By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
LAS VEGAS -- The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open has been a popular place for players to get their first PGA TOUR win. The tournament has produced 10 first-time winners in the past 20 years, including Jim Furyk (1995) and Tiger Woods (1996). Here's a look at five players seeking their first TOUR win this week. Who do you think is the best candidate to earn his first victory this week in Vegas? Leave your choice in the comments section below:
1. Graham DeLaet
Career starts: 81
2013 FedExCup rank: 8
DeLaet had his breakout season in 2013, posting his career-best finish at The Barclays (T-2) and finishing third two other times. He also played in his first Presidents Cup and qualified for his first TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. He was third on TOUR in greens in regulation in 2013 and first in total driving.
2. Brendon De Jonge
Career starts: 178
2013 FedExCup rank: 26
Like DeLaet, de Jonge played in the Presidents Cup and TOUR Championship. His best career finish (T-2) came at this event last year. That shouldn’t be a surprise. He led the TOUR in birdies in 2013 (399), and low scores are necessary in Las Vegas.
3. Hideki Matsuyama
Career starts: 12
2013 FedExCup rank: N/A
Matsuyama, who is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member, started the season with a career-best third place finish at the Frys.com Open. He has finished in the top 25 in all seven of his TOUR starts as a professional.
4. Charlie Wi
Career starts: 208
2013 FedExCup rank: 123
Jimmy Walker’s win at last week’s Frys.com Open was the first of his TOUR career; it came in his 188th start. Wi is seeking his first victory after 208 starts. He’s won nine times worldwide, and has five runners-up in his TOUR career.
5. Kevin Stadler
Career starts: 233
2013 FedExCup rank: 33
Stadler almost qualified for his first Masters this year, but narrowly missed qualifying for the TOUR Championship. A victory this week would earn him his first trip to Augusta National, where his father, Craig, won the 1982 Masters. Kevin Stadler has won four times on the Web.com Tour and once on the European Tour. Like Walker and Wi, he has waited a long time for that first TOUR win.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
The FedExCup Playoffs get under way in just three weeks, meaning the pressure to secure a spot in the top 125 is reaching its peak.
Two competitors in the Reno-Tahoe Open field -- Charlie Wi and Stuart Appleby -- are in position after 36 holes to turn themselves from Playoff hopefuls into Playoff locks.
Wi (FedExCup: 121st) and Appleby (124th) each have 19 points in the Modified Stableford format to sit in a third-place tie as second-round play winds down at Montreux.
Wi had five birdies and an eagle Friday to add 15 points to his total while Appleby carded four birdies against one bogey for seven points.
Appleby was asked if he thought he was safe inside the FedExCup top 125 after his round.
“I don't want to think like that,” he said. “And I don't believe that to be the case. That would be a terrible mistake to make … I really want to make inroads this week.”
After nine holes of his opening round, Wi was minus-3 -- which is not where he wanted to be in this scoring system. He rebounded to finish his day at plus-4 and added another 15 points Friday to move into contention.
“(This format is) a lot of fun,” Wi said. “Yesterday I got off to a rough start. It was minus 3 after nine holes. And I just told myself, couple birdies I'm on the plus side. I just tried to chip it away one at a time. Here I am now.”
Not everyone on the FedExCup bubble has fared as well as Appleby and Wi this week. No. 123 Padraig Harrington and No. 127 Chad Campbell finished 36 holes with just two points and will both miss the cut. No. 128 Greg Owen has two points through 14 holes today and is also on the verge of missing out on the weekend -- and any FedExCup points.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: A nine-time winner around the world, Charlie Wi has five runner-up finishes in the last six seasons on the PGA TOUR. He'll need to improve his final-round scoring average -- Wi currently ranks 144th at 71.83, more than a stroke higher than his average before the cut -- to turn those seconds into wins.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: Wi finished fifth or better four times in 2012 with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am his best chance at that elusive breakthrough win. Aided by a opening 61 at Monterey Peninsula, Wi held at least a share of the lead in the first three rounds and was up by three as Sunday dawned. He tripled the first hole, though, and was overtaken by a hard-charging Phil Mickelson. – Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: He’s one of my favorite players on TOUR. Charlie is a journeyman who may not make the World Golf Hall Of Fame, but is part of a group of player who comprise the backbone of the PGA TOUR. Always a professional, he had a chance to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am but struggled in the final round. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: ... In a word, commodity. In six seasons, he's banked $1.14-$1.85 million in each and posted a runner-up finish in all but one. All four of his top 10s in 2012 were top fives, and it was his age-40 season. His consistency limits him to the middle rounds of full-season formats, a value boosted by a full schedule. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
||AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 18
Rounds played: 52
Top-10 finishes: 4
Money List rank: N/A
Driving distance: 134th
Driving accuracy: 87th
Greens in regulation: 184th
Strokes gained-putting: 42nd
Scoring average: 115th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is you prediction for Charlie Wi in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know.
