Notes: Ryder Cup distresses and inspires Sticker

By Doug FergusonSeptember 6, 2016, 5:34 pm

NORTON, Mass. – The Ryder Cup loss at Medinah is what accelerated Steve Stricker's plan to reduce his schedule after 2012.

And it was the Ryder Cup that caused him to fill up his schedule again.

Stricker was not planning to play in any of the FedEx Cup Playoff events. His primary goal this year was to finish in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup so he would be eligible for The Players Championship and other tournaments that he enjoys playing.

So what was he doing at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship?

''There's only one reason I'm here,'' he said over the weekend at the TPC Boston, ''and that's to try to make that Ryder Cup team.''

Stricker felt he was a long shot, but he said U.S. captain Davis Love III, assistant captain Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson kept encouraging him to play. Stricker birdied the last two holes at The Barclays to make the cut, birdied the 72nd hole to assure he would get to Boston and was in position to advance to the third playoff event at Crooked Stick until he closed with a 73.

He all but ruled himself out if he didn't make it to the BMW Championship, suggesting it would be hard to pick a 49-year-old who didn't qualify for the last two playoff events. Love won't announce his three captain's picks until Monday.

Stricker went 0-4 at Medinah in 2012 when Europe rallied from a 10-6 deficit to win the cup. Stricker made a clutch 10-foot par putt on the final hole, but he had to watch Martin Kaymer make his putt to halve the hole and assure Europe would keep the cup.

And he took it personal.

''That took a lot out of me. It put a sour taste in my mouth,'' Stricker said. ''I wasn't too keyed up on the golf and playing a lot. I wanted to be home and do different things. I felt responsible. I played four times and didn't win a point. It was tough to swallow.''

He will be in Hazeltine as an assistant captain, just as he was for Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014. But it was fascinating to see Stricker go from such a bad experience at one Ryder Cup to adding tournaments to his schedule for a chance to play again.

His 15 PGA Tour starts this year were his most since he played 20 times in 2012.

''I guess I wanted to give it one more shot,'' Stricker said.

He is honest to a fault. Stricker said he had several conversations with his wife, Nicky, about whether it would be prudent to pick him even if he made it to the Tour Championship. He looked at himself as a 49-year-old who failed to qualify. She said he wasn't giving himself enough credit.

''She's trying to fire me up and I'm trying to beat myself down,'' Stricker said with a laugh.

Not making it to Indiana for the BMW Championship was hardly the end of the world. Stricker is in The Players Championship, where his daughters love going because they rent a house on the beach. And he gets to stick to his original plan for next week, anyway.

He's going elk hunting.

WALKER'S TURNAROUND: Jimmy Walker had gone 11 straight tournaments without a top 10 when he showed up at Baltusrol and went wire-to-wire at the PGA Championship for his first major and only victory this year.

Out of nowhere? Not really.

Walker traces his victory to the back nine of the RBC Canadian Open, where he closed with a 68.

''I felt like I keyed in on some good stuff in Canada. I started to drive it really well – a nice, tight draw,'' he said. ''Sunday on the back nine, I felt like it came together. I thought, 'This felt awesome.'''

That was the start. Walker played a few nine-hole matches with Rickie Fowler at Baltusrol, hopeful of taking the good form from Canada into the final major. And he did.

It was another reminder of how quickly fortunes can change.

The Deutsche Bank was an important week. Walker missed the cut in his next two events, leading to speculation the PGA Championship was an exception to how he was playing. Walker was a top contender all week at the TPC Boston, doing everything well except making putts. He still finished in third place.

Walker attributed the missed cuts to taking some time off to enjoy his first major, ''which we needed to do.'' And his finish in Boston was a sign he is coming back into form.

RORY'S CRITIQUE: Rory McIlroy does not mind hearing criticism, provided the foundation is factual. That would be just about everything golf-related. The one criticism that got under his skin was that he was spending too much time in the gym.

''If I wasn't in the gym, I wouldn't be here sitting today,'' McIlroy said after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship. ''It's a big part of who I am, it's a big part of my success. That's always I feel an unfair criticism.''

McIlroy said the critics, particularly on television, at least are educated in golf and ''for the most part know what they're talking about.''

''A criticism of my golf game, I take it, and I know what I need to work on and sometimes those people point out the obvious,'' he said. ''But yeah, I would say that's the most unfair criticism I receive is what I do in the gym.''

SCOTT'S BREAK: Adam Scott will play the Tour Championship at the end of the month and then most likely not show up on the PGA Tour until Riviera. Yes, there will be a long break. And there will be plenty of travel.

Scott said he plans to start his new PGA Tour season in Malaysia and Shanghai, just like last year, and then go home to Australia for three events, including the World Cup at Kingston Heath.

The surprise is that he does not plan to be at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. Instead, Scott will play in the Singapore Open on Jan. 19-22, a tournament he has won three times.

DIVOTS: Ryo Ishikawa has resurfaced after playing just once since January because of a back injury and getting married. Ishikawa won two weeks ago on the Japan Golf Tour for his 14th career victory, and was runner-up last week in the Fujisankei Classic. ... Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won the first two PGA Tour events this season, are the only rookies to make it to the BMW Championship. ... U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck will play in the Australian Open on Nov. 17-20 at Royal Sydney. The Aussie will delay turning pro so he can play in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open next year. ... Curtis Cup captain Robin Burke and Blaine McCallister are among those who have been selected for the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. The induction is Oct. 10 in San Antonio. ... Maverick McNealy of Stanford has won the Mark McCormack medal as the No. 1 amateur. He will be exempt to the U.S. Open and British Open next year provided he stays an amateur.

STAT OF THE WEEK: McIlroy joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win three or more FedEx Cup Playoff events. Woods has won four. McIlroy won his third at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

FINAL WORD: ''I came in here rusty this week. There's no driving range at the Winnie Palmer Hospital.'' - Graeme McDowell after missing the cut in the Deutsche Bank Championship. His wife gave birth to a son, Wills, at the start of the week.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x