do that this week -- I haven't been making a putts outside of 10 feet this year as consistently as I did then."

      Patrick Cantlay, at No. 78 heading into the FedExCup Playoffs, came from the furthest in the standings to reach the Tour Championship this year with playoff finishes of tied for 10th, tied for 13th and tied for ninth, respectively, to reach the season-ending event. Cantlay is also one of two rookies, joined by Xander Schauffele, in the field.

      In the 11-year history of the FedExCup, 32 players have played their way into the Tour Championship via the BMW Championship, with Tony Finau, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Schauffele and Cantlay accomplishing the feat this season.

      Finau chipped in from nearly 18 feet on the final hole of last week's BMW Championship for a 7-under 64, moving from No. 39 to No. 24 to secure his first trip to the Tour Championship.

      Cantlay made an 11-foot birdie putt on the final hole to secure his ticket to East Lake.

      Other perks of finishing inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings include one-year invitations to the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the Players Championship and guaranteed spots in the WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions. The top 30 also get invites to the CIMB Classic, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the RBC Heritage, the Dean & Deluca Invitational and the Memorial Tournament.

      Established in 1904, East Lake is the oldest golf course in the city of Atlanta. The Tour Championship was first played at the venue in 1998. Last year, the front and back nine holes at East Lake were switched reversed for this event, providing significantly more drama on the finishing holes from past years.

      East Lake was the home course of World Golf Hall of Fame member Bobby Jones, and much of its clubhouse serves as a tribute to his accomplishments.

  • Winning at East Lake is best route to FedExCup
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 18, 2017

    The magic number on the PGA Tour is five.

    • Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman of Australia and Jon Rahm of Spain hold the top five positions in the point standings. If one of them wins the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf this week, he would take home the FedExCup.

      The last seven winners of the Cup won the final event of the season.

      "It's obviously been a great year thus far, but you don't want to say it's nothing," said Thomas, who has won five times this season, including his first major in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

      "I'm in a great opportunity to finish this thing off and win the FedExCup, but there's a lot of other great players that are playing great golf."

      Spieth is trying to join Tiger Woods (2007, 2009) as the only two-time winner of the Cup. He said of being in the top five heading into the fourth and final tournament in the playoffs: "Well, it's vital. It allows you to control your own destiny."

      Taking the Cup would check another box on the career resume for Johnson. He leads the world rankings, claimed his first major title last year at the U.S. Open, has won five World Golf Championships events and has played for the U.S. in multiple Ryder and Presidents cups. A year ago, Johnson collected the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award, the Vardon Trophy and the Byron Nelson Award while leading the money list.

      Johnson also would have been holding the Cup last year had Rory McIlroy not beaten Kevin Chappell in a playoff to capture the Tour Championship and the season-long title. Johnson tied for sixth at East Lake.

      "Well, I've won a major; I haven't won the FedExCup, but to me, they go pretty hand-in-hand," said Johnson, who has four playoff victories in his career. "It's a big tournament where we get paid very, very well if we win, so you know it means a lot. ... It's something that I want to win, and I drive myself to win it. Being the FedExCup champion is something that I want on my resume. ...

      "The next step in my career is to put my name on that trophy."

      Leishman climbed into the top five by winning the BMW Championship by five strokes on Sunday.

      Lurking right behind and hoping to steal away with the Cup should one of the top five not win the Tour Championship are Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Justin Rose of England, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey of England.

      The past seven winners of the FedExCup who won at East Lake were Jim Furyk (2010), Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012), Henrik Stenson (2013), Billy Horschel (2014), Spieth (2015) and McIlroy (2016).

      Surprisingly, Spieth and Snedeker are the only Cup winners to make to back to the Tour Championship the following year.

      McIlroy, slowed by injury this season, joined the group of those who failed to make the top 30 and qualify for the finale, finishing 58th this season.

      Furyk, Haas and McIlroy are the only players who were not in the top five heading into East Lake to walk away with the Cup since that format was instituted in 2009, and Horschel is the only player to claim the title after starting the playoffs outside the top 30.

      Anybody who doesn't like the format can blame Woods and Vijay Singh.

