Harrington Takes Early Lead at PGA Grand Slam

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Padraig Harrington has taken advantage of his wild card entry into the PGA Grand Slam of Golf shooting a five-under par 66 to put himself on top of the leaderboard after the opening round.

The PGA Grand Slam of Golf normally features the year’s four Grand Slam champions but an ankle injury forced the withdrawal of British Open champion Ernie Els and he was replaced by three-time major champion Harrington.

Three birdies in the final five holes allowed Harrington to take a two stroke lead into the clubhouse over Bubba Watson who took an early lead but bogeyed three holes in the back nine to finish on 68.

Webb Simpson was third on 69 with Keegan Bradley, another wildcard entrant, fourth on 72.

Harrington was happy to hold the overnight lead but wasn’t overly impressed with the way he played.

”I had a 15-footer at the third and kind of lost my focus a bit on the line and drove it through the line and then hit a bad putt coming back, a terrible bogey,” Harrington said.

“It wasn’t feeling great. You need to be making the birdies at that stage.”

The popular Irishman is making his third appearance in the PGA Grand Slam and is hoping to break through for his maiden victory in the $600,000 event.

“I’ve come close twice in Grand Slams and hopefully it will be that close coming down the stretch this week and it would fall in my favour,” he said.

Harrington said he wouldn’t be overly disappointed if he can’t convert his lead into a victory as he is simply happy to be given the chance to play in the tournament.

“Anytime you can come to this event, it’s fun,” Harrington said.

“The weather was perfect, the fans were great. It was good.”

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Donald Jumps To Top Spot On PGA Money List

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Luke Donald has confirmed his position as world number one after claiming his latest PGA Tour title on the weekend.

Donald went into the final round of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic five shots off the pace and had plenty of work to do on the final 18 holes.

Luke Donald leads into final round

Luke Donald wins PGA Tour event at Disney World.

He needed to start sinking some birdies to challenge in the low scoring tournament and after nine holes he’d only managed to find two.

Things changed on the home turn though as he fired six in a row before finishing the day with three par’s.

His eight under round of 64 was enough to make up the deficit and confirm his spot at the top of the rankings.

“This is one of the most satisfying wins of my career,” he said.

Donald was more than $360,000 off Webb Simpson on the money list going into the tournament and with nine holes to play he sat two shots adrift of him.

He managed to make up the deficit though and in doing so leap frog his rival to the top of the money list.

“I’m thrilled and over the moon,” Donald said.

This win leaves Donald on track to becoming the first player in history to top the money list on both the US PGA tour and the European tour.

In Europe he holds a $1.8 million advantage over Rory McIlroy with five events left on the calendar.

Donald won today by two shots over Justin Leonard and earned $846,000, giving him just over $6.6 million for the year.

Simpson was naturally frustrated abut giving up his lead but said these things can happen when you’re playing against the world number one.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” said Simpson (69), who tied for 7th.

“The fact is, playing against the best player in the world, he’s going to do something great like that most of the time, and he did.”

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Wayward Tiger Can’t Find His Short Game

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There were plenty of positive signs for Tiger Woods leading into this week’s Frys.com Open and to be fair a few of those signs were evident on the golf course.

In the end though it wasn’t replicated on the scoreboard as his hours of swing technique practice showed…through his horrible putting.

It was his first event for two months saying taking a break to sort out his niggling injuries as well as refocus his mind.

Woods lead up work was solid but at the end of the day his finished at a two over par 73.

Tiger Woods at Doral

Tiger Woods can't get his putting right in his comeback tournament.

Highlighting his green troubles were two main misses, one form six feet and the other from four feet both costing him birdies.

As it stand he’s six off the leader but he knows it could have been so much better.

“That’s probably one of the worst putting rounds I’ve ever had,” he said.

“I just had a hard time hitting my (putting) stroke, and then I started altering it. I started losing confidence in it because I wasn’t hitting my line, so it was just a downward spiral.

“I think I’m going to go put some lead tape on it (the putter) and see if maybe I can get a little bit more mass. It’s always worked in the past.”

