Kirk rolls with Ryder Cup snub

By Doug FergusonSeptember 3, 2014, 11:24 pm

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. - Chris Kirk now has only one cup on his mind - the FedEx Cup.

Fresh off his victory at the TPC Boston, Kirk arrived at Cherry Hills for the BMW Championship and saw a message from Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. The conversation didn't last very long.

''He was pretty straight to the point,'' Kirk said Wednesday. ''He just said, 'Congratulations on great play, but we're going to go in another direction.' He kind of started to explain his reasoning, and I wasn't rude at all or anything, but if you're not one getting picked ... the reasoning doesn't really matter a whole lot.''

Watson instead took former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson to fill out his 12-man American team that will try to win the cup back from Europe. Watson said he didn't make his mind up until about 12 hours before the announcement, and he was swayed by a pair of 5-and-4 victories Simpson had with Bubba Watson at Medinah in 2012.


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Kirk took it in stride. The 29-year-old from Georgia doesn't show much outward emotion, even after winning big tournaments.

Plus, it wasn't hard to find the positives. His win at the Deutsche Bank Championship moved him to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, meaning he will have a clear shot at the $10 million prize and a five-year exemption.

''I just kind of told him, 'Hey, don't worry about it. You've got to do what you've got to do,''' Kirk said. ''I just won the biggest tournament of my career. It's going to take a lot more than this to put me in a bad mood.''

What concerns him is the perception that he didn't care.

Kirk said repeatedly over the weekend at the TPC Boston that he wasn't as wrapped up in the picks as other players, such as Keegan Bradley. He said even if he were to win, he would not be entitled to a pick because he didn't earn one of the nine automatic spots.

He watched a replay of his victory Tuesday and said the announcers mentioned that he didn't want a Ryder Cup pick.

''They said that on the coverage, and that couldn't have been further from the truth,'' Kirk said. ''I never said that. I would love to have been on the team, but I'm just really focused on what's in front of me right now, and this playoff race here. And hopefully, I'll be on a bunch of Ryder Cup teams to come.''

Watson heard the comments from Kirk and loved them.

''When I was watching the tournament, he made the comment, 'I don't expect to get on the team because I didn't earn my way on the team,''' Watson said Tuesday night in New York. ''I said, 'Man, I like that attitude.' It made it easier for me to tell him.''

Watson also took Bradley and Barclays winner Hunter Mahan, both of whom have Ryder Cup experience. The choice of Simpson over Kirk was the one that stood out because Kirk finished ahead of Simpson in the Ryder Cup standings and won against one of the strongest fields of the year at the Deutsche Bank Championship, paired with Rory McIlroy over the final two days.

''I felt like there was a very good chance that I would get a pick, but at the same time, I wasn't surprised when I didn't,'' Kirk said. ''I don't know if my nonchalant attitude about the Ryder Cup had any effect on what Tom thinks. I certainly hope not. I hope that I haven't sent the wrong message. I would love nothing more than to play in the Ryder Cup. Maybe I don't live and die by it like some guys do. But it would be a huge honor.''

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.