Notes US Team Teed-Off
Not everyone was amused by a package of tees being passed around Mount Juliet during the American Express Championship that had the Ryder Cup score - Europe 18 1/2, USA 9 1/2 - painted on them, blue scores for the shorter tees, red scores for the longer tees.
The tees came from Ian Poulter, who wasn't eligible to play the World Golf Championship event. He left instructions for players to leave plenty of them around the tee box.
'I'm not using any of those,' said Thomas Bjorn, a vice captain for Europe at Oakland Hills. 'I think that would be just a little bit too much of an insult.'
Bjorn is one of the Europeans who could needle the Americans without hard feelings because he is close friends with many of them. Still, he said it was important to remain gracious in victory.
'We want to win, America wants to win, but we're all friends,' Bjorn said. 'When it's over, it's over. But you've got to be careful, because there's a fine line between joking around and just stepping over that line. And these golf tees are just balancing on that line, I think.'
Chris Riley also was perturbed at Mount Juliet, which is rare for him.
'I've had a couple of little cheap shots this week,' Riley said. 'Thomas Levet comes up to me and says, 'You know what the Europeans say: You guys were favored on paper, but good thing we play on grass.' I didn't need to hear that. I think he was just trying to be friendly, but I didn't take it that way.
'He had another one, but I think it's the French sense of humor. He thought it was funny.'
Tiger Woods hasn't played the PGA Grand Slam the last two years because he hasn't won a major, but he might have a chance to go back this year.
U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said he might not be able to play because his wife is expecting their second child on Nov. 25. The Grand Slam was moved up one week to Nov. 23-24 at Poipu Bay in Hawaii.
'If the baby comes early, that might change things,' Goosen said. 'Otherwise, I wouldn't play.'
The first alternate is Ernie Els, but the Big Easy already said he would not play.
Next in line is Woods. He won the Grand Slam in 1998 as an alternate, the start of his five straight victories at the two-day event for the major championship winners. Woods is playing at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan the previous week, so Hawaii would be on the way to California, where he has the Skins Game on Thanksgiving weekend.
After Woods on the alternate list is Justin Leonard, followed by Shaun Micheel.
Vijay Singh feels the world ranking system works against him because he plays so often, and was encouraged to hear of a proposed change - a maximum of 25 events a year counting toward the ranking.
But the Fijian might have to wait.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says the proposal is under review by a committee of the world ranking board, and by the sound of things, it might not go much further. The argument against the change is that players would not be penalized for their worst events, such as missing the cut.
'There continues to be a strong feeling on the technical committee that every shot should count,' Finchem said. 'We are continuing to evaluate it. At this point, it will be at least next year before they make a final decision.'
The good news for Finchem and the board is that complaints about the ranking have gone down.
'I do think people accept the rankings because it's such an acceptable list when you look at the first 20 names,' he said. 'People sitting at home and talking about how to do things differently, we don't get that as much any more.'
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
Steve Williams can be aloof even among his peers, although the caddie for Tiger Woods was a big hit at the Ryder Cup for taking a stand against the PGA of America on wearing shorts.
Williams said he requested shorts while filling out clothing sizes, noting that it could be warm in Detroit and that some caddies would be going 36 holes a day. When he got his uniforms, only pants were included. Williams decided to wear shorts, anyway, and said he was confronted by PGA officials.
'They told me I couldn't wear shorts,' Williams said. 'I told them to find another caddie for Tiger Woods.'
The next day, several other caddies, such as Frank Williams (Stewart Cink) and John Wood (Chris Riley), also began wearing shorts. When European captain Bernhard Langer purchased shorts for his caddies, the PGA had no choice.
Wood said the caddies gave Williams a new nickname - Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer who refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Alabama in 1955.
'Being from New Zealand, Stevie wasn't sure who that was,' Wood said.
This wasn't the first debate over shorts for either the PGA of America or Williams.
Two caddies tried to wear shorts at the '96 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and were ordered to change into pants.
And five years ago at 'Showdown at Sherwood' between Woods and David Duval, a PGA Tour rules official ordered Williams to change into pants or he would no longer work on tour.
Williams refused, and the threat was rescinded when Woods told the official, 'Guess I'll be playing the European tour next year.'
With the American Express Championship going to The Grove outside London in 2006, that means the World Golf Championships played in Britain & Ireland will have been played on courses designed by Americans - Kyle Phillips (The Grove) and Jack Nicklaus (Mount Juliet). ... The Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews is being sold for about $65 million to a partnership that includes Herb Kohler, who owns Whistling Straits. ... Fred Funk's last two PGA Tour victories have been opposite-field events - 1998 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic (British Open) and 2004 Southern Farm Bureau Classic (American Express).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Vijay Singh has won 11 times since the age of 40. Sam Snead holds the PGA Tour record with 17 victories in his 40s.
'The next step is some of our younger guys winning a major. No disrespect to Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton, but there are better players than them on our tour.' - Raymond Russell of Scotland.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss
The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:
Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)
What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.
Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.
Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.
Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.
Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.
Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win
Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.
He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.
Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:
Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'
Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.
Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.
Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.
"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.
The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.
Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.
"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."
McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open
When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.
Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.
Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.
While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.