Following his opening-round 64 at the 2012 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Charlie Wi meets with the media and talks about what got his round going.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Charlie Wi is in a familiar position: In the lead after the first round.
Wi shot an 8-under 64 Thursday on the Palm Course at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. It is the eighth time in his career he has been atop the leaderboard after the opening day.
Whether he can stay there is another matter. The 40-year-old has yet to win in 183 starts on the PGA TOUR.
For now, though, Wi owns a one-shot lead over Tommy Gainey and Camilo Villegas. Gainey is trying to win for a second straight start, while Villegas is looking for his first win since 2010.
“The Palm Course is a course where you need to score,” Wi said. “All the par 5s are reachable so I felt like I took advantage of them.”
Specifically the seventh hole, where Wi sank an eagle putt from 15 feet. “When I made [that], I felt like I had something special going today,” said Wi, who took just 22 putts Thursday.
Twice this year Wi has been similarly special. He opened with a 61 in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a 66 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. He finished second and 29th, respectively, in those events.
Thursday, Wi played the par 5s in 5 under. He also made eight birdies and an eagle, which included a chip-in on No. 9 to go out in 30 before closing out his round with back-to-back birdies.
Should Wi go on to win, he would move inside the top 30 on the money list, which would earn him a spot in next year’s Masters.
“I wasn’t showing up just to play,” Wi said. “I wanted to finish strong.”
That’s been easier said than done. Wi ranks 157th and 146th, respectively, in third and fourth-round scoring average.
Editor’s note: Charlie Wi didn’t learn he was in the CIMB Classic field until less than two weeks before the first round of the event, when Rickie Fowler withdrew due to back issues. But that hasn’t dampened Wi’s enthusiasm for returning to the CIMB Classic after a one-year hiatus as part of the elite 48-man field. The trip to the Malaysia brings Wi to a place he is quite familiar with and one where he has found tremendous success. Born in Seoul, Korea, the California resident has two victories in Malaysia – the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Open, his first win as a professional, and the 2006 Malaysian Open.
Wi is hoping for some more Malaysian magic to help boost his up-and-down 2012 season. Wi finished 60th in the FedExCup standing on the strength of a runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as well as two other top-four finishes (T4-Valero Texas Open, T3 The Greenbrier Classic).
PGATOUR.COM sat down with Wi to talk about his return to Malaysia and expectations for the 2012 event.
Q. You've won two tournaments in Malaysia - what do you think accounts for your tremendous success here?
Wi: I am very comfortable in the warm weather and playing Bermuda greens. I think that is what accounts for my success, not only in Malaysia, but also when I play in Florida and Texas.
Q. What are some of the more memorable moments from your two wins in Malaysia?
Wi: Well, the 1997 Mild Seven Kuala Lumpur Open was my very first professional win, so that will always be the one I cherish the most. As a side note, the week I won, there was a huge fire in Indonesia and all of the smoke and ash was blown toward Malaysia. It made it difficult to see and our faces became covered in soot and ash as we played.
Q. You tied for 18th at the inaugural CIMB Classic but did not play last year. Talk about how important it was to you to make the field and return this year?
Wi: I really love playing in Asia and, more specifically, playing in Malaysia. Because of that, I really wanted to be a part of this field. I love the culture and the people I have met here over the years.
Q. As a player who has traveled, played and won around the world, what sorts of things do you enjoy about Malaysia?
Wi: It is a very multi-cultural country where you can find all different types of food and people. I really love sightseeing there because the architecture is amazing. I especially love visiting the twin towers.
Q. Next year, the CIMB Classic will be elevated to a FedExCup event, with official money/official win status. What are your thoughts on this change and what it means to the players, as well as to the importance of golf in the region?
Wi: I think it is excellent for all players involved, as the field will be expanded. It will allow more PGA TOUR-based players to visit Asia and experience the great culture that Malaysia has to offer. Many U.S.-born players have not had the opportunity to travel the world to play golf as I have. I think making the CIMB Classic an official PGA TOUR event will entice more players to participate and, once they’ve had the experience of playing here, it will expand the way they look at Asian golf.
KUALA LUMPUR -- Rickie Fowler announced Thursday that he has withdrawn from the CIMB Classic, citing back issues. Charlie Wi, a two-time winner in Malaysia, will replace Fowler in the lucrative U.S. $6.1 million showpiece to be played at the Mines Resort and Golf Club from Oct. 25-28.
