Slim Pickings for Ryder Cup
Tiger Woods and his partner in last years Presidents Cup, Jim Furyk, are the only two players whose games are sharp enough to please captain Tom Lehman. David Toms has played fairly well. But everyone else ' well, they arent anywhere near up to snuff.
Heres a look at the U.S. squad going into the PGA:
1 ' TIGER WOODS Won his last two (British Open and Buick Open), won four over-all this season. Without a doubt, the best player in the world.
2 ' PHIL MICKELSON Great first half, but last three tournaments are cause for concern - Western T65, British Open T22, missed the cut at the International.
3 ' JIM FURYK Last four tournaments, lowest finish was a fourth place (T2 U.S. Open, T4 Western, 4 British, T2 Buick Open). Note that two of those were majors.
And now, the rest
4 ' CHAD CAMPBELL Missed cut in three of last four. Missed cut in U.S. Open, finished T65 in British.
5 - DAVID TOMS Nothing to get excited about, but compared to remainder of the team, hes one of the better ones. Last five were T10 at FedEx St. Jude, T15 at Barclays, WD at U.S. Open after opening round of 79, a missed cut at Buick Open, T19 at International.
6 - CHRIS DiMARCO Raised hopes when he chased Woods to the end at the British, but hes missed the cut in the other four of his most recent events. Loss of his mother undoubtedly had much to do with this.
7 - VAUGHN TAYLOR Tied for fourth in recent Buick Open, but in four previous events, best finish was t42.
8 ' J.J. HENRY Missed cut in three of his last seven, missed the cut in both majors he has participated in this year (U.S. Open and British). He did win the Buick Championship in early July.
9 ' ZACH JOHNSON Missed the cut in each of the last two majors. Had a poor final round at the International after leading through three rounds. Its rather disturbing, though, to say that Johnson is probably Americas fifth best player, judging from the recent form charts: in his last six starts, he has finished T21 twice, T33 twice, as well as 13th last week.
10 ' BRETT WETTERICH Missed the cut four times in his last seven events. In the other three, had a best finish of T24.
Number 11 John Rollins? Hes missed the cut in eight of his last 13. Stewart Cink at No. 12 has been good in his last five with three finishes of T5 or better. Jerry Kelly at No. 13 has shown some signs of life, finishing second at Milwaukee and tying for 26th in his only major this year, the British. Number 14 Lucas Glover? Hes missed the cut in five of his last nine events.
That brings us to two old Ryder Cup veterans, No. 14 Davis Love and No. 15 Fred Couples. Love has missed the cut in the last two majors, U.S. Open and the British. Couples hasnt really done anything since he tied for third in the Masters. Hes missed the cut in three of the six events hes played in, and finished T25, 83 and T48 in the other three.
All this leads up to very slim pickings for Lehman. He would be totally justified if he picked himself for one of the two wildcards ' but then again, he himself also missed the cut at the U.S. and British Opens. And his putting has been very poor throughout the year ' he stands 189th in the rankings. That stat alone is why he isnt even considering Tom Lehman.
Folkss, there isnt much reason to feel optimistic if you are a red-white-and-blue type. Of course, you can say the U.S. should go with youth since the Americans havent fared well in these matches the past 10-12 years. But this meager lot doesnt tell you WHICH youngsters you should pick. Everywhere you look, theres mediocrity.
Of course, the Europeans have shown conclusively that past records arent particularly indicative of play in the Ryder Cup. The Americans will have to lean heavily on that adage. Switch em up, a lot of people say, and let the new guys try. But its like fumbling around in the dark for your clothes. You have no idea if you are getting a shirt and pants that matches. IF, that is, anything matches in this rather shallow pool of contenders.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.