      The Big Fijian captured The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship to almost wrap up the FedExCup midway through the 2008 playoffs. He already had the trophy in hand before the Tour Championship, sucking all the drama out of the finale at East Lake.

      A year earlier, Woods virtually had the Cup in his possession going to Atlanta.

      So, then-commissioner Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour powers-that-be introduced the format in which the point totals are adjusted before the Tour Championship, setting it up so that any player in the top five who won the final event would take home both trophies.

      Of course, that's given us some dramatic moments at East Lake.

      The latest was McIlroy coming from three strokes down with an 8-under-par 64 in the final round last year, including a hole-out eagle from 137 yards on the 16th hole, and then winning a playoff against Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole.

      In 2011, Haas hit a chip shot from the edge of a lake for an improbable par on the second playoff hole and beat Hunter Mahan one hole later with a 3-foot par putt to win the Tour Championship and FedExCup after Mahan could not get up and down from a greenside bunker.

      Furyk claimed both trophies in 2010, providing some drama on the final hole of the Tour Championship. He saved par from a greenside bunker with a brilliant shot out of the sand and a 3-foot putt to beat Luke Donald of England by one shot.

      It was an interesting finish in 2009 when Phil Mickelson captured the Tour Championship by three strokes. He outplayed Woods in the final round but had to share the spotlight with his rival as Tiger took the Cup for the second time in three years.

      Since 2016-17 has been one of the most exciting PGA Tour seasons in recent memory, it figures to be another fight to the finish at East Lake.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 18, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 1-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 2:30-6:30 p.m. EDT on NBC; and Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 1:30-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland came from three shots behind in the final round, closing with an 8-under-par 64 and to get into a playoff with Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore. McIlroy then won the event with a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to claim the FedExCup. McIlroy's closing run included a hole-out eagle from 137 yards on the 16th hole and a birdie at No. 18, when he blasted out of a bunker to within 2 feet. Moore also finished with a 64, while Chappell had a 66. Dustin Johnson led the point standings heading into the finale and would have taken the Cup with a victory at East Lake. He was tied for the lead with Chappell entering the final round, but he finished with a 73 to tie for sixth.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, Friday through Sunday.

      TV: Friday, 6-9 p.m. EDT; Saturday, 5:30-9 p.m. EDT; and Sunday, 6-9 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Paul Broadhurst of England sank a 6-foot birdie putt on the iconic 18th hole at Pebble Beach to cap a 4-under-par 68 and win by one stroke over Bernhard Langer of Germany and Kevin Sutherland. Broadhurst joined Ben Hogan and Tom Watson as the only players to win titles at both Pebble Beach and Carnoustie, where he earned his first title on the PGA Tour Champions two months earlier in the Senior Open Championship. Langer, on his way to winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup for the third straight season and fourth time overall, birdied the last hole for a 66, and Sutherland birdied the final two holes for a 70.

      LPGA TOUR: McKayson Women's New Zealand Women's Open at Windross Farm Golf Club in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 3-4:30 a.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, noon-3 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Inaugural event on the LPGA Tour schedule. The tournament has been played since 2009 as part of the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Lydia Ko of New Zealand won by two strokes over Felicity Johnson of England, amateur Hye-Jin Choi of South Korea and Nanna Madsen of Denmark last year at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch, New Zealand, successfully defending her title.

  • Golf notebook: 'Bones' enters Caddie Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 18, 2017

    --Jim "Bones" Mackay only recently gave up carrying Phil Mickelson's golf bag, subsequently joining the Golf Channel and NBC as an on-course commentator.

    • Last week, Mackay was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame by the

      Western Golf Association at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill.

      "This is a great honor for me," said Mackay, who teamed with Mickelson for 25 years. "I would like to share it with all the caddies at golf clubs around the country, and also my fellow PGA Tour caddies, with whom I had such a great time."

      Mackay was on the bag for 41 of Mickelson's 42 PGA Tour victories, including five majors, before they parted ways in June. He also caddied for Larry Mize, Scott Simpson and Curtis Strange earlier in his career.

      Said Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of the Western Golf Association: "Bones has elevated the profile of caddies worldwide and inspired countless young people to want to be caddies."

