Funk Near Certainity to Make Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipFred Funk is thankful that his ribs have healed enough that he can play in the PGA Championship. Better yet, he might not have to be on top of his game to achieve his primary goal of making the Ryder Cup team.
 
'That's all I've been thinking about all year,' Funk said Monday.
 
The PGA Championship is the final tournament for Americans to earn points toward making the team. The top 10 in the standings qualify, and captain Hal Sutton will have two wild-card selections.
 
Funk tied for second in the U.S. Bank Championship down the road in Milwaukee last month, moving him to No. 8 in the standings. He's still not a lock, but three guys have to pass him, and that includes Jerry Kelly at No. 11 finishing at least third.
 
'Without those points, I would be even more on the bubble than I am now,' he said. 'I could definitely be passed. It takes three guys to pass me. Mathematically, it could happen. But without Milwaukee. ...'
 
It's not Milwaukee that brings Funk praise for his late move up the standings.
 
It's the B.C. Open that brings him scorn, even though Funk tied for 40th and didn't earn any points. No other Ryder Cup candidates played in the B.C. Open because they were all playing another tournament that week - the British Open.
 
Funk was criticized for ducking a major for the sole purpose of earning Ryder Cup points.
 
Even no, Funk defends his decision.
 
'Everybody is making a big deal,' he said. 'I don't know what's so wrong with me not going to the British Open and going to the B.C. Open. It was within the rules. It was what's best for me. I don't enjoy going over there. I never have. And I've got my best chance ever to make a Ryder Cup team.
 
'But because everybody thinks it was the right decision to go to the British Open, that was the only decision.'
 
Ultimately, he believes it paid off.
 
Funk said his swing gets altered when he plays a wind-blown links, and often takes him weeks to recover. Time was not on his side trying to make the Ryder Cup. He also had played eight consecutive tournaments, missing the cut in five of them in a desperate move to get on the team. He wanted to be rested for the PGA.
 
It worked out for him, especially with the way he closed at Milwaukee with two birdies on the final three holes.
 
And he got some help in recent weeks when a few players in contention for Ryder Cup points stumbled down the stretch, most noticeably Chris DiMarco with a sloppy weekend at the International.
 
Now comes the final major of the year, two tournaments wrapped into one - the PGA Championship with all its history, and the pressure of a half-dozen guys trying to play in the Ryder Cup.
 
How different is this week?
 
Funk will check his score, who's leading, and also how the other guys in Ryder Cup contention are faring.
 
'You can't help but see what they're doing,' he said. 'I was watching The International and trying to figure. I want the guys to be on the team. I want them to play well, but I don't want them to pass me.'
 
The simple solution for Funk and the guys chasing him is to play well.
 
And that won't be easy.
 
At 7,514 yards, Whistling Straits is the longest course in major championship history. The previous record was Columbine Country Club in Colorado, which was 7,436 yards - although that was in mile-high air.
 
And get this: the PGA of America isn't even using all the length available.
 
'I've been told that there were 10 really difficult holes, and eight impossible ones,' Lee Westwood said. 'I'm just trying to sort out which are the 10 difficult holes here.'
 
Who does it favor?
 
'Probably a long, straight hitter with a good iron game and a great short game and a wonderful putter,' he said.
 
There was a time that used to define Tiger Woods, although he only has a couple of those categories working in his favor at any one time, and that has kept him from dominating the game like he once did.
 
Woods comes into the PGA Championship having been shut out of the last nine majors, and in jeopardy of losing his No. 1 ranking to Ernie Els (possible) or Vijay Singh (long shot).
 
Phil Mickelson, whose 1-2-3 run through the majors started with his breakthrough victory in the Masters, played three days last week to learn the nuances of Whistling Straits and to figure out where he can't afford to miss.
 
That's no small task. Trouble lurks everywhere on the course, although most of the 1,400 bunkers are more of an eyesore than a legitimate threat. That water hazard east of the course - Lake Michigan - makes for a stunning view, but it makes some of the greens look as though they're about to topple into the water.
 
It reminds several players of an Irish links, and who better than Darren Clarke to weigh in on that.
 
'If you try and remember all of the most difficult holes of all the courses at home, put them all together and I think you'll have this one here,' Clarke said.
 
This is the 15th time Funk has played in the PGA Championship, and he has never seen anything like Whistling Straits. He had to tap his memory to think of another major anywhere near comparable.
 
'It's somewhat similar to ... you could say a little similar to Shinnecock,' he said.
 
Most guys say it reminds them of a links used in the British Open. For some reason, Funk couldn't make that connection.
 
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
     
    Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.