Notes: Americans grab Intl. Crown's top spot

By Doug FergusonApril 1, 2014, 10:19 pm

The International Crown on the LPGA Tour has all the trappings of the best team event in golf until the Olympics in 2016. And considering there will be no team medal awarded in Rio, the LPGA event might be best team format in golf after the Olympics.

The Americans nudged South Korea as the top seed for the International Crown, which features eight teams of four players on July 24-27 at Caves Valley in Maryland. The combined world ranking of their four players – Stacy LewisPaula CreamerLexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr – added to 32. South Korea's ranking added to 33 with Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim.

Japan is the No. 3 seed with 131 points, illustrating a large gap after the top two countries. The other teams are Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Australia.

A new tournament, which required more planning than usual, means England and teen star Charley Hull will have to sit this one out.

The eight teams were locked in when the International Crown was announced in November. England's four best players amounted to No. 9. Over the last four months, Hull won her first pro tournament on the Ladies European Tour, and her ranking went from No. 119 to No. 67. Holly Clyburn moved up 23 spots to No. 98 with two good finishes. If the teams were determined Sunday – the cutoff for players – England would have been the No. 7 team and Australia would be out.

But there was reasons for teams to be locked in eight months in advance: sponsorship, promotion and television.

''If we waited until later, you can't knock on someone's door and say, 'How would you like to support the International Crown in three weeks?' '' LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said Tuesday. ''And we wanted to make sure we had quality television deals in the countries that are playing. ... We have good TV deals. But this event is more significant for a lot of countries than a regular tour event.''

He plans to start announcing some of the sponsors this week at the LPGA's first major of the year.

As for players who qualify for the teams, Whan said he could see moving the deadline back as the International Crown gets more traction. For the first year, however, he thought it was important for players to have more than enough time to build their schedules around it. These aren't just LPGA players; eight of the 32 players who qualified for the International Crown are not LPGA members.

Three players from the top 10 in the world will not be at Caves Valley because their countries did not have enough highly ranked players: Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Shanshan Feng (China).

Whan expects there to be some flaws, and he would be prepared to identify them after the first year.

''When you bring a brand new idea to the game, be prepared to be critiqued. And on the flip side, reach each one and don't be put off,'' he said. '''New' doesn't come easily.''


BUBBA AND BAY HILL: Bubba Watson was last seen at Bay Hill making an 11 on the par-5 sixth hole, posting an 83 and then withdrawing because of allergies.

That changed Tuesday.

After a brief telephone interview, Watson said he was calling from the sixth hole at Bay Hill.

''I joined Bay Hill yesterday,'' he said. ''The funny thing is I'm in a greenside bunker in two.''

Watson lives primarily in Orlando, Fla., and he already is a member at Isleworth and Orange Tree.

''My thing is I love to play golf. I don't like to hit balls on the range,'' Watson said. ''So when I have friends in town, I like to take them different places.''


WILLIE MAC: Will MacKenzie felt more nervous than he has in years, the best sign yet of how well he is playing.

MacKenzie tied for second in the Texas Open, extending a superb spring for golf's free spirit. He was finished two shots out of a playoff in the Honda Classic (tie for sixth), three shots out of the lead at the Valspar Championship (tie for fourth), and one shot behind Steven Bowditch on Sunday in San Antonio.

He missed a few reasonable birdie chances that could have made the final few holes far more interesting at the Texas Open. And he felt it.

''I got a little nervous out there,'' MacKenzie said. ''I don't know why. It just the forethought. It's thinking in the future and not taking care of business. But yeah, I got nervous a couple of times when I got to 6 (under). I went, 'Man, here I go, I'm back in this a little bit.' And I got really excited. And it was awesome, it was just a great feeling. ... I don't think I gave shots away because of thinking like that, but it's a wonderful feeling. It means I'm playing really good golf.''

Indeed he is.

MacKenzie, a two-time winner who spent the last two years on the Web.com Tour, already has five top 10s this year. He had 10 in his previous seven seasons on tour. He already has a career-best $1.7 million, and is 11th in the FedEx Cup.


KOEPKA FALLS SHORT: Brooks Koepka had a four-shot lead with 11 holes to play in the season-opening Frys.com Open. He made a few mistakes, was chased down by Jimmy Walker and wound up in a tie for third. It looked like he would be a shoo-in to get at least special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

Now that's on hold.

Koepka used his final sponsor exemption at the Texas Open and came up two strokes short of earning enough points to be at least equal to 150th place on the FedEx Cup last year. That would have given him unlimited sponsor exemptions the rest of the year.

Now, the only chance to add to his total is if he qualifies for majors, or cracks the top 50 in time to get into The Players Championship. Or he could try to Monday qualify on the PGA Tour in a bid to pick up an additional seven more points for special temporary membership.


DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus found another charitable avenue for his brand of golf balls. In a program announced Monday, Nicklaus Companies is donating at least $1 to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation for every dozen Nicklaus Golf Balls that are sold. And if FedEx ships the golf balls, Nicklaus will donate an additional $1 per dozen to St. Jude. ... Richard Sterne is the only player from the Presidents Cup team last October who has not qualified for the Masters. ... Chesson Hadley had a chance to crack the top 50 in the world going into the final round of his last two tournaments. He closed with a 79 at Bay Hill and an 80 in the Texas Open. ... Matt Jones had an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the BMW Championship last September. It hit the lip and stayed out, keeping him from advancing to the Tour Championship and earn a spot in the Masters. Now he would have to win the Shell Houston Open to get in.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Only two men under 30 are in the top 10 in the world ranking. Only two women over 30 are in the top 10 in the world ranking.


FINAL WORD: ''There's not one guy winning all the time, so more guys get talked about. That's how it is until one guy starts winning as much as Tiger. It's hard to see someone at the moment doing that.'' – Retief Goosen.

Getty Images

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?

Getty Images

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.