      The Caddie Hall of Fame is for people who "have devoted their lives to the game of golf through caddying or by supporting the role of caddies." Among the members are Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

      --Japanese great Ai Miyazato announced in May that she would retire after the Evian Championship last week.

      When she arrived at Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, reporters were wondering if Miyazato, 32, might have changed her mind, and the answer was no.

      "I feel happy, but I'm kind of sad to leave at the same time, because I'm going to miss all my friends on the Tour," said Miyazato, who won the 2009 and 2011 Evian Masters before the LPGA Tour made the tournament a major in 2013.

      "Specifically the first couple days it'll be really the mixed emotional feelings that I think I'm going to have. I need to really control myself because otherwise it will be really tough for me."

      Miyazato, who won 27 times around the world, including 15 times on the LPGA of Japan Tour and nine on the LPGA Tour, had 10 top-10 finishes in LPGA Tour majors without winning.

      In 2010, she won five times on the U.S. tour and was No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings for 11 weeks.

      Miyazato arrived in France having played only 11 times this season, posting her best finish a few weeks ago when she tied for fifth in the Cambia Portland Classic.

      She closed her career with a tie for 32nd.

      --Ernie Els, the South African great who lives most of the year in the United States while playing the PGA Tour, withdrew from the KLM Open on the European Tour last week.

      Els remained at home in Jupiter, Fla., to help friends and family in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

      "It's an uncertain time, and my first care right now and the next few days is to support my family as well as our friends and associates at Els for Autism," Els said.

      "We must be ready for the consequences of this terrible storm. It's going to be a hard time, and we have to put our shoulders together."

      Els for Autism, a school for autistic children founded by Els and his wife, Liezl, after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with the disorder, has been closed since the storm neared Florida.

      Els was presented the 2017 Heisman Humanitarian Award in August for his work with the foundation.

      "It is extremely regrettable that Ernie Els cannot be with this year," said tournament director Daan Slooter of the KLM Open. "However, we all understand his choice and hope with him that the damage after the hurricane is not too bad and that everyone is safe."

      Els, 47, has won 71 times around the world during his career, including four majors, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

      --The LPGA Tour canceled its tournament scheduled for next month in China because of permitting problems.

      The Alisports LPGA was set to be played on Oct. 5-8 Reignwood Pine Valley Golf Club in Shanghai.

      "Unfortunately, we have just received word that the tournament was unsuccessful in obtaining approval from the local district government," LPGA tour commissioner Mike Whan said. "The hardest part about this news is that we have a title sponsor, a tournament operator, a TV production group and a host venue all set to go.

      "However, in China, sporting events of this nature cannot take place without approvals at multiple levels -- and the local approval was denied. This news is very disappointing, particularly in that it comes less than a month before the event was scheduled to take place."

      In-Kyung Kim of South Korea won the event, then known as the Reignwood LPGA Classic, last year.

      In 2015, the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing was called off 10 weeks before it was scheduled to be played because of similar complications.

      Whan said the LPGA expects the event to return to the schedule in 2018.

      --Rayhan Thomas, a 17-year-old amateur from India, equaled the record for an Official World Golf Ranking event when he collected nine birdies in a row in the Mena Tour's Dubai Creek Open at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

      Thomas parred the first hole, a par 4, before making birdies on the next nine holes. He also birdied the 13th hole while shooting a bogey-free, 10-under-par 61 in the second round.

      "It just felt natural," Thomas said. "I just let everything flow."

      He came back in the afternoon and shot 68 to take the lead at his home course.

      Thomas' nine consecutive birdies equaled the record set by Mark Calcavecchia in the 2009 Canadian Open.

      Bernd Wiesberger of Austria made nine birdies in a row earlier this year in the Maybank Malaysia Championship on the European Tour, but it was not officially recognized as a record because the round was played with preferred lies because of rain.

      Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who captured the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George's, played alongside Thomas during the 61 and was impressed.

      "Rayhan is a huge talent, obviously," Clarke said. "The way he was playing, this is the worst he could have shot. ... Rayhan's game is trending in the right direction, and I think he has a great future ahead of him."

