Mickelson, Z. Johnson, Reed likely to make U.S. team

By Ryan LavnerAugust 9, 2014, 3:42 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Wanamaker Trophy isn’t the only prize up for grabs Sunday. Also at stake is an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, as qualifying for the top 9 ends after the final round of the PGA Championship.

Six players – Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth – have accrued enough points to lock up their spot. Both Furyk (T-2) and Fowler (T-4) are in contention at Valhalla.

How the rest of the team shakes out will depend on what happens over these final two days here at the PGA. U.S. captain Tom Watson will announce his three wild-card picks on Sept. 2.

Keep in mind that Ryder Cup points are double during major weeks, so players receive two points for every $1,000 earned at the PGA. A victory (and, in some cases, a runner-up finish) by any U.S. player not currently among the top 9 will automatically put him on the team.

7. Patrick Reed: The two-time winner this season looks safe to earn a spot at Gleneagles. He is T-39 through two rounds of the PGA, and only a perfect storm of poor play by Reed and top finishes by the pursuers could bump him out.

8. Jason Dufner: The U.S. team’s biggest worry, as the defending PGA champion withdrew midway through Round 1 because of two bulging discs in his neck. Duf was disconsolate afterward, and he said that he didn’t know when he would return to competition – in two weeks, two months, or two years. His Ryder Cup status is very much in doubt.

9. Zach Johnson: Johnson has already leapfrogged Dufner in the rankings (up to No. 8) just by making the cut at the PGA. In a tie for 57th through two rounds, Zach would help his cause by picking up his play on the weekend, but he seems likely to make the team.

10. Phil Mickelson: Lefty appears to have saved his best for the last major of the year, as he sits in a tie for seventh after 36 holes. A good week would vault him past Dufner and into the top 9, a scenario that would give Tom Watson a bit more freedom with his three wild-card selections.

11. Keegan Bradley: No longer does he control his own fate, after missing the 36-hole cut at the PGA. To be on the Ryder Cup team, he’ll require a captain’s pick – a near-lock, though, given his successful partnership with Mickelson.

12: Brendon Todd: The Byron Nelson winner made the cut on the number at Valhalla, so he’ll need a spectacular weekend to crack the top 9. As hot as anyone this summer (six consecutive top 20s at one point), his performance in the next three weeks will determine whether Watson uses a captain’s pick on a guy with no team experience.

13. Ryan Moore: Rounds of 73-68 at least gave Moore a shot to get into the mix. As well as he has played over the past two months (four consecutive top 12s), he has given Watson plenty to consider.

14. Chris Kirk: A 74-72 start at the PGA ended his (slim) hopes of cracking the top 9. Given the current state of his game (one top 10 since January), it seems likely that Watson will skip over the McGladrey winner.

Other notables:

25. Brandt Snedeker: With the U.S. team in shambles, Watson has to be praying that Sneds finds some form over the next few weeks. He made the cut at the PGA, sitting outside the top 35, and he likely needs just one encouraging performance to find a spot on the team via wild-card pick. Good putters are always in high demand.

29. Ryan Palmer: The Texan is threatening to crash the Ryder Cup party, as he sits in a tie for fourth, just two shots behind Rory McIlroy, heading into the weekend here. He hasn’t done much of anything since a T-5 at Colonial, but a strong run until Sept. 2 will be difficult to ignore.

34. Billy Horschel: At this point, the U.S. team is the clear underdog and desperately in need of a spark. That might come in the form of Horschel, whose fiery demeanor makes Bradley seem tame. It helps, too, that he’s shown glimpses of good play in the past few months – T-15 at Memorial, T-6 in Memphis, T-11 at Congressional – and he is off to a T-17 start through two rounds at the PGA.

38. Steve Stricker: The 47-year-old semi-retired golfer was named an assistant captain on Wednesday, then he put himself in contention for one of the few times this season. At T-9, he is only four shots back heading into the weekend. Stricker can play his way onto the team with a win or runner-up here, though Watson clearly would prefer him in the assistant’s role.

69. Tiger Woods: The biggest question mark of them all, after a painful missed cut at the PGA Championship. The dearth of promising candidates gave Woods a decent chance to be picked, even without his best stuff. But the way Woods labored around Valhalla for two days, Watson would surprise many if he selected a player who clearly isn’t healthy.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.