Notes: Last chances to earn U.S. Ryder Cup spots

By Doug FergusonJuly 24, 2012, 9:23 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – The U.S. Ryder Cup team is starting to take shape with three weeks remaining to get one of the eight automatic spots, and every shot is looking more important. Brandt Snedeker, now in 11th place in the standings, lost precious points when he bogeyed the last hole and fell into a tie for third with Tiger Woods at the British Open.

The top eight going into the Canadian Open are Woods, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.

PGA champion Keegan Bradley is at No. 9, though he is the equivalent of $640,000 behind Mahan.

Each $1,000 in Tour earnings is worth one point, and it's worth double that in the majors. The qualifying ends with the PGA Championship on Aug. 12, and captain Davis Love III would have three more weeks before making his four wild-card selections.

Among those outside the top eight are Steve Stricker, who has played on the last two teams, and Jim Furyk, who has played on every team since 1997. Both of them would have to win either the Canadian Open or Bridgestone Invitational, or come in third at the PGA Championship.

Rickie Fowler is at No. 10, Dustin Johnson is at No. 12 and Bo Van Pelt is at No. 14.

OLYMPIC PROBLEM: Lost in the opening round of the British Open was an announcement from the All England Club that will make it even more difficult for golf to devise a busy summer schedule in an Olympic year.

Wimbledon will move back one week starting in 2015 to allow a three-week break after the French Open.

The British Open had considered moving back one week in 2016 in a summer that will be filled with two major championships, the Ryder Cup and golf's return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. To do that now would mean the Open would clash with Wimbledon, which wouldn't go over well in Britain.

2012 Olympic Games topics page

''The Wimbledon date change does impact on this with regard to when it's most sensible to play the Open that particular year, so we are going to have to go slightly back to the drawing board on this,'' said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A and the president of the International Golf Federation, which oversees Olympic golf.

Dawson said the IGF made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee that no major event would clash with the Olympics. The first step is to figure out the dates of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. If it were held in its normal time frame, it would clash with the PGA Championship.

The PGA of America, which stages the PGA Championship the second week in August, already has offered to move up to the last week in July.

The Olympics will take up two weeks for golf - one week for the men, one week for the women. The LPGA added a fifth major at the Evian Masters in France (which is held this week). The Women's British Open this year has moved to September.

Also to be considered is the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, which if held too late would push back the Ryder Cup outside Minneapolis.

The 2016 schedule isn't the only thing under review.

Dawson said the IGF planned to take another look at the format for when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century. When it put together its proposal, the format was for 72 holes of stroke play, with medals awarded only to individuals.

''I think we all had this at the back of our mind at the start, 'Wouldn't it be nice to make the Olympic competition a little bit different, at least from the week in, week out competition?''' Dawson said.

He believes that a standard 72-hole event of stroke play is the best way to determine a champion, though the idea of an element of match play, or a team competition, has been raised, and ''it's those areas we'll be having a look at.''

Dawson's personal opinion is to stick with stroke play, and the format is unlikely to change for 2016. Even if the IGF wanted to change the format, it would require approval from the IOC.

''Golf's bid was based on individual competition,'' he said. ''In order for that to be changed - and I'm not sure that it ought to be changed - but if it were to be, we'd have to get agreement from the IOC sports department.''

COMING TO AMERICA: More than just joining the Tour, Lee Westwood is looking to buy a home in Florida and move his family to America.

It wasn't an easy decision, especially when it involves moving a young family, though it made sense to the Englishman.

''I'm not doing it merely for the sake of it,'' Westwood said. ''I think playing over there on the courses all the time and with those kinds of practice facilities and the right kind of weather should have a big effect.''

And there's one other reason - three of the four majors are held in the United Sates.

Westwood said he has been contemplating a move for a couple of years, and if there were any doubts, this summer might have persuaded him.

''The English winters and the English summers,'' he said, referring to the record rain this year. ''And the fact I like playing on the PGA Tour now. It was well reported that I struggled over there, but over the last few years, I've seemed to enjoy it a lot more and now have a good time over there.''

DIPLOMATIC PLAYER: Gary Player was asked about Colin Montgomerie's ambition of winning the senior Grand Slam, and as he sat in a room full of British writers, he paused.

''I can't win answering that,'' Player said. ''Tommy Bolt said, 'If you say the wrong thing, you get on the front page. If you say the right thing, you get on back page.'''

Player opted for somewhere in the middle.

''Obviously, you must have that ambition,'' Player said. ''I really don't think that he knows how tough it is. Colin is a wonderful golfer. ... I expect him to win majors.''

He just didn't say anything about Monty, who turns 50 next June, winning them all.

DIVOTS: The board of the Official World Golf Ranking decided to leave the system alone for now. There had been discussion to give winners of the major championships more than 100 points. The next two highest-rated events this year were The Players Championship (80 points) and the World Golf Championship at Doral, which awarded 78 points to the winner. Doral, along with the other WGCs, has a limited field of about 80 players, compared with 156 players at all the majors except the Masters. ... With his 68-68 weekend, Ernie Els set the British Open record with most career rounds in the 60s at 39. Nick Faldo had 37 sub-70 rounds. ... Dave Kindred, whose sports journalism career includes work for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been selected as the 2013 Memorial Golf Journalism honoree. Kindred, who now contributes to Golf Digest, will be recognized at the Memorial next year at Muirfield Village.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The 54-hole leader has failed to win 11 of the last 14 majors.

FINAL WORD: ''Good players travel well anywhere they play.'' – Jason Dufner.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”