      Despite his 61, Thomas finished in a tie for second, two strokes behind M.G. Keyser of South Africa.

      --Sangmoon Bae of South Korea finally was able to trade a rifle for his golf clubs after serving a required two-year military commitment.

      The 31-year-old Bae, who has won 15 times as a pro, including twice on the PGA Tour, played his first professional tournament since the 2015 Presidents Cup last week. He missed the cut in the Shinhan Donghae Open at Bear's Best CheongNa Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.

      "I remembered vividly my first time hitting the golf ball again after about five or six months in the army," said Bae, who was discharged from military service in August. "Every minute was so precious, and I really treasured each time when I was out on the golf course or at the driving range.

      "I'm very happy to be back."

      Bae said he is driving the ball further because of his added weight from physical training in the army. However, he did not have the comeback he was looking for, shooting 74-75--149 to miss the cut by five strokes.

  • Leishman extends lead to 5 shots at BMW Championship
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 16, 2017

    Australian Marc Leishman recorded a 3-under-par 68 to extend his lead to five strokes Saturday at the BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Ill.

    • Leishman, who resides at 19-under 194 for the tournament, is comfortably ahead of countryman Jason Day and American Rickie Fowler heading into the final round at Conway Farms.

      The 33-year-old Leishman is 18 holes from his third PGA Tour victory and his second this year, following his win at the Arnold Palmer in March. Should he stave off the field on Sunday, Leishman will secure one of the top five seeds at the Tour Championship next week while the top 30 advance to the tournament itself.

      Leishman's 194 is one stroke behind the tournament-best total that Day recorded in 2015. Leishman's total, however, serves as his best 54-hole mark on the PGA Tour.

      Leishman shared the 54-hole lead at the Dell Technologies Championship TPC Boston two weeks ago with Justin Thomas, who surged ahead in the final round to win the event.

      "Putting four good rounds together (is the biggest challenge)" Leishman said, according to CBSSports.com. "A lot of tournaments you put three rounds together. May not be in a row. Very easy to throw a mediocre round in there. Tomorrow I got to try not to do that.

      "After what happened at the Dell, I got extra determination to finish this one off and my game is in a better spot. I feel like this course sets up for me a little better than it did at Dell. Hopefully I can just play well, do the right things and not worry about the result too much, as hard as that will be."

      Day, who won the tournament in 2015, and Fowler each carded a 70 on Saturday. Day closed within two shots at the turn before collecting eight pars and a bogey on the back nine.

      "Bit of a grind out there today," Day said. "I thought with the pin locations, looking at them this morning, I felt there was an opportunity to shoot a low score, which there was. To be honest, to only have one bogey -- obviously I missed opportunities out there like a couple on the last two days. I missed those today and, unfortunately, shot 1 under. With the way I was hitting it, I'm actually quite happy."

      Day, however, knows that overcoming Leishman could be a tall order on Sunday.

      "Leish is playing spectacular," Day said. "Quite happy with how he's happy because we're on the Presidents Cup team together but saying that, I mean he's going to be very difficult to beat tomorrow. I got to come out and play really good golf because he's not making any mistakes. (He's) hitting it on the greens and holing putts. That's a good formula for success and it's going to be tough tomorrow."

      Fowler got off on the right foot by sinking a 25-foot eagle putt on the opening hole, but mustered just one birdie the rest of the day. He failed to convert putts from approximately six feet away on consecutive holes on the back nine.

      Britain's Justin Rose shot a bogey-free round and finished with a 66 on Saturday to reside in fourth place, seven strokes behind Leishman.

      Spaniard Jon Rahm carded a 65 in the third round to pull himself into a seven-way tie at 11 under. Others included in that mix are Scott Brown, Ryan Moore, Charley Hoffman, Chez Reavie and Matt Kuchar -- who each shot a 67 on Saturday -- and Patrick Cantlay (70).

      Phil Mickelson shot a 69 on Saturday, marking his seventh straight round in the 60s. He sits at 9 under for the tournament.

  • Els withdraws from KLM Open to aid in Irma aftermath
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 12, 2017

    Ernie Els has withdrawn from the European Tour's KLM Open golf tournament so he can help family and friends in Florida deal with the effects of Hurricane Irma.

