Furyk hopes players scout Ryder Cup course

By Doug FergusonOctober 17, 2017, 10:05 pm

Le Golf National outside Paris, the host course of the Ryder Cup next year, has been part of the European Tour schedule since 1991 and last year was the 25th time it has held the French Open.

So along with the European crowd, that's one big advantage for the home team next year.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk hopes his American team can find time to see the course ahead of the September matches, even if they don't play the tournament. The French Open is three weeks before The Open at Carnoustie, held the same week as The National on the PGA Tour schedule.

''We seem to have a bunch of players that hang out together,'' Furyk said Tuesday in France. ''I would love to see them make a trip here before The Open Championship or after The Open Championship and see the golf course.''

He said he would extend the invitation to the top 15 or 20 players in the U.S. standings. Furyk understands each player sets his own schedule, which includes obligations and rest, and he said it's not going to be a requirement.

For American players, especially those on the bubble, it might not be a bad idea. Asked if it would be a strong recommendation to see the course, Furyk replied, ''I think it's going to be an ask and an invite, and I would hope to see some of those players.''

This is the second time in the last six years the Americans go overseas for the Ryder Cup in possession of the trophy. They have not won on European soil since 1993, the year Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Xander Schauffele were born.

''We have 25 years of scars to overcome,'' Furyk said. ''That being said, I will have a lot of young talent on my team. I'm anxious to see how they handle that challenge. Europe has handled those away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have.''

Europe is 3-3 on the road since 1993. The Americans are 0-5.


THE NICKLAUS CONNECTION: One of the more popular photos when Fred Ridley was appointed chairman of Augusta National is Ridley and Jack Nicklaus playing together in the 1976 Masters, the traditional pairing of the defending Masters champion and the U.S. Amateur champion.

The connection runs deeper than that.

In some respects, Ridley and Nicklaus shared the same golf coach - Jack Grout.

Ridley learned the game from Jamie Jackson, the head pro at Lone Palm in Lakeland, Florida, and later worked with Mike Killian and his mentor, Irv Schloss. But it was his teammate at Florida his senior year, Brad Baldwin, that led him to Grout.

''He had taken lessons from Jack Grout,'' Ridley said. ''Brad and I were going to the North and South Amateur in 1974 and he said, almost flippantly, 'I'm going to call Jack Grout and see if he'll give us a lesson and tune us up for the North and South.'''

Ridley was stunned that his teammate could just ring up such a famous teacher, but they headed to La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Florida.

''I took two days of lessons and thought, 'Golly, I've never hit it this good,''' Ridley said. ''I won two or three matches at the North and South, beat Jay Sigel, and then that summer I qualified for the U.S. Amateur.''

Ridley started law school and said his father allowed him to take the following summer off to play golf.

''That was going to be my last fling,'' Ridley said. ''I spent a lot of time with him (Grout) that summer, and then I won the U.S. Amateur at the end of the summer. Those other gentlemen were great, but Jack Grout really took my game to another level.''


REUNIONS: The Italian Open and the CIMB Classic featured reunions of sorts.

Sergio Garcia was paired in the third round in Italy with Austin Connelly. It was their first time playing together, but apparently not the first time they have met. Connelly's mother posted a photo from the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic that showed Garcia with his arm around Connelly.

Garcia was 19 and playing in his first regular PGA Tour event. Connelly was 2. The tweet prompted the European Tour to get them to strike the same pose .

Circumstances were slightly different over in Malaysia, where Scott Hend of Australia teed off in the first round with Ian Poulter and Patrick Rodgers. That brought back strong memories for Rodgers.

Walking off the second tee, Rodgers said to Hend, ''This is going to sound a bit weird, but when I was 10, you gave me a signed glove, and it was the first thing I ever got from a professional golfer.''

Rodgers told the PGA Tour he still has the glove at home.

Hend played two full years on the PGA Tour in 2004 and 2005 before returning to the Asian Tour, where he has won nine times. It was a reminder how much of an influence the smallest gestures can have.

''It's maybe easy to forget when we are out here, since it's our job, but you can make a real difference with the people that come to watch you play,'' Hend said.


AWAY ON HOLIDAY: Professional golfers spend so much time on the road that it's not unusual to miss birthdays or holidays, or in the case of Anirban Lahiri, the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali.

