Ryder Cup qualifying ends auditions to follow

By Associated PressAugust 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Paul Azinger loves the way his Ryder Cup team is shaping up going into the PGA Championship, the final tournament to earn one of the eight automatic spots on the U.S. squad.
 
By putting so much emphasis on the majors, though, there could be a surprise addition from Oakland Hills ' even a club pro.
 
The PGA of America announced a purse Wednesday of $7.5 million, with $1.35 million going to the winner. Because each $1,000 is worth one point, and with the majors counting double, the winner gets 2,700 points. And because Steve Stricker is holding down the No. 8 spot at 2,603 points, any American in the field is still mathematically alive.
 
Such are the dynamics of this criteria that Azinger believes will give the U.S. its most qualified team in years. Even so, the captain focused on the players among the top eight going into the PGA Championship.
 
Its going to be impossible to make the team based on last years performance alone, Azinger said Wednesday. You had to have played decent this year. And if you look at the list, I dont think you could make an argument that anybody in that top eight hasnt had a nice year.
 
Jim Furyk and Stricker are the only players among the top eight without a victory this year, and both are in the top 10 in the world. The only reason Stricker is holding down the final spot is because Tiger Woods is out for the rest of the year.
 
It would be really difficult to make an argument that the top eight players are not Americas best, Azinger added.
 
So many others are lining up to join ' or replace ' that group.
 
Woody Austin would need at least 19th place alone to have a chance, while Hunter Mahan needs to finish among the top 12. Rocco Mediate, not even in the back of anyones mind until his runner-up finish in the U.S. Open, is in 12th place and needs to at least finish in the top 10 at Oakland Hills.
 
One more good shot here to get in the top eight is what were all looking to do, Mediate said. I told him a year-and-a-half ago that I want to be on that team, and it wasnt looking good until a few months ago. So Ive got a shot. Thats all you can really ask for. It would be a lot of fun, though, I can tell you that.
 
Azinger is a former PGA champion and among the most popular figures at Oakland Hills, at least among Americans. He still has three weeks before he announces his four captains picks.
 
But its been that way all year.
 
At the Sony Open, the first full-field event of the year, Azinger jokingly said players would not curry favor until they knew they were playing well. One day later, he was walking off the putting green next to Chad Campbell when someone asked the Texan if he were already pandering to the captain. Campbell laughed and shook his head.
 
And I havent seen Zinger since then, Campbell said Wednesday, reminded of that scene. Maybe Ill leave him a note.
 
Campbell and everyone else knows better. It starts with good play, and Campbell is coming off three consecutive tournaments in the top 15 that have moved him up to No. 19.
 
A top three wouldnt be bad, he said, and that might be what it takes.
 
Campbell has made the last two teams, while Scott Verplank has played on two of the last three, both times as a captains pick. He is among the few Americans with a winning record in the Ryder Cup at 4-1-0.
 
But he is 30th in the standings and at least needs a runner-up finish at Oakland Hills.
 
Its going in the right direction, he said of his game. Its pretty simple. If Im on the team, Ill be ready. Ive proven that. Having said that, I need a miracle. I dont think hes interested in anything but young bombers.
 
Verplank also doesnt think Mahans critical comments about Ryder Cup largesse in a magazine article will hurt him.
 
If it were up to me, Id pick him right after I picked me, Verplank said with a laugh.
 
For those who dont make the team, Azinger compared the next three weeks with an audition for him. Even though the points table ends, Azinger has asked the PGA of America to continue keeping score.
 
One reason Azinger overhauled the qualifying system to base points on money was his style of play. He often says the only two things he ever choked over were cash and prestige. And now, theres another element with his picks.
 
Now they are choking for prestige and cash and a chance to make the Ryder Cup team, he said. So whoever is playing the best is being rewarded as far as Im concerned, because they held up under the pressure of three really difficult scenarios.
 
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."