    • "It's an uncertain time and my first care right now and the next few days is to support my family as well as our friends and associates at Els for Autism," Els said, per Golf Digest. "We must be ready for the consequences of this terrible storm. It's going to be a hard time and we have to put our shoulders together."

      Tournament organizers said the school that Els and his wife Liezl built for autistic children in Jupiter, Fla. was forced to close as Hurricane Irma approached. Els was bestowed the 2017 Heisman Humanitarian Award in August for his work with the foundation.

      "It is extremely regrettable that Ernie Els can not be with (us) this year," tournament director Daan Slooter said of the KLM Open in Spijk, Netherlands. "However, we all understand his choice and hope with him that the damage after the hurricane is not too bad and that everyone is safe."

  • 1st, 2nd place both common outcomes for Spieth
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 11, 2017

    They won't start calling Jordan Spieth "Mr. Runner-up," anytime soon, even though he finished second in the first two playoff events and three times in his past nine tournaments.

    • After all, he is ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking and leads the FedExCup point standings heading into the third playoff event, the BMW Championship this week at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill.

      "They just played better than me," said Spieth, who lost out to top-ranked Dustin Johnson in the Northern Trust to open the postseason before his good pal Justin Thomas beat him in the Dell Technologies Championship.

      "Things are in really good shape," Spieth said. "It's just a matter of closing it out. You know, (in the Northern Trust), I had a chance and ran into Dustin. (In the Dell), I was tied on the back nine at one point, through 13, and needed a couple more (shots) to get there.

      "I didn't lose it tournament. (Thomas) won it, you know."

      Spieth does have three victories this season, including his third major title in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He has won 11 times in his PGA Tour career to go with 13 runner-up finishes.

      In addition to his three major titles, he also finished second three times in Grand Slam events.

      On a much smaller scale, his record is a bit like that of the great Jack Nicklaus, who won 78 tournaments and finished second 58 times. The Golden Bear won a record 18 majors in addition to finishing second 19 times.

      As Spieth said, sometime the other guy simply plays a little better.

      Nobody played better than the then-22-year-old Texan in 2015, when he won five times, including the Masters and U.S. Open. That year, he finished no worse than a tie for fourth in any of the four majors before capping the season by winning the Tour Championship to claim the FedExCup.

      Spieth rose to No. 1 in the world, but there have been times in the past two years when there was talk of him being in a slump, even though he won three times around the world in 2016 and before adding another three victories in 2017.

      He arrived at the PGA Championship this summer with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam, but he tied for 28th at Quail Hollow in his first bid to become the sixth player pull off that feat.

      Now he has a chance to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win the FedExCup twice.

      "Even if I do win it, I'll call it the second-best year I've had," said Spieth, who has finished in the top 20 in the BMW Championship all for times he has played the tournament, with his best result a tie for eighth in 2014 at Cherry Hills in Colorado.

      "I'm hitting the ball as good or better consistently as I've ever hit it. And my putter, it's starting to come around. I tried to mess with things for most of the year, and I just stopped trying to mess with it and just set the putter right down and hit it right there. If it goes in, great, and if it doesn't, then it doesn't."

      Spieth is in a four-way battle with Thomas, Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan for the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Thomas grabbed the lead two weeks ago at the Dell with his fifth victory of the season, a tally that includes his first major in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

      Johnson, the defending champion in the BMW, has won four times this season, including two World Golf Championships and the playoff opener. Matsuyama has three victories, also including two WGC titles.

      "If the four of us finish 20th from here on in, I think it's probably Justin's," said Spieth, who has finished in the top 10 on 10 occasions this season, eight of those top threes. "But I think that, again, it's very much in the air.

      "I mean, he's got (five) wins and a major. A major, and we're going to have a pretty good taste of what everybody equates World Golf Championships, majors, whatever it may be.

      "But if any of the four of us were to win the FedExCup title, it's Player of the Year. But I would put myself in third behind Justin and Dustin."

      Regardless of what happens this week, Spieth is guaranteed to head to the finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in the top five, giving him the chance to claim his second FedExCup with a victory.

      And in position to possibly finish second -- again.