Maggert (63) rides hot putter to Charles Schwab Cup Championship lead

PHOENIX — Jeff Maggert used a hot new putter to take the first-round lead in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Bernhard Langer, Jerry Kelly, Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie made moves to catch Scott McCarron in the PGA Tour Champions’ season standings.

Maggert shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday in perfect conditions at Phoenix Country Club to take a one-stroke lead over Langer, with Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Goydos and Steve Flesch another shot back, and Kelly and Goosen at 66 with Lee Janzen and Scott Parel.

Maggert entered the season finale 34th in the standings, just three spots from failing to qualify.

”I have no idea what happened today,” Maggert said. ”I liked the course last year, felt like I could play well here. To be honest, I got a new putter at the Ping factory on Monday and as soon as I saw it, I says, ‘Wow, this looks good, I think I can make some putts with this.’ Lo and behold, I made a lot of good putts today.”

Kelly needs a victory or help from McCarron to take the season title.

”I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Kelly said. ”It’s just a matter of staying solid. I got a little tired at the end, things got a little loose and I’ve got to get stronger as the week goes on.”

Full-field scores from the Charles Schwab Cup Championship

McCarron, the points leader the last 20 weeks, was tied for 22nd in the 34-man field after a 69.

”Means nothing right now,” McCarron said. ”I don’t know if I’m leading or Jerry’s leading, doesn’t even matter. All I know is I’ve got to go out there and play a little bit better the next three days.”

McCarron has not won since June and has only two top 10s in his last six tournaments.

Coming off a playoff loss to Montgomerie on Sunday in California, Langer closed his bogey-free round with a birdie on the par-5 18th. Langer is third in the standings, putting the 62-year-old German star in position to win his sixth Charles Schwab Cup title – with help from McCarron and Kelly.

”You can’t win it the first day, but you can lose it,” Langer said. ”So, I’m happy with where I am.”

Montgomerie, fourth in the standings, had a 67.

Goosen, at fifth in the standings, is the last player with a chance to take the season title with a victory.

Vijay Singh, the tournament winner last year, failed to qualify.

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Schwab, Lewis co-lead in Turkey; Rose lurking with chance at three-peat

ANTALYA, Turkey – Tom Lewis and Matthias Schwab share a one-shot lead after the first round of the Turkish Airlines Open on Thursday.

Lewis and Schwab both carded 7-under 65 to lead David Lipsky, Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren by one shot.

Schwab started fast with an eagle and three birdies on the front nine, while Lewis finished his round strongly with six birdies on his last seven holes.

Justin Rose is one of six players at 5 under as he chases a third consecutive title in the European Tour event. Rose finished with three birdies after a mixed round which also included an eagle and two bogeys.

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Lexi back in action in Japan, hoping swing change will help recent struggles

Lexi Thompson is back in action this week, looking to use a swing change to play her way out of a late-season swoon.

She’s teeing it up at the Toto Japan Classic, a most hospitable setting for the 24-year-old American. She won a Japan LPGA Tour major in 2016, taking the Salonpas Cup.

Asia has been kind to Thompson over the years, with four of her 13 worldwide titles coming in the Far East. She also has won in South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

Thompson has missed the cut in her last two starts and three of her last five. The missed cuts at the Indy Women in Tech Championship and the Cambia Portland Classic marked the first time she has missed back-to-back cuts since her rookie year in 2012. She hasn’t played in five weeks, taking time away to train and work on a swing change.

“I’ve been practicing and training harder than I ever have in my life,” Thompson said. “I struggled my last few events. I knew [there was] a swing change that I needed to make. I feel good about it. It’s been hard work.”

Thompson said she also needed rest in time away from tournament play.

“I’ve made sure to have that really relaxing down time,” she said.

Full-field scores from the Toto Japan Classic

The missed cuts and time off affected Thompson’s world ranking. She lost her spot as the top American in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Nelly Korda moved past Thompson this week, with Korda ascending five spots to No. 3 in the world after winning the Taiwan Swinging Skirts last weekend. Thompson has slipped to No. 8.

