Amanda Balionis looks back at all the good, the bad and the unusual sights and sounds from RBC Canadian Open, PGA Championship, The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
Well, that was a bit too close for comfort really! But I’m in. I’ll be teeing it up at next week’s BMW Championship, the third playoff event in this year’s FedExCup, and quite relieved to be having the opportunity.
In the first couple of rounds at the Deutsche Bank Championship I did exactly what I had to do, hit more fairways and greens than I have recently and made fewer mistakes. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid enough. Rounds of 66 and 69 had me in a nice position going into the final two days, around the tied-20th mark and looking to move upwards and make safe that spot inside the top 70 on the FedExCup rankings. That was the magic number.
I didn’t play quite as well in Sunday’s third round, but managed to finish with three straight birdies to shoot 68 and that was important. It got me in touch with where we needed to be on the leaderboard, in tied-24th. There were lots of possibilities and mathematical permutations, but my guess was we’d need to climb further up the leaderboard in order to stay in this race.
My target at the start of the day was to get to 14 under, which would mean shooting a 4-under round of 67, so it was important to make a move early and get some momentum going. Two birdies in my first four holes, that was good, but after that it was pars all the way – not a disaster, obviously, but still a bit frustrating. All day I kind of knew that it was right on the line and playing with Brendan Steele he was in the same boat, basically.
Anyway, after signing for a 2-under 69 and a 12-under aggregate, it was hard to be confident. There were so many players yet to complete their rounds, and so many little twists and turns that could come. As I said before, we felt that 14 under would be safe and I didn't quite do that. It was disappointing; it felt like I’d just missed the cut to be honest. For a while I was out of the top 70, but a few of the guys made some bogeys coming in and that elevated me up into 70th place and that’s where we are this morning. Just good enough!
Having had a night to reflect on it, I’m pretty pleased with my performance at the Deutsche Bank Championship. To go there and shoot four rounds in the 60s, the first time I’ve done that on the PGA TOUR this season, was a decent effort especially in the circumstances. I can take a fair degree of satisfaction from that.
This coming week is completely free, so I can just be at home and do my own thing, work on my game and get myself ready for the BMW Championship. We’ll be at the Tom Fazio-designed Conway Farms course in Lake Forest, Chicago, which is a new venue for this tournament. Some of the players were talking about it last week and saying it’s a fantastic golf course in great condition and with a set-up where we might get some low scoring. We’ll see.
Of the 70 players who tee it up in the BMW Championship, only 30 will progress to the following week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. No point doing the calculations. I’ve just got to take care of my own business and try to win the golf tournament.
I’ll write again soon.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
NORTON, Mass. -- Henrik Stenson assured himself of a position in the all-important top five in the FedExCup who control their own destiny heading into the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola when he won the Deutsche Bank Championship on Sunday.
Not only that, he unseated Tiger Woods and took over the No. 1 spot with the win at TPC Boston. Woods is a five-time champ this season but Stenson now has one win, three runner-up finishes, one of which came at The Open Championship, and a third at the PGA Championship.
"I'm just going to continue to try to play my best," Stenson said. "And that's gotten me a very long way. It's going to be no different going to Chicago. I'm going to try my best there and then Atlanta. I've always been a pretty good front-runner. I always liked to think that the other guy is going to have to play better than I do, if I'm in the lead.
"So that's always been the mindset I've had."
Woods, who had been No. 1 since he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, now trails Stenson by 14 points. Adam Scott, who won The Barclays, drops from second to third while Matt Kuchar remains fourth and Canadian Graham DeLaet has moved into fifth.
"Well, we're just trying to play for position, going into East Lake," Woods, who tied for 65th, said. "Obviously it's the reset. ... Obviously after Chicago it's important that I'm in the top five, hopefully first."
Exiting the top five are Phil Mickelson, who came to TPC Boston ranked third, and Justin Rose, who clocked in at No. 5. Mickelson is now sixth while Rose is seventh.
SQUEAKING IN: Ernie Els was the 70th and last player to make the BMW Championship field. He finished the Deutsche Bank Championship with 823.467 points, while Ryan Palmer -- who missed the cut at TPC Boston -- finished with 823.000 points. So by less than a half-point, Els is headed to Conway Farms. " I kind of knew I was right on the line," Els said.
BUBBLE BOY: Lee Westwood moved up one spot to No. 30 when he tied for 27th.
MOVING IN: Kevin Stadler (now ranked No. 32), Brian Davis (43rd), Ian Poulter (52nd), Marc Leishman (58th), Nicholas Thompson (59th), Brendan Steele (69th) and Ernie Els (70th).
MOVING OUT: Palmer, Freddie Jacobson, Martin Laird, David Lingmerth, Kyle Stanley, Cameron Tringale and Tim Clark. All but Tringale missed the 36-hole cut.
