Notes: How one putt could start Olympic domino effect for Kuchar

By Doug FergusonJuly 5, 2016, 4:07 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Matt Kuchar finished with a 12-foot birdie at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which had no bearing on the outcome but still had a few ramifications.

Kuchar tied for third, so that putt was worth an additional $249,250. It cost Jordan Spieth enough world ranking points that Dustin Johnson moved ahead of him to No. 2 by the slimmest of margins.

And that birdie putt could send Kuchar to the Olympics.

Whether he earns a spot in Rio de Janeiro is now out of Kuchar's hands. The Americans are allowed the maximum four players because all of them are among the top 15 in the world ranking, and the birdie allowed him to move to No. 15. Still to be announced is which four Americans will go to Rio.

Of the top four in the world ranking – Johnson (2), Spieth (3), Bubba Watson (5) and Rickie Fowler (7) – Watson is the only one who has said he is going. The biggest question marks of that group are Spieth and Fowler. That's why Kuchar's birdie putt was so important, because if two Americans choose not to go, those spots could end up going to Patrick Reed and Kuchar.

Kuchar wants to play in the Olympics, though it's still a long way off. Not only does he need at least two players to withdraw, he has to be sure he stays among the top 15 in the world ranking after this week.

Olympic qualifying is based on the world ranking published next Monday, and that brings Phil Mickelson into the equation. Mickelson would have to finish alone in second at the Scottish Open – he won the last time it was held at Castle Stuart – to move ahead of Kuchar and be in position for any Olympic withdrawals. If Lefty were to win, he would have a mathematical chance to move ahead of Reed as the first U.S. alternate.

J.B. Holmes, Shane Lowry and Chris Wood also are at Castle Stuart and could bump Kuchar from the top 15 if they were to win. A victory by Wood likely would be enough for him to reach No. 15 and give the U.K. three players.


HURLEY NOTES: Billy Hurley III already delivered one of the most inspirational stories of the year when the former Naval officer won the Quicken Loans National at Congressional not far from his Virginia home, a tournament created to honor the military.

Then, he chose to give up his spot in The Open to honor a family commitment – his sister's wedding.

And it keeps getting better.

For the last few years, PGA Tour rules officials and other key employees have been receiving handwritten notes from Hurley thanking them for their work. When asked about this, Hurley smiled and said, ''I write a lot of notes.''

It's a lost art that goes back decades. Arnold Palmer once showed the way to a young Jack Nicklaus on writing thank-you notes to tournament directors in the 1960s. Hurley goes beyond that.

''I write to the tournament director, the superintendent and title sponsors, at least at the tournaments I'm playing,'' he said. ''And then the whole Tour staff. There's a lot of people that make this possible.''

Hurley doesn't know where he picked up this habit.

''I just think it's the right thing to do,'' he said. ''They work hard for us. I don't know what their salaries are, but it's not what ours are.''


HOME SWEET HOME: Shane Lowry is playing the PGA Tour as a member for the first time this year, and what he hopes is many years to come.

But he has no plans for moving his home base away from Ireland. His role model is Padraig Harrington, a PGA Tour member for more than a decade who has never followed other Europeans by getting a home in Florida.

''I can't see myself moving to the States at all,'' Lowry said. ''As everyone knows, I'm quite friendly with Padraig, so he's done it for the last 15 years, traveled over and back. I'm not finding it too difficult.''

Lowry typically plays two or three weeks in a row before going back to Ireland. He usually can get out Sunday night and be home Monday.

''Dublin is my home now in Ireland, and I see that being the case for the next while,'' he said.

And how does he practice in the winter?

''I don't,'' Lowry said with a laugh. ''The weather is obviously not great. You can get out and hit shots for an hour. I just need to keep the rust away for me. ... I might play nine holes with my friends. I'm not one of these guys that feels like I need to practice all every day. If I play nine holes four, five times a week, I'm pretty happy.''


McGIRT DOES EUROPE: Memorial winner William McGirt is excited about his first trip to The Open, mainly because of links golf, but also one other oddity.

''I've never been to Europe,'' McGirt said.

Yes, he has a passport. McGirt played in South America when he was on the Web.com Tour, and he played in Malaysia in 2012. He qualified for the Open by being in the top 20 in the FedEx Cup, and he's going over on the charter from Philadelphia.

''I'm looking forward to playing a completely different style of golf,'' he said. ''I grew up playing a golf course not manicured anywhere close to what we have out here. So I learned to play bump-and-run shots. Being able to use your imagination, that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to, where there's no such thing as a standard shot.''


DIVOTS: Bubba Watson is all in for the Olympics, but he is leaving caddie Ted Scott at home. Watson said longtime friend Randall Wells will be on the bag for him in Rio. ... Jean Van de Velde, who lost a three-shot lead on the final hole in The Open in 1999 at Carnoustie, is making his PGA Tour Champions debut this week in the Dick's Sporting Goods Classic. ... The Greenbrier Classic has been canceled because of deadly flooding, but the charter flight to the British Open is still going. The same plane that takes players and others who would have been at The Greenbrier is the one that takes them from Scotland to the Canadian Open. The only difference? It now leaves Sunday night from Philadelphia. ... John Daly will be keeping a busy schedule the next two months. He begins his stretch of majors at Royal Troon for The Open and Carnoustie for The Senior Open. Then, it's back over the ocean to New Jersey for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Two weeks later, he has the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto in Ohio before heading back across the Atlantic to play the Czech Masters on the European Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of the three World Golf Championships this year all won in their previous start – Adam Scott (Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship), Jason Day (Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play) and Dustin Johnson (U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).


FINAL WORD: ''I work in the Army 14 years. ... And training every morning, that's why we come to play golf, I think really easy.'' - Thongchai Jaidee, a former paratrooper in Thailand, after his eighth European Tour victory in the French Open.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.