His round consisted of two bogeys, two birdies and a double bogey at the par five 12th hole.

All up he had 27 putts for the round and made just half of the greens in regulation.

His only putt greater than six feet came on the 10th when he dropped a 12 footer to save par.

“I’m just playing to get competitive and win a golf tournament,” Woods said.

“It’s about going out there and playing, and right now I’m six (shots) back. I need to put together a good round tomorrow and gradually piece my way back into the tournament.”

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Fall Of The Tiger, Woods Slips Outside Top 50

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It’s something that his fans thought wouldn’t happen until the day he retired but Tiger Woods is out of the world’s top 50 players for the first time since he entered into it in 1996.

Woods now sits at 51st in the rankings his lowest spot since way back on October 13, 1996 when he was ranked 61st following his maiden US PGA Tour win at the Las Vegas Invitational.

It was only a week after that he first ventured into the top 50 after winning at Disney World and beginning a remarkable run up the leader board.

In fact Woods spent a total of 778 inside the top 50 where he racked up 14 major’s in the process.

Tiger Woods at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods drops from top 50 but is showing signs of promise.

The former world number one does have a chance to reclaim his spot though as he returns from a two month break to play at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle on Thursday.

He is showing signs of regaining some form as well after shooting a practice round of 62 in preparation for the event.

It would be a huge turnaround though from a player who hasn’t tasted victory for nearly two years, the Australian Open of November 2009 his last triumph before his life infamously unravelled.

Throughout this year it’s been a real struggle for the former champ who’s battled problems in his knee and Achilles and was ultimately forced to reoperate after missing the cut in the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club back in August.

“We’re practicing very hard up at Medalist and I’m playing as much as I possibly can, something that I hadn’t not done all summer, because I hadn’t been cleared (by doctors) to do it,” Woods said.

A big portion of his break has also been spent working on a new swing technique with coach Sean Foley which is designed on taking some of the pressure of his lead leg.

It seems to be paying off though with his 62 on the Medalist a course record which included 10 birdies, seven on the back nine, where he shot 29.

“My training sessions are great,” Woods said.

“Strength has come back. My explosiveness has come back through my training, and now just trying to get my feels back, and it feels great.”

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Australians Hit Form Ahead Of Presidents Cup

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In what could be an ominous sign ahead of the upcoming President’s Cup the Australian contingent on the PGA Tour appear to be hitting form at the right time.

All up there were four Aussies with credible finishes in the season ending Tour Championship and three who had very realistic chances of winning the event.

The most realistic of them belonged to Aaron Baddeley who seemingly threw away victory with some miscalculated putting on back nine.

In the end take nothing away from American victor Bill Haas though who defeated Hunter Mahan on the third sudden death playoff hole to not only win the tournament but also the FedEx Cup itself.

His win was worth a total of $US11.44 million and it could well earn him the final captains pick on the US Team to face the internationals in the President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne in November.

If he does so he’ll likely meet the same Australians that were nipping at his heels throughout the final round of the Tour Championship.

Aaron Baddeley falls just short in Tour Championship finale

Baddeley started the final day with a share of the lead but missed a long putt on the final hole to fall short of getting into the playoff.

It was the same story for compatriot Adam Scott who charged home with two birdies on the back nine but also let a birdie chance slip on 18.

Scott was still ruing his third round though where he shot a 74 making things more difficult than they needed to be today.

Arguably the most consistent Australian of the past few months Jason Day was again there abouts, this time only a further shot back in a tie for sixth.

He had his chances as well in the final round and should he have won the tournament he would also have picked up the overall prize.

Rejuvenated veteran Geoff Ogilvy rounded out the Aussie contenders coming home nicely in 11th spot after only just edging his way into the season ending finally.

For Baddeley this tournament was absolutely crucial and he is lamenting some missed opportunities.

“Two short misses on the back nine cost me,” Baddeley said. “That was the golf tournament. Make those two short ones, I win.”

