U.S. in total control, but not Tiger

By Doug FergusonNovember 19, 2011, 7:02 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – So much about this Presidents Cup resembles the last time it was played at Royal Melbourne 13 years ago, from the sudden drop in temperatures to Tiger Woods winning only one point to a final day that holds so little drama.

The difference is the team on the verge of hoisting the gold trophy.

The Americans built a big lead Saturday morning in the foursomes matches, with Woods finally rewarded with a point, then turned back a rally from the International team in the worst of the weather in the afternoon by capturing the final two matches.

“We needed those two points really bad,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “And they got them for us.”

Hunter Mahan delivered the most emotional moment of the week, holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th right after Jason Day charged up the Australian crowd with an even longer birdie putt which he celebrated as if the match would be extended. Instead, Mahan and Bill Haas had a 2-and-1 win.

Hoggard: Norman not channeling Crenshaw

Hoggard: Singles matchups and predictions

Moments later, Jim Furyk finished off the wild day with a clutch bunker shot on the 16th hole, and Nick Watney secured a par on the final hole for a 1-up decision over Adam Scott and Ernie Els that changed everything.

Those last two wins gave the Americans a 13-9 lead going into the 12 singles matches Sunday, a deficit from which no team has recovered in the 17-year history of this tournament.

The largest rally in any team event was when the Americans came from four points down to win the 1999 Ryder Cup. International captain Greg Norman didn’t wag his finger and say he had a good feeling about this, as Ben Crenshaw did at Brookline.

He wasn’t giving up, either, nor was his team.

“It’s going to have to be a remarkable day tomorrow,” Scott said. “But we have a shot. That’s all we can ask for. It’s not over.”

The only time the International side has won this event was at Royal Melbourne in 1998, when it had a nine-point lead going into the Sunday singles and the Cup was won as breakfast was still being served.

Woods was 1-3 that year going into the final day, only he wasn’t alone. None of the Americans played well, leading to their worst loss ever in any team competition.

Woods finally put up a point Saturday morning in foursomes with Dustin Johnson. It wasn’t pretty, but they forged ahead with a few pars and Woods ended the match by rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt. In the afternoon, Woods couldn’t buy a putt. Despite putting for birdie on every hole – only one of those from off the green – he missed nine putts from about 15 feet and closer.

That included the 18th hole, when he missed a putt for a halve, and K.T. Kim knocked in a 6-foot par to give him and Y.E. Yang their first win of the week.

“It’s all about making putts in match play, and we didn’t do that,” Woods said. “It just one of those things where that’s how it all turns out. But hey, right now we’ve got a nice lead. And hopefully, tomorrow we can get the four-and-a-half points we need.”

Webb Simpson will lead off the singles session against Kim, with Woods in the 11th spot against Aaron Baddeley.

The International team, which has won the Presidents Cup only once since it began in 1994, was hopeful that being in Australia would lead to another win, just like in 1998. Back then, it got plenty of help from its local players. With five Australians on this year’s team, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Robert Allenby, a captain’s pick, is the only player on either side to not win a point. Scott is 1-3, while Baddeley and Day have faltered on the back nine throughout the week. Geoff Ogilvy is the only Australian with a winning record, as he and K.J. Choi won a tight match Saturday afternoon against Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker.

The Americans continue to dominate the foursomes matches, as they have the last three years with a combined 25 ½ - 7 ½ margin. Most peculiar about this day, however, was the weather.

It started with a warm breeze and occasional rain. It ended in a steady rain, temperatures that plunged and a wind out of the opposite direction from when the day started.

“I’ve been coming to Melbourne for quite a few years,” said Els, who teamed with Ryo Ishikawa for the International’s only point in the morning foursomes. “I’ve played the north breeze and the southwesterly. But today was quite amazing. It blew from the north, and then it turned around and came from the south. We’ve had it all this week.

“Yesterday it was rock hard … and today it was almost blowing like in Scotland.”

The stars of the American team have been Furyk and Phil Mickelson, who have yet to lose a match. They were 3-0 as a team until Couples sat Mickelson out Saturday afternoon, ending his streak of 32 consecutive matches played in this event, dating to the first session in 1998.

Furyk teamed with Watney and watched the Presidents Cup rookie hole one big putt after another.

“I felt like we went through about three different seasons today,” Furyk said. “It was a tough day and a long day for those who played 36, and this morning was big for us to go 4-1 in five matches. And we hung on this afternoon, getting a point in those last two matches. We put ourselves in good position and have to come out firing tomorrow.”

Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel handed Simpson and Bubba Watson their first loss of the week in the opening foursomes match in the afternoon. Even though the Americans rallied, it was the first time they had lost a session since singles in 2007 at Royal Montreal.

It still wasn’t enough for them to lose control. In wild weather, the Americans kept their big lead.


Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

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.