QUOTABLE: "It's in the back of your mind, but it's not the end of the world. I've got my card for next year. I'm playing good. I've had a good one year ago, getting married, we're having a kid, retained my card, I'm playing in the third FedExCup event. Anybody that complains about that is just bad," Nicholas Thompson, who played his way to Chicago for the second time.
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
NORTON, Mass. -- When you give the best ballstriker on the PGA TOUR a perfect lie in every fairway; he is going to do some damage. Henrik Stenson entered this week leading the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation and in ballstriking and the Deutsche Bank Championship only enhanced those numbers.
He won by pounding the ball into 61 of 72 greens to lead the tournament. With preferred lies for the final two rounds because of wet weather, it only helped Stenson’s chances.
He has been a great ballstriker all year but what changed this week was his putting. He had putting rounds of 31-27-28-28 and ranked 29th in strokes gained putting. Stenson was fourth in strokes gained putting for the final round and 29th for the week.
That is a huge improvement from his first 15 tournaments this year where he ranked 135th in putting.
When you combine ballstriking and putting you have Henrik Stenson as your champion.
Captain America: Steve Stricker entered this tournament with the intention of winning and clinching a slot on the United States Presidents Cup team. One out of two isn’t bad. His 20 under total came up two shy of victory but it did earn a berth on the U.S. squad at Muirfield Village. Stricker missed one fairway the entire day and was 14-for-18 hitting greens in regulation. The 18th hole has to be one of his favorites on the PGA TOUR. He was 5-under on that par 5. Stenson will play in the BMW Championship but could go hunting instead of entering the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in Atlanta. That decision remains to be made.
Curious: Jason Dufner had some curious splits on the golf course. He played the par 5s in 1-over and the par 3s in 8-under. It was also an unusual week putting for the PGA Champion. Dufner ranks 163rd on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting but was third this week in that category. If Dufner has truly found a key to his putting and can combine that with his outstanding ballstriking, then the future is very promising.
Double trouble: Rory McIlroy made the cut on the number, teased us with a third round 64 and then a final round 72 for a T47 finish. He hit the ball much better than that finish would indicate. McIlroy made 23 birdies. That was fourth best in the tournament. So why the T47 finish? Rory combined solid play with eight bogeys and four double bogeys include a pair of 6’s in the final round. He continues to make what he calls “silly mistakes” that just destroy a round.
Tiger time: What a strange week for Tiger Woods. When he made a long birdie on the 18th hole in the second round, I thought he was poised for a huge weekend. Instead his game went in reverse. Tiger birdied his first hole of the final round with a tap in on the 10th and made just one more birdie the remainder of the day. It was not a good week on the greens for Woods as he finished 70th in strokes gained-putting. He lost a combined 4.649 strokes to the field this weekend with poor putting.
Perfect day: Jordan Spieth called it his best round ever. That’s quite a statement. The 20-year-old from Texas shot 62 including a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle finish. Spieth said he had never been able to break 65 and once he got 6 under he stayed aggressive all the way through the final hole. The T4 finish has to get the attention of Fred Couples for Presidents Cup consideration. The day was so perfect for Spieth; he holed his eagle at the 18th just before play was suspended. He was warm, dry, happy and headed home while most of the field waited for the resumption of play.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- How close was the race for the final spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team? Well, it came down to a putt on Zach Johnson's final hole of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday.
When No. 11 Steve Stricker finished second at TPC Boston, he moved into the seventh spot and qualified for his fifth Presidents Cup team. That left Webb Simpson, who ranked ninth at the start of the week, and Zach Johnson, who was No. 10, to battle it out for the final spot.
Johnson needed to earn $29,437 more than Simpson to earn the final spot. He had a a little more than $5,000 to spare when that closing birdie moved Johnson into an eight-way tie for 27th while Simpson, who had bogeyed two of his last four holes, finished in a four-way tie for 53rd.
When told that final birdie landed him in the top 10, Johnson was was surprised.
"If that's the case, I wish there were a way we could somehow be tied for 10th," he said. "Just because I want Webb on the team. I know how he plays."
As it happened, Johnson and Simpson started the final round tied for 56th and were playing together during the final round. Johnson said he thought about the irony of the situation at the start of the round but soon found himself concentrating on his own game.
"And then I made that putt on 9," Johnson said. "I didn't know what the point situation was, between he and I. Actually I thought he was at 8. I thought he jumped to eighth last week. But I guess you've got to go into it and just play.
"And I stayed in my process. I stayed just playing and hitting shots. I had a good day today. I missed some short putts, but I made some long putts. It was an odd day."
