Relationships last for those on U.S. teams

By Doug FergusonSeptember 12, 2017, 11:04 pm

Kevin Kisner began to appreciate the value of playing in the Presidents Cup two months before the matches even started.

All because of a text message.

He was at the Bridgestone Invitational last month when he received a group text sent to players who were in position to make the U.S. team. The idea was to make everyone feel like a team, whether the exchange of messages was motivational or simply amusing.

Kisner is among the more popular figures in the locker room, but there were still a few numbers in that group text that he didn't recognize. He wasn't alone, mainly because the guy who started the thread - U.S. captain Steve Stricker - put in the wrong number for Charley Hoffman. And that soon became clear to everyone.

''Some dude told us he didn't care and to quit texting him,'' Kisner said.

Kisner is among five players who have never played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, the most since five players experienced their first professional team competition at the 2010 Ryder Cup team in Wales.

The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup are not on the same level when it comes to history or hype, pressure or publicity.

But there's no difference for those trying to be part of it.

That's why Brooks Koepka wore himself out in the summer of 2015 by playing eight times in nine weeks in a desperate bid to make the Presidents Cup. He missed out and didn't make his team debut until the following year at the Ryder Cup.

There are varying levels of acceptance on the PGA Tour, which starts with winning a tournament. Players also are looked upon differently when they're part of a U.S. team, especially when it becomes a habit.

''It's kind of like the good ol' boys club, if that makes sense,'' Koepka said. ''You learn so much about each other, but you know them on a personal level. It seems like out here, it's more like, 'Hey, what's up?' You're playing with them, and that's about it. But you never get into any real interesting conversations or whatever it might be. Now you sit down for lunch, you know the names and ages of their kids. I didn't have that before the Ryder Cup.''

He never had many phone numbers, either.

Those chain texts from the Ryder Cup spilled into this year, though Koepka remembers the first one. At the time, the only numbers he had belonged to Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar.

''All these numbers popped up and I was like, 'Who's this one?''' he said.

One of the mysteries was Bubba Watson, added as a vice captain at Hazeltine. Koepka and Watson would seem to have next to nothing in common except that they hit the golf ball a long way. Now they stay in touch regularly.

''We FaceTime once a week, even during golf weeks,'' Koepka said. ''He called Christmas Day and my mom answered the phone. He said, 'Who's this?'''

Tiger Woods was among the top players who once lamented that Americans had to play team matches every year, while Europeans and the International team (every country except those in Europe) had a cup every other year. But that was mainly because the Americans kept losing every other year.

To watch Woods during those weeks was to realize it was among his favorite weeks of the year because of the relationships that were forged. He will be one of Stricker's assistant captains at Liberty National at the end of the month. The Presidents Cup is not anything to miss in a year plagued by his fourth back surgery and his struggles with painkillers that led to Florida police finding him asleep in his parked car and disoriented in the middle of the night.

It was at the Ryder Cup last year where players presented Woods with red T-shirts that said, ''Make Tiger Great Again.'' It hasn't worked, but those kinds of moments can be more lasting than any shot struck during the competition.

That's what awaits Kisner and Hoffman, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Kevin Chappell.

Berger got a taste of it last year when he and Thomas were invited to Hazeltine with several Ryder Cup members to play the course in case they were the final captain's pick of Davis Love III. Also on that trip were Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Spieth, players who had been part of other teams.

''When you see those guys up there, you want to be part of that group,'' Berger said. ''It means you're one of the best 12 Americans. It was one of those experiences that was like, 'I want to be part of that.' I don't want to miss one of these ever.''

The text messages are already flowing. Koepka only has numbers from last year's Ryder Cup team or the players living near him in South Florida. He didn't have Kisner's number until recently.

One word of advice for Koepka: If he gets a call from a number that looks like it might belong to Hoffman, don't answer.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."