It was something Day reiterated after letting Haas off the hook when he bogeyed the second last hole.

“I was looking at the leaderboard, seeing what I needed to do, I was calculating,” Day said.

“It actually wasn’t that hard of a shot, I hit it a little high on the golf club and hit the tree and took a little sting out of it.”

It was his 10th top 10 finish of the season but the world number seven once again couldn’t break through for a tournament win.

He’ll be hoping to change that when he returns down under for the Australian Open which leads into the 2011 President’s Cup.

“I’m looking forward to getting down to Australia,” he said.

“I really want to win the Australian Open, it will be huge, and then I have my first Presidents Cup. I hope the Australian people are as excited as I am.”

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Donald Starts Strongly In FedEx Cup Decider

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Luke Donald sits just two shots off the pace at the Tour Championship in Atlanta after carting a four under 66 on day one of the season ending event.

He is headed by American Keegan Bradley who managed to sink four birdies in the last seven holes to come up with an impressive round of 64.

Donald is out to clinch the season ending championship and is considered by the experts to be the main threat with four other genuine hopefuls, however every player in the field has a theoretical winning hope.

Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson are the current Fed Ex Cup points leaders but it will all come down to the final results here in Atlanta.

Luke Donald maintains European challenge

Luke Donald is within striking distance at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Before he hit his opening shot the world number one Donald spoke about how he had mixed feelings in a year where he had achieved so much.

Sure he became the top ranked player on the planet but he feels not winning a major is a real missed opportunity.

‘The number one goal at the beginning of this year was to try and compete and be in contention for majors,’ said Donald.

‘In that regards, I suppose it was somewhat disappointing. I had a chance in two of them, which was an improvement on previous years, but two of them weren’t that great. I think that always has to be the focus.’

Winning the Fed Ex Cup though would be a handy consolation prize given it carries with it a $10 million bonus.

‘I’m not really thinking about the money. I’m really more concentrating on winning the tournament, picking up another trophy, winning the FedExCup, hopefully winning Player of the Year that comes with it, all the spoils that comes with it. But the bonus money is nice.’

The $10 million probably doesn’t feel like as much as it would to some people though given that he is in the running to become the first player in history to finish the year atop of both the PGA Tour and European Tour money list.

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FedEx Cup Champ Makes Inroads At Cog Hill

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As the reigning FedEx Cup champion you’d assume there’d be plenty of pressure on the shoulders of Jim Furyk as he embarked on second last leg of the season ending championship this weekend.

Furyk was well that he needed to make improvement to secure his spot at the Tour Championship in Atlanta but he insists he’s not keeping track of just what improvements are required.

He says it’s far better for his golf that he remain blissfully unaware of the maths and purely focus on finishing off as well as he can in the BMW Championship.

“I’m not sure what that spot is; and I won’t check,” Furyk

Jim Furyk on the right path to gaining a start in the Tour Championship.

” I want to go out and play as well as I can. As the week goes on, they start giving you projections… But if I knew I had to finish 18th to advance, it’s the wrong process to go out there and think about finishing 18th.

“”The idea is we tee it up every week and try to play the best with what you’ve got. We’re ultimately trying to win golf tournaments and jockey for position.”

Whether that’s the whole truth or maybe the half truth doesn’t really matter given Furyk opened his round in fine style finishing three under and in a tie for fifth position.

That’s rocketed him up to 35th in the overall standings and should he hold his spot he’ll find himself on a  plane to Atlanta.

In fact any result in the top 11 will likely see Furyk with a chance to defend his FedEx Cup title.

The opening day was led by Justin Rose, the Englishman who’s starting somewhat of a late season revival after petering out during the middle period.

He actually entered the BMW Championship only one place in front of Furyk meaning anything as good as 12th will see him through.

Like his rival though, he maintains he’s focussed purely on doing as well as he can at Cog Hill.

“I didn’t know what I needed to do,” he said.