“I am sorry to confirm, but I will not be competing in the KOLON Korea Open next week, nor the CIMB Classic the following week in Malaysia as planned,” Fowler said in a statement. “Unfortunately, while not serious, I have battled a back issue for the past few months, and my doctors have instructed me that international travel and any tournament play is not in my best interest at this time.
"They have instructed me rather to focus on a therapy regimen in order to find relief as well as prevent potential issues in the future.”
Wi was eager to get the opportunity to play in the CIMB Classic. Born in Seoul, Korea, the California resident has two victories in Malaysia (1997 Kuala Lumpur Open and the 2006 Maybank Malaysian Open). In an up-and-down 2012 season, Wi finished 60th in the FedExCup standings. His year included a runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as well as a tie for fourth at the Valero Texas Open and a share of third at The Greenbrier Classic.
Fowler said he had been "very much looking forward" to defending his first professional victory at the KOLON Korean Open. "My friends and fans there made me feel very welcome and Korea will always have special meaning for me as the place I won my first pro trophy," he said.
Fowler did not play in Malaysia last year but he tied for fifth in 2010 so he has history there, as well. "(I) was hoping to enjoy Malaysian kindness and hospitality once again," Fowler said, adding he looked forward to competing in both events in the future.
The CIMB Classic will feature 30 players from the PGA TOUR and the top 10 available players from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit. Eight sponsor exemptions will make up the rest of the field, with two places reserved for Malaysian professionals – Danny Chia and Shaaban Hussin.
There will be no halfway cut for the event and as such all players will play all four days of golf, with the winner earning $1.3 million. The CIMB Classic is sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, Asian Tour and Professional Golf Association of Malaysia.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Charlie Wi said he’s never seen TPC Sawgrass in better condition and on Friday he played like it.
”You can tell always by when you get to the 11th tee box, usually there's no grass there,” said Wi, who had eight birdies en route to a 67 that leaves him near the lead at 6 under heading to the weekend. “But this year, it's just perfect.”
Wi was nearly perfect on the front nine, going out in 31 with five birdies and no bogeys.
Spurred on by a hot putter, Wi had 11 putts through his first nine holes and ended the day with a dozen one-putts. His only slip-up came on the 18th, where he slid his 3 1/2-footer for par past the hole.
Still, Wi is in good position as he tries for his first career victory on the PGA TOUR. This certainly isn’t the first time he’s put himself in contention.
At Pebble Beach, Wi opened with a 61 and led going into the final round before shooting 72 to finish second to Phil Mickelson, who closed with a 64. Wi also tied for fourth last month in San Antonio.
Wi has finished second five times in his career and has 18 top 10s.
“I think the more you put yourself in position to win, I think that it just becomes habit,” Wi said. “One day, I'm going to break the door down.”
Whether it’s this week, we’ll see. This is just the fourth PLAYERS Championship for Wi, who has twice missed the cut and never finished in the top 40.
On the flip side, Wi doesn’t have to look back very far to find a player who made THE PLAYERS his first career win on TOUR: Tim Clark did it two years ago.
The final group is off; now can anyone catch Ben Curtis ? Here’s a look at the contenders.
Every, a 2006 University of Florida graduate, is having the best year of his young career since becoming a member of the PGA TOUR in 2010 with three top-10 finishes in 10 starts this season. One of those came just last week with a tie for eighth at the RBC Heritage.
This also marks the 40th start of Every’s career, and he’s in search of his first win. His best finish so far was a tie for third earlier this year in Mexico.
He’ll need to play better than he has the last two days, however, when he failed to break par in the second or third rounds. Overall, though, he’s driving it well -- T9 in fairways hit -- and hitting a lot of greens -- T3 in greens in regulation. He is, however, just 46th in strokes gained-putting.
Five strokes will be awfully hard to make up on a golf course that has played two strokes over par through the first three rounds, unless Curtis starts going backwards.
But Wi has played well in this tournament in the past, tying for second in 2008 after a career-low tying 61 in the final round.
He probably won’t need to go quite that low here in the final round, but something in the mid-60s would go a long way.
In search of his second win, 21-year-old rookie Huh is coming off his best round of the week, a 5-under 67.
Earlier this year, Huh defeated Robert Allenby in sudden death at the Mayakoba Golf Classic to become 2012’s first rookie winner. Should he win this week, he would become fifth rookie to win multiple times in a season, dating to 1990. Most recently, Keegan Bradley achieved the feat last year, having won the HP Byron Nelson Championship and PGA Championship.
Rookie Seung-yul Noh made seven birdies on his way to a 4-under 68 in the third round, but like Wi and Huh, has five shots to make up.
Noh has won twice, overseas, however. On TOUR, his best finish of the year was a tie for 16th in Mexico.
One thing he’s had going for him this week: Putting. He’s fifth in the field in putts per green in regulation.