Simpson said he knew the two were extremely close in the Presidents Cup standings and that "every shot counted."
"It was hard not to think about it," Simpson said. "But, you know, with all the (weather) delays we've had, my mind's just kind of gone. But he played great. ... He's a great competitor."
Simpson, who played on the last Presidents Cup team in Australia, now must wait until Wednesday to see whether U.S. Captain Fred Couples makes him one of his two picks. He plans to go home to Charlotte, "shut the house down" and wait, adding that he knew Couples has a difficult choice.
"I'd love to make the team," Simpson said. "I'd love to be a pick. I thought about it the last two years, ever since we won in Australia. I'm trusting in the Lord and know that it's going to be a good off season, no matter what."
Both players advanced to the BMW Championship. And Johnson, who said he was "absolutely honored" to make the team, felt good about what he's accomplished in his last six starts that included a string of five straight top-eight finishes.
"And I don't like to be a proud-filled man, the last two and a half, three months I've turned my game around," Johnson said. "I've played consistent golf. I had a hiccup on Friday, bogeyed my last three out of four holes. And outside of that I don't even know. I don't know what I've done.
"Just a lot of solid, solid golf. And I think it just reaffirms what I'm doing. It reaffirms that I have a great team. Great leadership. Trust. I trust in the Lord in everything I do."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass.-- Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship was a good-news, not-quite-as-good-news kind of day for Steve Stricker.
Yes, he played his way into the 10 automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Presidents Cup, which Stricker said all along was his primary goal. In fact, he moved from No. 11 all the way to seventh.
"I had texted (U.S. Captain) Freddie (Couples) earlier in the week, I didn't want one of his spots as a pick, I wanted to make the team on my own," Stricker said. "So I had great incentive, great motivation to play well this week. I'm excited to be part of another team and represent the USA at Muirfield.
But Stricker played so well at TPC Boston that he also had a chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship for the second time in five years. So there was a hint of disappointment when he finished two strokes behind Henrik Stenson.
"I had some real opportunities today," Stricker said. " I hit some great shots on the back nine all the way around and had some makeable putts that I just couldn't get in there. I hit a lot of good putts, hit a lot of edges. SO when I look back ... there's a couple of things there that I didn't do, which I'll look back and be a little frustrated on and disappointed that I wasn't able to pull it off."
Even so, the runner-up finish was Stricker's third in just 11 starts of his abbreviated season. He's ranked eighth in the FedExCup and says he plans to play in the BMW Championship two weeks from now. He's not sure about the season-ending TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, though.
All year Stricker has planned to be in Colorado that week, bow-hunting for elk with five of his buddies.
"I've never done it before and it's been on my to do list to try to do and this was going to be the year to do it," he said.
In fact, the trip has already been pushed back once so he could play in Chicago and then leave the following Monday. Now Stricker will wait and see how he plays at Conway Farms -- but he'd have to move well up the FedExCup standings to even consider abandoning the boys.
"I'd like to do both," Stricker said. "But it's not possible. ... I got a text message from one of my buddies who is going on the trip. Actually it was an e-mail and he's like, remember, you're elk hunting.
"But he knows if I'm up in there and have a chance to win or top 10 going into Atlanta, I'll probably go into Atlanta."
Zach Johnson started the Deutsche Bank Championship on the bubble for a Presidents Cup bid. He was 10th in the U.S. team standings, and the top 10 at week's end would automatically qualify for the U.S. team. He was in danger of being bumped from the top 10 when Steve Stricker, No. 11 in the standings, finished second at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Johnson earned his first Presidents Cup spot since 2009 by holing a 26-foot birdie putt on his final hole at TPC Boston, though.
NORTON, Mass. -- Henrik Stenson won for the third time in his career on the PGA TOUR, capturing the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday.
He shot a final-round 66 to finish the week 22 under, tying the tournament scoring record at TPC Boston.
Steve Stricker finished second, two strokes back.
The victory also moves Stenson to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings as he takes over the top spot from Tiger Woods.
In a week where birdies came in abundance due to heavy rains that soaked TPC Boston, including in the final round, Stenson made hs share of them with 25, including six in the final round.
The win is Stenson's first on TOUR since his 2009 PLAYERS Championship victory.
No one has been hotter than Stenson over the last month, however.
He finished second at The Open Championship and followed with another runner-up two weeks later at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
A week later, Stenson finished third at the PGA Championship.
At TPC Boston, Stenson led the field in greens in regulation and over the final two rounds had just two bogeys.
He took comman in the final round with four birdies in a five-hole stretch late in the front nine before adding another on the par-3 11th.
Stricker cut Stenson's lead to just 2 with a birdie on the 17th but Stenson responded by holing out for birdie on the same hole from the only bunker he hit into all week.