“The mindset I’ve got is I’ve got nothing to lose this week. That’s my strategy. That’s my attitude. Right now I’m not going to Atlanta. I’ve got everything to gain this week. That’s really the way I’m seeing it. Guys who are 26, 27, 28, 29 who have played well all year, they might be pretty tense this week because they feel they deserve to be in Atlanta, et cetera, et cetera. For me, I still feel like I can make it a great year.”

Anyone in the top 21 on the current standings is assured of a place in Atlanta leaving just nine positions up for grabs for the remaining 49 players.

Conditions won’t be making things easier for them either with temperatures into the 40 degree area.

“It’s very, very tough to play,” Rose said.

“There’s no faking it out there. You’ve got to go out and play good golf. You can’t really get away with too much on this golf course.

“My mindset was to respect the golf course and to go out there and just fairways-and-greens it. That sounds simple. I didn’t expect to do that and make nine birdies for sure. I felt like if you could keep it around par today, it would have been a pretty solid start to the golf tournament.”

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Donald Attacks Uk Paper Over Claims Tiger’s Toasted

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Luke Donald has refuted a front page headline in the UK which quotes him as declaring Tiger Woods a spent force in world golf.

Yesterday morning the headline across the Daily Express read, “Luke Donald: The Tiger Woods Era is ‘Over’”.

Luke Donald

Luke Donald insists he didn't make the comments quoted in a British tabloid.

Today though Donald has taken a stance against the tabloid insisting he said no such thing.

“I don’t recall ever saying the Tiger era is over,” Donald said.

“I’ve certainly said in the past I think it’s tough to come back from physical injuries. I’ve had some, and obviously being away from the game for so long, it’s certainly not going to be easy for him to get back to where he was.

“I wouldn’t doubt that Tiger will come back and win again.”

It’s an interesting battle between the tabloid and Donald given his words weren’t paraphrased however directly quoted according to the author.

An extract from the article reads as follows:

“When you get that combination of injury plus the scandal that went on, mentally that’s quite scarring. It’s a lot to take, even for someone with one of the strongest minds in golf. It’s a confidence sport. Even though Tiger’s only 35, there are a lot of young guys coming up Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley and a bunch of others. I would assume a new era is upon us.”

If Donald had admitted to the story few could argue with him anyway, Woods hasn’t won a single event on the PGA tour for nearly 24 months.

His last triumph came in November of 2009 when Woods was treated like royalty during his stint down under for the Australian Masters.

It was after that win though that he was involved in the now infamous car accident and one of the biggest scandals in sport unravelled.

There’s also no refuting the fact there are a lot of young players coming through, in fact of the last eight major champions, five of them are yet to turn 30.

Still though, Donald is eager to clear the air and have his true feelings put forward.

“Whether the Tiger era is over, I don’t know,” Donald said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of great young players coming up and showing a lot of talent. But certainly, I would never be naive enough to write Tiger off.

“He has a tremendous amount of talent, and I’m sure when he starts playing a little bit more, that will start showing again.”

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Simpson Claims Reavie In Deutsche Bank Championship

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Webb Simpson is the USA PGA Deutsche Bank Champion after finishing the better in the second playoff hole against fellow American Chez Reavie.

Simpson hit a nine foot birdie putt after a glorious approach shot to claim his second title in two weeks.

In fact his victory a fortnight ago at Greensboro was his first all year giving him a huge boost in confidence and prize money as he rounds out the season.

It was a tremendous closing few holes for Simpson who sank a 26 foot monster put on the 18th just to force it to a playoff.

On the first playoff hole he was again under pressure dropping one in from 15 feet.

“It was great,” Simpson said. “To finish the way I did, birdies on 18 and then birdie 17, it was awesome.

Webb Simpson wins in Greensboro

Webb Simpson makes it two in quick succession after his win in Greensboro.

“I thought winning the second time would be easier but it wasn’t.”

While jubilation for Simpson it was disappointment for Reavie who was so close to a fairytale result in Boston.

His only ever PGA title came way back in 2008 at the Canadian Open and as he approached the 72nd hole a second was well within reach.

All he had to do was save par on a hole that just five players had bogied before him.