What’s the swing change? Thompson said it has to do with her trademark tippy-toe lunge at impact.

“It’s just trying to get everything more in control,” she said. “I’m not obviously jumping as much. That’s always going to be a part of my golf swing, but I’ve realized I need to tame it down, to get more consistent with my golf swing and my shots. I’m thinking about not jumping as much. It’s kind of another move. It’s hard to describe.”

Thompson is eager to see where the swing change is at, before heading to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which she won a year ago.

“It’s important for me right now, just with the swing changes I’ve made, to have a little test run and put it under the gun and in competition,” Thompson said. 

This week’s field includes a strong Japanese contingent, with Nasa Hataoka looking to defend her title and claim her fourth worldwide title this year. She won the LPGA’s Kia Classic in the spring and claimed a pair of Japanese women’s major championships this fall. Fellow Japanese star Hinako Shibuno is also in this week’s field. Shibuno is among 35 JLPGA members with standing in the field.

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Pair of South Koreans take lead from Kang on Day 3 of BMW Ladies

BUSAN, South Korea – South Koreans Somi Lee and Seung Yeon Lee were tied for the third-round lead Saturday at the BMW Ladies Championship, the second event on the LPGA’s four-tournament Asian swing.

Somi Lee shot 67 and Seung Yeon Lee 68 for 54-hole totals of 13-under 203.

Ha Na Jang was in third place, a stroke behind, after a 68.

Amy Yang (67), Busan-born Australian Su Oh (67) and second-round leader Danielle Kang (71) were two strokes behind the leaders and tied for fourth.

Seung Yeon Lee had birdies at 14, 15, 16 and 17, recovering from an early double bogey at No. 6.

”I really tried to focus on the present,” said Seung Yeon Lee. ”I wasn’t thinking about how many birdies I was making, how many pars I was making or if I wasn’t too wrapped up in how I made a double bogey. Instead I just focused on every shot.”

Somi Lee birdied six of her final 10 holes.

Full-field scores from the BMW Ladies Championship

Three players are on 11 under – last week’s winner Kang, four-time LPGA winner Yang and Su Oh, who is looking for her first victory in her fourth year on tour.

Kang started the day with a one-stroke lead after back-to-back 67s. After opening with three bogeys and one birdie over her first five holes, Kang recovered on the back nine, coming home with birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 15.

”It was a very frustrating round today. I hit the wrong number twice. Every mistake you could possibly think of, we made it,” said Kang, who is aiming to become the LPGA Tour’s first back-to-back winner since 2017.

”I was proud that we were able to capitalize on certain holes and make some birdies coming in. I know that finishing in the red numbers was important. There was a lot of birdies out there today … I didn’t see much of the leaderboard, but I knew people were going low, so I was kind of frustrated.”

The LPGA’s Asian swing moves to Taiwan next week with a fourth stop in Japan. Kang won the first stop in Shanghai last week.

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‘That was different’: Players take advantage of shortened ‘par 4’ at Zozo

CHIBA, Japan – After historic rain, it came down to an IT problem.

Torrential rain from Typhoon Bualoi dropped nearly 10 inches of rain on Narashino Country Club on Friday and maintenance crews worked through the night to make the course playable. The layout drained well with the exception of the par-4 10th hole, which turned into a lake overnight and wasn’t playable.

The hole was shortened to about 150 yards, but because of the difficultly of changing par on the circuit’s scoring system, it remained a par 4.

Zozo Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

The move unsurprisingly skewed scoring wildly. Viktor Hovland, playing in the day’s first group off No. 10, made eagle, one of 16 made on the round. The hole also yielded 52 birdies, eight pars and no bogeys or worse.

With 27 holes scheduled for Sunday and a Monday finish to follow, Zozo Championship leader Tiger Woods and his left knee are in for a demanding test.

