Azinger OMeara in Running For Captaincy
The standings for the next U.S. team began the week after the PGA Championship, and Cink got off to a good start by winning the NEC Invitational and tying for fourth at the Canadian Open.
The bigger question is when the PGA of America will select the next U.S. captain.
Hal Sutton and Curtis Strange were interviewed during the Funai Classic at Disney, so that would be a typical timetable. And it doesnt hurt that Mark OMeara, Paul Azinger, Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman traditionally play Disney.
Of those four, Azinger is a lock to be captain'its just a matter of which year.
No one displays a greater passion for the Ryder Cup than Azinger, who mixed it up with Seve Ballesteros and fought Nick Faldo to a meaningless draw in 1993 even though he had cancer.
OMeara has said he wants to be Ryder Cup captain and he is a logical choice given his strong relations to Ireland, site of the 06 matches. But while OMeara has the best record of any other candidate'five Ryder Cup teams, two majors, 16 career victories'he upset the PGA of America in 1997 over the money it makes off the Ryder Cup.
Lehman has that Ryder Cup spirit, although his record is lacking with only five tour victories. Pavin has 14 victories, a U.S. Open and an 8-5-0 record in the three Ryder Cups he played, although this will be the eighth straight year he finished out of the top 30 on the money list, and some wonder if he has lost touch with his peers.
One other player that should not be overlooked: Fred Couples.
He is immensely popular with the players and has played on five Ryder Cup teams. He has become the Yogi Berra of golf with some of the things he says (Im a lot older than I was 10 years ago), but is sharper than people realize.
Kenny Perry has decided to withdraw from the American Express Championship next week in Ireland, which could hurt his chances of getting into the Tour Championship.
Perry is 27th on the money list, and the $7 million World Golf Championship event has no cut.
He just felt like he has played a lot of golf, and he wanted to take a break, said David Parker, Perrys agent at Links Sports. Hes always taken September and most of October off, so its just timing. And this is right after the Ryder Cup.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Jay Haas plans to play a full PGA Tour schedule against next year as a 51-year-old, in part because he wants to try to make the Presidents Cup team.
Plus, he still likes to compete against the best.
Haas thinks he will set a trend for other players in their late 40s to keep playing on the PGA Tour until they have lost their desire or their ability to compete.
All the guys realize'and this is a backhanded compliment'they look at me and say, If he can do it, I can do it, Haas said.
Haas also wonders whether Hale Irwin'the oldest U.S. Open champion at age 45'could have continued to compete, perhaps even win, if he had chosen to stay on the PGA Tour. The 59-year-old Irwin has won 40 times on the Champions Tour, and this season became the first senior with over $20 million in career earnings.
If there was no Champions Tour, they would still be here, Haas said.
Along with making the Ryder Cup team, Haas stayed on the PGA Tour after some advice from Tom Kite.
He just said, Play as much as you can for as long as you can out here. Once you leave, you cant go back, Haas said. Once Ive turned the page, I dont know that I can be as competitive as I want to be. I know its going to end sometime soon, but Ive enjoyed doing it.
Western Open champion Stephen Ames is having his best year and has become one of the top 20 players in the world, meaning the Presidents Cup could have its first player from Trinidad & Tobago.
Or maybe not.
Im not a big fan of team playing, Ames said. When that time comes for me to play the Presidents Cup, then Ill decide if Im going to play or not. I might be the first not to play.
Ames said his disinterest in team matches stems from control.
If its alternate shot, I could be standing up against a tree or in a tree trying to hit the next shot, and I didnt put it there myself, he said.
He has played team matches at the World Cup with his brother'the only other top golfer from the tiny Caribbean country'but for different reasons.
The extra cash just put me over the edge, he said. It was a Christmas present every year.
It wont be long before Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer do battle again, this time with their clubs. They have agreed to play in the UBS Cup matches Nov. 18-21 at Kiawah Island, the made-for-TV exhibition between the United States and the rest of the world. Half of the team is 40-49, the other half 50 and older. Jay Haas and Colin Montgomerie also will play. ... Vijay Singh can lock up the PGA Tour money record with a second-place finish at the 84 Lumber Classic. He is only $488,755 away from the record Tiger Woods set in 2000, but the 41-year-old Fijian is guaranteed about $116,000 from the no-cut American Express Championship and the Tour Championship. ... Bobby Jones is going digital. The Warner Bros. is releasing Jones famous instructional films, How I Play Golf and How to Break 90 on DVD. The first film originally was produced in 1931 after Jones won the Grand Slam.
STAT OF THE WEEK
By winning the Texas Open at 41, Bart Bryant became the oldest first-time winner on the PGA Tour since Ed Dougherty (47) at the 1995 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in Mississippi.
If I had my way, she would be in every event we play because she has a bigger gallery than Annika now, and thats saying something.'Laura Davies, on Michelle Wie playing in the Samsung World Championship.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”