Breaking borders: Americans playing globally

By Doug FergusonNovember 15, 2011, 6:01 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – One thing already can be said for this Presidents Cup. The Americans have come a long way.

Only it has nothing to do with the oceans and time zones they crossed to get Down Under. Nor is progress measured by the outcome, for the Americans have lost this event only once since it began in 1994.

It’s all about their willingness to travel amid the changing landscape in golf.

The Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne for the first time in 13 years, and just think how differently golf looked back then from an American perspective. It was late in the season – the second week in December – some six weeks after the Tour Championship. Hardly anyone was playing meaningful golf. Even fewer felt like going all the way to Australia.

The International team handed the United States its worst loss in any team competition. The score was 20 1/2 -11 1/2 , such a blowout that the Cup was secured when Nick Price beat David Duval in the second of 12 singles matches on the final day.

“Got beat and still had time to eat breakfast,” Duval said with a laugh.

That was the year before the World Golf Championships began, a series of tournaments for players around the world, and originally designed to be played around the world.

But in the first year, a half-dozen Americans from the top 50 in the world chose not to go to Spain at the end of the season. And when the Match Play Championship went to Australia two years later, so many players stayed away – most of them Americans – that the tournament went down to No. 104 in the ranking (Greg Kraft) to fill the 64-man field.

That led to Stuart Appleby’s famous line about Americans.

ldquo;They’re like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,” he once said. “They don’t travel well.”

Now those passport pages are filling up quickly.

U.S. captain Fred Couples wanted his two captain’s picks to play the week before in the Australian Open, and was pleased that six other players joined them. Some of them started even earlier.

Jim FurykBill HaasHunter MahanDavid Toms and Nick Watney were in Shanghai the week before at the HSBC Champions. Furyk and Mahan were in China even earlier, playing the Shanghai Masters. Phil Mickelson was in Singapore last week. After the Presidents Cup, Matt Kuchar is headed to China for the World Cup.

They worry less about the destination and more about what time the plane leaves.

“I think it’s fantastic the way Americans have embraced the way global golf is played nowadays,” International captain Greg Norman said Tuesday. “The season post-Tour Championship gives them the validity of going to Shanghai or Singapore or down here to Melbourne or other places around the world to play. And those opportunities, the guys are taking.”

The shocker might have been Toms in Shanghai.

He played overseas when he was young because he had not made it onto the PGA Tour and had few other options. Once he established himself, Toms found little need to travel except for the British Open or the Ryder Cup. The prize money was minimal, and whatever appearance money he received wasn’t always worth the trip.

But there he was at the HSBC Champions – the same week of the LSU-Alabama game, no less. Toms acted like a true pro, too. The game was on Sunday morning, he wasn’t in contention, yet the LSU alum was on the range an hour before his round, just like always.

Watney takes about every opportunity that comes his way overseas. He gave up Thanksgiving one year to play the World Cup with John Merrick. He has become a regular in Shanghai.

“I just believe that to be a truly great player, you have to win all around the world,” Watney said.

Dustin Johnson might take up European Tour membership next year. Bubba Watson went to France, although he lasted all of two days at the French Open and couldn’t get home fast enough.

Norman says more travel, especially this time of the year, could make the matches closer this time. But he looked beyond that to a broader picture of Americans getting out more.

“Look, it’s the responsibility of every player, no matter what their position is, to promote the game on a global basis,” Norman said. “And I like to see what the Americans are doing, traveling and playing overseas.”

Ernie Els was talking about the history of the Presidents Cup a few weeks ago, how the only two times the International team did not lose was in Melbourne and South Africa (the famous tie). Not so coincidentally, his team had the crowd on its side.

And then there was that other “road” game in Montreal in 2007.

“All due respect to my great friend Mike Weir, but why go to Canada?” Els said.

There was a reason for that.

After the plunder Down Under in 1998, and with South Africa already planned for the next road game, there was enough concern about Americans traveling a long distance for the Presidents Cup that the Tour made it easy on them by going north of the border.

That’s no longer necessary. The next overseas Presidents Cup in 2015 is likely headed to either South America (depending on the state of the Olympic golf course being built in Brazil) or Asia, with South Korea a prime candidate. This year’s International team has a record four Asian players.

Els was on his way to the first tee for a practice round when asked about this crop of Americans being more willing to travel. He was more concerned about his own itinerary – Singapore last week, Australia this week, South Africa next week.

“The only trouble is it’s so bloody far to get down here,” he said.

The Big Easy laughed when it was pointed out to him that as a South African, he had no choice but to go bloody far to get anywhere.

“These American boys are starting to travel a bit more,” he said. “And it’s good to see.”


Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel beginning Monday at 6PM. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Wednesday 9PM-2AM, Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 3PM-2AM and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:



Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.