“I mean, I started on a par 4 that was only 150 yards, so that was different. That’s one of the hardest driving holes out here, so that’s not a drive you want to start on,” said Gary Woodland, who birdied No. 10 and at 10 under is alone in second place behind Tiger Woods. “Fortunately, today we had a little 9-iron, which was great.”

The water had already receded before play was completed Saturday, and officials anticipate playing the normal tee, which puts the hole’s yardage back at 376 yards, for the final two rounds.

Programming note: Golf Channel coverage of Round 3 of the Zozo Championship is scheduled to begin Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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Zozo leader Woods to be tested physically by demanding finish in Japan

CHIBA, Japan – During Tiger Woods’ comeback in 2018, Woods talked of incremental accomplishments that tested his fused back and fueled his confidence. He will have another one of those moments Sunday at the Zozo Championship.

Because of Friday’s washout due to Typhoon Bualoi, players are scheduled to play until darkness Sunday, which for Woods means 27 or more holes on a left knee he had surgically repaired in August.

Zozo Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

“It’s just going to be a long day,” Woods said following his second-consecutive 64 Saturday that lifted him to a two-stroke lead. “That’s nice going into a long day like tomorrow because it’s going to be a bit of a test physically and mentally to play for, what, up to 10 hours.”

Players won’t be re-paired after the third round and Woods will likely have about nine holes remaining on Monday to finish the event. The key for the 43-year-old will be staying loose like he did during the second round when play slowed at the par-5 14th hole.

Some this and that from another 6-under 64 by Tiger Woods at the Zozo Championship on Saturday in Japan.

“You could see all the players, they’re talking, being fidgety, moving around, stretching,” Woods said of the wait that lasted nearly 20 minutes. “I think tomorrow’s going to be the same thing. We’re going to hopefully not have too long a break between rounds, go right back out there and get after it.”

Woods is scheduled to tee off for Round 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday with Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley.

Programming note: Golf Channel coverage of Round 3 of the Zozo Championship is scheduled to begin Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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Day, Niemann bolstering Presidents Cup credentials at CJ Cup

Through the first round of the CJ Cup, International Presidents Cup captain Ernie Els has to like what he sees.

Not only is Korea’s Byeong-Hun An atop the standings after an 8-under 64, but the two players in closest pursuit are also on Els’ short list as he gets set to name his four captain’s picks in less than a month.

Jason Day sits alone in third place at 6 under, his best round since June. The Aussie seems the most likely player to get a call from Els, given that he has made every International team since 2011, narrowly missed out on automatic qualification and would be a crowd favorite in his home country. It’s been a lean summer for the former world No. 1, who has dropped to 27th in the world with only one top-10 finish since the Masters, but he turned in a bogey-free effort Thursday on a course where he finished T-5 a year ago.

CJ Cup: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Then there’s Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, who trails An by one shot after an opening 65. Niemann will turn 21 a few days after Els makes his final picks, but he has received plenty of consideration after a hot stretch that led to his maiden Tour win last month at The Greenbrier. Equipped with an exemption through 2022 and spots in high-profile events like the CJ Cup, Niemann hopes to continue his momentum in Asia.

“Definitely this week is one of the strongest fields, a lot of good players,” Niemann told reporters. “I think it’s going to be tough to win, but hopefully three more days like this, I’ll make it happen.”

Other players in the mix for a pick from Els include Korea’s Sungjae Im, who opened with a 4-under 68 the day after receiving his trophy as PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, and Branden Grace, who shot a 71 Thursday and went 5-0-0 in the 2015 Presidents Cup. Els and U.S. captain Tiger Woods will each make four captain’s picks early next month following the conclusion of the WGC-HSBC Champions.

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Watch: Altomare sinks ace to win car at Buick LPGA Shanghai

Brittany Altomare needed a jolt of energy after she made the turn during the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

She began her day on the second nine, carding a disappointing 2-over 38 that a pair of bogeys and a costly double at the par-3 16th. But things wouldn’t stay down for long.

