Notes Fowler explains Ryder Cup selection Cog Hills new greens
The 21-year-old is the first captain’s pick without a PGA Tour victory. And he is the first PGA Tour rookie to play for the U.S. team. But upon hearing how he was chosen, Fowler certainly doesn’t feel as though he stands out.
Fowler revealed Wednesday that in the final hours of the decision, captain Corey Pavin was taking the pulse of every assistant captain and every player. Whatever the process, Fowler was chosen.
“What was cool about the whole situation is that Corey brought in all the assistants and all the team members to basically help him pick the last four guys,” Fowler said. “Which I thought was pretty cool because it makes the player … well, the players basically pick their own team in a way. Obviously, Corey makes the final decision.”
Oddly enough, Fowler was having dinner with Bubba Watson when Pavin was making the rounds through text message. Fowler didn’t realize until later that Watson was punching away on his keys in text messages to the captain.
“They were basically voting and spending that time picking the final guys on the team,” Fowler said. “So he’s sitting across the table from me while the whole team is deciding what’s going on.”
Fowler later showed his youth.
Instead of pacing the floor in his room waiting for the phone to ring, he was playing video games of dirt bikes with his father.
“It’s a great way to kill time on the road,” Fowler said.
No doubt, the kid is relieved to have made the team, although he figured there would have been more chances. How to celebrate?
“I am going to get a little haircut,” Fowler said. “It’s getting a bit long for me right now.”
COG HILL GREENS: Rees Jones renovated Cog Hill two years ago with hopes the public course could land a U.S. Open. The changes didn’t stop Tiger Woods from a fifth victory last year, just like Jones’ work at Torrey Pines hasn’t stopped Woods from winning in San Diego.
“It’s more cosmetic than anything else, especially off the tees,” Woods said. “I’m still playing to the same areas. Going into the greens is definitely much more difficult than it used to be.”
Steve Stricker also noticed a change in the greens, although he didn’t offer much in the way of a compliment.
“I think the greens are the biggest adjustment,” he said. “I think visually, it looks great from the tee. The greens, on the other hand, are somewhat different, to put it nicely. He’s got a characteristic about them that I don’t really care for. But that’s just my personal feeling. The green complexes are pretty difficult.”
The putting surfaces themselves are also getting the players’ attention. Woods referred to them as “spotty,” which he would attribute to the strain of grass (bent), the time of year (summer) and recent rains.
“It does affect the putts, no doubt,” Woods said. “We’re all going to have to deal with it. It’s been a pretty hot summer, and with a hot summer, bentgrass greens get a little bit stressed.”
VERPLANK’S EFFORT: Stephen Ames had to play in a twosome the opening two rounds of The Players Championship because of a 145-man field. He finds out Thursday whether he plays by himself.
Ames is paired with Scott Verplank, who was on his way to Chicago on Wednesday night with hopes of playing.
Verplank’s left wrist hurts so much that he withdrew from the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship when he no longer could grip the club through his swing. “If I can’t hit it straight, I’m not any good,” he said.
The plan was to take time off to let it heal -- but that was before a late sequence of events enabled Verplank to fall only to No. 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and qualify for the BMW Championship.
He took a cortisone shot about an hour after the Boston event ended, then had the MRI on Tuesday.
“No bad structural damage,” Verplank said in a text message. “Not in any immediate danger. This week is totally up to me and how much I can put up with it.”
There are no alternates in the playoffs, so even if he can’t make it, Verplank won’t be depriving someone a spot in the field. And he’ll still collect his $110,000 bonus for reaching the top 60 in the FedEx Cup.
DIVOTS: Slightly more than half of the players at Cog Hill—36 out of 70— are Americans. … Andres Romero missed a birdie putt on the final hole at the TPC Boston and figured his playoff run was over. Instead, the Argentine who began the playoffs at No. 115 managed to crack the top 70 (68th) and gets another shot at reaching the Tour Championship. The only other players who started outside the top 100 and made it to the BMW Championship are Kevin Streelman (No. 102 to No. 26) and Tiger Woods (No. 112 to No. 51). … Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar are tied in the race for the Vardon Trophy with an adjusted scoring average of 69.61.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.