Thursday's golf: Fowler, Day make early bid in Memphis to keep season going
Memphis, Tenn. — Rickie Fowler and Jason Day faced enough stress just to make sure they got into the PGA Tour's postseason. Now that they're here, they want to keep going.
Fowler had a change of caddies and putters and finally started to see some putts fall, though still not enough to his liking. Day recovered from a spiked fever and burning sensation in his eyes and played bogey-free Thursday at the TPC Southwind. Both had a 5-under 65.
That wasn't good enough to lead the FedEx St. Jude Championship, only to hope.
Si Woo Kim holed out from 167 yards in the 18th fairway for eagle to cap off a superb finish of 6-under par on his last six holes, giving him a 62 and a share of the lead with J.J. Spaun.
Sahith Theegala, who could make a strong case for PGA Tour rookie of the year, holed a 30-foot putt on his final hole for a 63. Among those another shot back was Tony Finau, coming off two straight victories. It was Finau's 10th consecutive round at 68 or lower, dating to a 66 in the final round of the British Open.
But as the FedEx Cup playoffs begin, the emphasis is as much on who advances. Only the top 70 from the 125 players who qualified advance to the BMW Championship next week, and then the top 30 move on to the finale at East Lake.
Fowler made it on the number — No. 125 — and needs his best golf of the last two years to get through to the next round.
“Nothing to lose,” Fowler said. “Being 125, obviously need to play well just to make it to next week, but it would be a big bonus if we can do that and move on. Kind of leave it all out there, see what happens, but definitely happy with the start.”
He was helped late in his round with a 4-iron from 220 yards to 6 feet for eagle.
Day and Fowler were outside the top 125 three weeks ago until the PGA Tour decided that players suspended for going over to Saudi-funded LIV Golf should not count in the standings. That improved them nine spots, and Day also was helped by a 66 on the final day in Detroit to tie for 17th and secure his spot in the postseason.
That was a good thing, too, because last week he opened with a 67 and then had to withdraw with an illness. He knew he was in trouble when he fell asleep at breakfast before the next round. His eyes were burning. His fever spiked. Day wasn't sure how bad the fever was, but he checked his temperature the next day when he felt much better and it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 Celsius).
The big takeaway was that he felt he was trending in the right direction, and the game felt that way on a soft, muggy morning that feature occasional light rain.
As for the pressure? Day feels it's always there for him, but at this point, he's trying to let good golf happen instead of trying to force it, and not get too caught up in his position.
Day and Fowler were in a tie for eighth, not quite enough for either to advance on a day when the average score was 68.6. There's a long way to go.
“It does nothing for me to look ahead,” he said, “but I do want to play next week.”
Kim and Spaun, who had eight birdies in such a clean round he couldn't even think which shot was the best, are both assured of playing next week. Spaun began the postseason at No. 25 on the strength of his first PGA Tour title at the Valero Texas Open.
That win sent him immediately to Augusta National for the Masters, such a quick turnaround that he didn't get a chance to soak up the experience. He tied for 23rd and would like nothing better to return. Making it to the FedEx Cup finale is likely to do the trick.
“It will be nice to punch another ticket there and be able to plan it out and get down Sunday, maybe even Saturday the week before, take my time and enjoy all the little things that come along with that great tradition,” Spaun said. “Hopefully keep playing well this week and the next couple weeks, and I’ll be there.”
Scottie Scheffler has the luxury of a slow start as No. 1 in the world and in the FedEx Cup, and that's a good thing. The Masters champion had a frustrating day of a few odd bounces and a lot of missed chances on the green for a 71.
Rory McIlroy had to make two late birdies to salvage a 70. For everyone, the next step is making the cut. It means more to some than others.
Ballymena, Northern Ireland — Scotland's Ewen Ferguson set the course record at Galgorm Castle Golf Club with a 9-under 61 to open a four-shot lead after the first round of the ISPS Handa World Invitational on Thursday.
Ferguson chipped in for eagle on the 10th and 18th and added five birdies in his flawless opening day at Galgorm Castle, one of two courses used for the event that features men's and women's tournaments taking place simultaneously.
Richard Bland of England, Felix Palson of Sweden and Spain's Borja Virto were all five under par.
Bland at No. 77 is the only player from the top 100 in the world ranking in the field. He has been playing LIV Golf events since the start in June.
Ferguson broke the previous course record by one shot, describing it as a “pretty nice" feat.
The tournament is tri-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA Tour. The men and women play from different tees and compete separately, with two equal prize funds of $1.5 million each.
Players will complete 18 holes at Galgorm Castle and 18 at Massereene Golf Club before a halfway cut — to the top 60 and ties — is made in each tournament, with a further cut after 54 holes to the top 35 players and ties.
Amanda Doherty of the United States led the women's tournament after a 6-under 67 that included seven birdies and a single bogey at Galgorm Castle.
The 24-year-old Doherty was one shot ahead of a four-strong group that included Ireland's Leona Maguire and England's Georgia Hall. American Lauren Coughlin and Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen were also a shot back after their rounds at Massereene.
“I was really just trying to stay in the moment today,” Doherty said. “I feel like I was just kind of in that mindset starting the day. I stayed there and I stayed patient. I know it's kind of cliche, but it works. I was hitting the ball well. I made a couple good putts and there were some reachable par-5s, so just kind of came together.”
Maguire is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 17 in the women’s world ranking.