U.S. Walker Cup team visits Arnie, plans NYC stops

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 2, 2015, 2:10 pm

Spider Miller is taking a more inclusive approach to his U.S. Walker Cup captaincy.

He won’t determine his team’s pairings for next week’s biennial matches. His players will. 

Miller said on a conference call Wednesday that he will ask all 10 of his players to write down, 1-5, with whom they’d prefer to be paired. 

“What I’m not going to do is sit down and try to analyze each person’s game,” he said. “You’d drive yourself crazy.” 

Indeed, Hal Sutton, he is not. 

Miller recently had an hour-long conversation with Dave Stockton, who emphasized the importance of getting each player involved in the process and matching up by personality. 

“I’m a big believer in that,” Miller said.

The Sept. 12-13 matches at Royal Lytham and St. Annes are the culmination of a two-year journey for Miller, who has attended 13 college and amateur events this year to get to know some of his potential selections.

The team was finalized following the Aug. 23 championship match at the U.S. Amateur, which was won in a rout by NCAA champion and Walker Cupper Bryson DeChambeau.

It’s been a whirlwind ever since.  

Last Thursday, the group met for the first time as a team in Pittsburgh and stayed at Latrobe Country Club, where they received their apparel and went over a few other housekeeping items.  

The next morning, the team toured Arnold Palmer’s office and shed, and then met with the 85-year-old for more than an hour, listening to stories about Palmer’s time on Tour and what allowed him to remain relevant even well after his playing days were over. 

After a round at Laurel Valley, they ate dinner with Palmer and his wife, Kit, and had a team-building exercise in which each member was assigned a nickname by Palmer. “I expect one or two to stick,” Miller said with a laugh. They played Latrobe the following morning, under Palmer’s watchful eye, and then headed home after lunch.

The team will reconvene Thursday in New York City, and over the next two days they are expected to visit the September 11 Memorial & Museum and ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Upon arriving in England, the team will play Hillside (which hosted an Open qualifier this year) and Royal Liverpool (which staged the 2014 Open) before heading to Royal Lytham for a full week of preparation at the host site. 

“The challenge for me is to provide a framework and schedule that allows players to be their best on Saturday,” Miller said. “It’s not going to be military golf. I want each of them invested in the process.” 

Though likely a heavy favorite on paper – especially with the absence of Team GB&I’s third-highest ranked player, Sam Horsfield, who withdrew because of personal reasons – it’s worth noting that status didn’t help the Americans in 2011 at Royal Aberdeen. Despite a group that boasted Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Russell Henley, Peter Uihlein and Patrick Rodgers, among others, the U.S. earned only one-and-a-half of the possible eight points in foursomes and lost, 14-12.

The Americans redeemed that shocking loss with a 17-9 victory in 2013 at National Golf Links of America. They lead the overall series, 35-8-1.  

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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."