Lahiri says he hasn't been home in India for Diwali since he was 14.

''When we were playing junior golf, all the tournaments were scheduled around the school holidays, and Diwali is obviously a school holiday,'' he said last week in Malaysia. ''And then when you're a pro, especially now, the Asian Tour schedule really picks up. So yeah, I've probably been on the road for the last 14, 15 Diwalis.''

Lahiri referred to it as a hazard of work, though the holiday still carries deep meaning wherever he is. Among the traditions are exchanging sweets and presents with close friends and family.

''It's fun because it's family times and it's friends time. I miss that,'' he said. ''So in a way, it's Diwali every time I go back for me because I get to do all those things that other people get to do at Diwali.''


DIVOTS: Of the 80 juniors who qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National next year, three are returning for the third time - Megha Ganne of Holmdel, New Jersey; Treed Huang of Katy, Texas; and Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto. Huang won his age group (7-9) in 2014. ... Hideki Matsuyama went over the $20 million mark in career PGA Tour earnings with his tie for fifth last week in Malaysia. ... With her runner-up finish last week, LPGA Tour rookie Sung Hyun Park became the first woman to top $2 million this year. ... Padraig Harrington is playing in Spain for the first time in nine years at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The average of the PGA Tour player of the year over the last four seasons is 25.8.


FINAL WORD: ''The perception sometimes of the team coming together ... has a lot to do with the outcome. We always look a lot happier during a winning year. We always look a touch more sad during a losing year. It seems as though winning cures all.'' - Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk.

Whan details LPGA changes for 2018 and beyond

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 8:56 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Race to the CME Globe’s season-long series and its big-bang finish at the CME Group Tour Championship are secured for another six years.

Tour commissioner Mike Whan announced a contract extension with CME Group through 2023 in his annual state-of-the-tour address Thursday at the Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

Whan also outlined changes to next year’s tournament schedule and detailed specifics of the revamp of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, with a new Q-School Series devised as the final stage beginning next year.

Highlights from Whan’s address:

Extending the CME Race . . .

The Race to the CME Globe, a season-long competition for a $1 million jackpot, will be played at least six more years, with Whan announcing a contract extension through 2023.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Whan said.

The LPGA is also close to finalizing details that will keep the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

2018 schedule will include two new West Coast events . . .

The LPGA is likely going to lose three events next year, but it will gain three new ones, leaving the tour with 34 events, including the UL International Crown. That’s the same number of events being played this year. Total prize money is expected to reach $69 million, up from the record $65 million played for this season.


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The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada is off next year’s schedule, and the Lorena Ochoa Match Play also is not expected to return. The McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open is not returning, but only because it is sliding off the schedule to move up early on the 2019 schedule.

Whan said two new West Coast events are being added, and they will be positioned on the calendar next to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, to give players more reasons to stay out west.

Whan said there’s also a new international event being added to the schedule, but details of the new events won’t be released until the full schedule is released sometime after Thanksgiving.

“I hope you’ll agree that stability and predictability haven’t always been the calling card of the LPGA, but it has been the last few years,” Whan said. “I’m proud to tell you that the revenues of the LPGA in the last five or six years are up almost 90 percent. We have added 20 title sponsors and over 20 official marketing partners in the last five or six years. Don’t know too many sports that could claim that.”

Q-School officially overhauled . . .

Whan said the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will still be played in three stages next year, but the final stage will get a makeover as the Q-School Series.

The LPGA will continue to host first and second stages, but instead of a five-round final stage, there will be an eight-round finals series, with two four-round tournaments scheduled in back-to-back weeks in the same city, with cumulative scores used over eight rounds. The new Q-Series site will be announced early next year.

A field of 108 will make the Q-Series finals, with 40 to 50 LPGA tour cards up for grabs.

The Q-Series field will be filled by players finishing 101st to 150th on the LPGA money list, players finishing 31st to 50th on the Symetra Tour money list, with up to 10 players from among the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who don’t have LPGA membership. Also, the field will include the top five in the Golfweek Sagarin College Rankings. The rest of the field will be filled by players advancing through Q-School’s second stage, which could be anywhere from 23 to 33 players, depending how many from the world rankings and college rankings choose to go to the Q-Series.

Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

The awards and winners:

William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”

Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.