A par at the first made way for that jolt of energy, exactly what the doctor ordered. On the par-3 second, facing a brutal and tricky harsh down wind, Altomare took aim.

Shot of the day: Altomare’s ace earns her a Buick LaCrosse Avenir

Shot of the day: Altomare's ace earns her a Buick LaCrosse Avenir

If not for the flagstick, that ball may have keep rolling into 2020. But luckily for Altomare, who had already struck gold with the hole-in-one, she also won a Buick in the process.

Altomare also carded two birdies on her inward nine, finishing her opening round with a 2-under 70, just three off the lead held by Amy Yang.

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Perez (62) comfortable in Vegas, leaning on old swing

LAS VEGAS – He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, but it’s more than fair to call Pat Perez a Vegas Guy.

“I really like Vegas,” he said Saturday. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Vegas.

“And if you don’t, I don’t even want to know you.”

At 18 under par following a third-round 62, Perez will enter Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in third place, five shots off the torrid pace set by Kevin Na.

Na’s performance on the greens is getting all the attention this week – and with good reason – but Perez isn’t far behind. He’s second in the field in strokes gained: putting and he’s also holed more than 400 feet worth of attempts through 54 holes.

“Both times I’ve won on Tour, I’ve led the field in putting,” he said. “I’m probably close, but it’s going to take another good day tomorrow to beat everybody.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Sure, he’s riding a hot putter, but Perez says the key this week has been a switch back to the golf swing he abandoned two months ago. Following his ouster from FedExCup Playoffs at the Northern Trust, Perez made a concerted effort to get longer but instead wound up losing clubhead speed and spraying the ball left and right.

“When I try to kill it – like last week I did in Napa – I hit it all over the map. I had no control. I played terrible,” he said.

When he arrived here at TPC Summerlin on Monday, he decided to end the experiment. Six days later, he sees only two players ahead of him on the leaderboard.

“I’m trying to get it back in the fairway,” he said. “I played for three years one way, and I made a lot of money, won twice, did all these things, and then I went away from it to try to get longer. It just hurt my game, so I went back to the drawing board.

“I guess it’s kind of coming earlier than I thought it would.”

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Hataoka, Yang lead; J. Korda, Yin one back at LPGA Shanghai

Nasa Hataoka should be getting more worldwide attention.

With two Japan LPGA Tour major championship victories in her homeland over the last month, she arrived for the start of this week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai on fire.

And she didn’t cool off in Thursday’s first round.

A 5-under-par 67 at Qizhong Garden Golf Club gave Hataoka a share of the lead with South Korea’s Amy Yang.

They’re one-shot ahead of Americans Jessica Korda and Angel Yin and two ahead of a pack of seven players that includes defending champ Danielle Kang, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson.

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

In her last start two weeks ago, Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open, the most prestigious title in her country. She is seeking her fifth worldwide title in the last 12 months.

“I’m very proud of how I play and win tournament in Japan,” Hataoka said. “But my goal is to win a major [on the LPGA]. So, I want to keep working to achieve the goal.”

Hataoka, 20, climbed to No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings with her Japan Women’s Open victory but slipped back a spot to No. 4 this week.

Korda likes her position making her first start since the Solheim Cup, where she and her sister, Nelly, were both undefeated for the week (3-0-1 records).

“A little rusty with a couple shots,” Korda said. “I’m going to the driving range to try to figure that out a little bit. But, yeah, I was really proud of myself today.”

Notably, Korda is one of six participants in last month’s Solheim Cup who are sitting T-5 or better after the first round in China. Kang and Yin are among them on the American side. England’s Bronte Law (69) and Jodi Ewart Shadoff (69) are on the Euro side, as is England’s Mel Reid (69), who was a vice captain at the Solheim Cup.

Rolex world No. 1 Jin Young Ko opened with an even-par 72.

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