Unfortunately that number then grew to six as Reavie sprayed his second shot wide and found the rough to the side of the green.

It was his first bogey in 30 holes of golf and left him with a final round of 66.

Both players were tied on a 15 under par 269 with Simpson shooting a final round of 65 to draw alongside Reavie at the end of regulation.

“Unfortunately, my wedge didn’t quite work out,” Reavie said. “I’m going to make a 5 there nine times out of 10. But all in all on the day, I played fantastic.”

The win not only gives Simpson the $1.44 million top prize, it also gives him the overall lead in Fed Ex Cup points standings.

The field of 100 has been cut down to 70 after this tournament with round three to take place at Cog Hill near Chicago for the BMW Championship.

The end of season Tour Championship will then be hosted one week later in Atlanta.

Two strokes back from the leaders of this event were Luke Donald of England alongside Jason Day of Australia and Brandt Snedeker of the USA.

In sixth it was Jum Furyk of the USA a shot ahead of fellow Americans Bo Van Pelt and Hunter Mahan as well as Australian Adam Scott.

Further back in the pack though few were happier than South African Ernie Els who has just managed to keep his Fed Ex Cup dream alive.

He finished 99th at the end of the first playoff series just sneaking him into this week’s field.

When he arrived at the tee for the final hole he’d improved that by over 20 spots and was just outside gaining a berth in the BMW Championship.

After hitting the green with a good approach shot he managed to sink a high pressure six footer to just sneak inside the bubble.

“When I got to the green, up there on the board I saw I was 71st. I knew I had to make it,” Els said.

“In a way it’s good for me. It brings out a little fight in me again.

“I’ve been struggling all year, especially with the putter. I’ve gone to the belly putter. The putts I’ve made will help me in the future. I’m a little more steady than I’ve been. I’ve made some clutch putts.

“Hopefully I’ll play better in Chicago.”

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Wood’s Scores Presidents Cup Call Up

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Tiger Woods has gained selection for this year’s President’s Cup after captain Fred Couples confirmed he would be one of his two wildcard picks for the biennial event.

The President’s Cup will be played in Melbourne in November leaving Wood’s only limited time to get back to somewhere near a competitive level of play.

The American’s 12 man squad will take on the best of the internationals with at least two players from Australia representing the home country.

With the top 10 US players gaining automatic entry Wood’s was reliant on getting a call up from Couple’s to contest the tournament.

“He’s the captain. It’s his prerogative of who he picks. They wanted me on the team and I’m honoured to be a part of the team,” he said.

Tiger Woods at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods is hoping a new swing technique will be up to scratch for the start of the Presidents Cup

“It’s a wonderful mix of younger guys and older veterans. I also wanted to play and go ahead and test what I’ve been working on.”

Wood’s has played only a limited amount of golf so far in 2011 with persistent achillies and knee problems keeping him on the sidelines.

He will make his return to the PGA Tour at the start of October where he hopes to make inroad on a new swing technique designed to take away some of the stress on his knee.

“I’ve been hurt the majority of the year and haven’t quite gotten to be able to (get) the reps that I need to do what (swing coach) Sean (Foley) wants me to do,” Woods said.

“We were right on track at Augusta, but unfortunately I got hurt there and then it was a huge setback. We’re just trying to get back to where I was at Augusta, and it’s coming around. I just need more reps.”

This year’s President’s Cup will be played at the Royal Melbourne composite course from the 16th to the 20th of November.

The international’s squad will be finalised over the next two weeks with the top ranked players from a non-European and non-USA country to be automatic selections for the squad captained by Greg Norman.

The USA team is selected on the back of a points system taking in the past 12 months.

The President’s Cup isn’t the only tournament Wood’s missed qualification for with the Fed Ex Cup to continue without him in Boston this weekend.

Wood’s says he’s deeply disappointed to not be a part of the end of year playoff series given he’s had so much success there in the past.

“It’s like missing a major championship,” Woods said.

“I’m missing tournaments I normally play in or have played in. It’s part of being injured and not being able to play.”

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