Love going to school on Ryder Cup preparation

By Associated PressApril 17, 2012, 7:29 pm

ELGIN, S.C. – Davis Love III is prepared for the lobbying and politics that come with being America's Ryder Cup captain. He's also ready to learn more about those U.S. players he may pick for the team in September.

''Guys that I don't know, I want to get to know Kyle Stanley,'' Love said. ''I want to get know these guys.''

Love and 2006 U.S. captain Tom Lehman held a clinic at a tournament honoring the late father of five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd.

Love said he's beginning the fact-finding process that comes as captain, who must select four golfers to fill out the 12-man U.S. team that will compete against Europe at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club from Sept. 28-30. The top eight Americans qualify on a points standing that concludes after the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, outside of Charleston.

Love makes his selections a few weeks later in September. That's when the fun begins.

Lehman remembered getting calls and texts from friends, agents and players about Ryder Cup hopefuls.

''You're aware of all that,'' Lehman said. ''At the end of the day, guys really want to play and be on the team for all the right reasons.''

And Love's spoken with Lehman and other past captains like Corey Pavin about their criteria and process. Love remembers during Lehman's time several cookouts and gatherings during tournament weeks months before any selections were made.

Love, who's played on six Ryder Cup teams including winning U.S. squads in 1993 and 1999, said it gave the players a sense of togetherness and familiarity.

''We were bonding already. Tom (Lehman) was getting to know those guys,'' Love said.

''I want Phil (Mickelson) to spend a little time with Kyle Stanley, so when you go to the Ryder Cup, they know each other,'' Love continued. ''So if you have to put them together, they're not feeling each other out.''

Love understands things can change dramatically in the four months before he must tell the world his picks. Bubba Watson's win at the Masters two weeks ago moved him to the top of the U.S. points standings. Steve Stricker is the third best American at No. 7 in the golf rankings but is eighth in the Ryder Cup points, just ahead of Stanley.

For those final spots, does Love choose veterans over younger players coming into their own?

''It's a tough, tough call,'' Lehman said.

Lehman went with experience six years ago in choosing Scott Verplank over higher-rated players like Love and Lucas Glover.

The Americans were beaten by the Europeans 18 1/2 points to 9 1/2 points at The K Club in Ireland. The Americans, captained by Paul Azinger, won two years later at Vahalla Country Club in Kentucky. Europe regained the cup in 2010, defeating Corey Pavin's U.S. squad.

There's been no shortage of interested candidates, Love said. He's looking to set up some gatherings this spring at places like the Colonial and Memorial tournaments that typically draw the top Americans. Love's list of final candidates for those picks will take shape after the British Open, he said.

''Right now is laying the groundwork,'' Love said.

He'd like a group that meshes well and feeds off each other during the pressure-packed weekend of competition. Love's seen plenty of hopeful signs like when Americans Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and others watched Watson's playoff win at the Masters and hugged their friend with congratulations.

Love thinks his spring and summer gatherings will help break the ice for others ''doing their own thing.''

He said there are already plenty of players with similar interests like baseball games and Bible study, who have forged bonds that will be helpful at Medinah.

''We've got a lot of camaraderie,'' he said.

Love hasn't announced his choices for assistant captains and isn't sure when that will happen.

''I'm getting more lobbying for that than for guys playing,'' he said, smiling.

The hardest part of being captain? Sitting on the sidelines watching matches unfold and knowing you can't hit a tee-shot or stroke a putt to affect the outcome, Lehman said.

''It's a mixed bag,'' said Lehman, who was on three U.S. teams and was Love's teammate on the 1999 cup winners. ''It's an honor to be the captain, no question, but it's somewhat easier to play.''

There are many who'd like that chance come fall. Byrd is 29th in the U.S. points standings and hopes to start a spring and summer push to catch Love's eye and bring a happy phone call from the captain in September.

''That's the understatement of the year,'' he said.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

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Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

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Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.