Elected officials: Skinny on Prez Cup roster

By Rex HoggardNovember 13, 2011, 9:43 am

The ninth edition of the Presidents Cup starts Thursday at Royal Melbourne. Here's a look at the U.S. and International rosters, with players' previous PC history and match records.

United States team

Matt Kuchar (rookie)

Skinny: A rookie in name only, having played in last year’s Ryder Cup (1-1-2) and emerging as the most consistent American over the last two seasons.

Steve Stricker (fourth, 9-6-0)

Skinny: Not to overstate this, but America’s Presidents Cup hopes likely rest on Stricker’s ailing neck. In ’09 he and Tiger Woods led the U.S. side with a perfect team record. Captain Fred Couples will need something similar to that at Royal Melbourne to end America’s Southern Hemisphere drought.

Dustin Johnson (rookie)

Skinny: DJ is explosive and a natural fit to partner with Phil Mickelson, but he’s been erratic this fall and struggled in his first professional team event, going 1-3-0 last year at Celtic Manor.

Webb Simpson (rookie)

Skinny: He may not be the PGA Tour’s player of the year, but he was clearly low American in 2011. The steady performer should have a solid week in Australia.

Nick Watney (rookie)

Skinny: Seems to be rounding into form just in time for the matches following solid finishes at the Australian Open (T-4) and the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (runner-up).

Phil Mickelson (ninth, 15-13-10)

Skinny: An international team competition enigma for much of his career, Phil 2.0 has taken on the role of mentor to younger players in recent years and his record has improved.

Bubba Watson (rookie)

Skinny: Overwhelmed last year in his first Ryder Cup, but Bubba may be due for a big week. Still, the pressure is on Couples to find him a workable partner.

David Toms (fourth, 6-7-1)

Skinny: Veteran’s form has faded since his torrid summer run, but Royal Melbourne is a good fit for his fairways-and-greens game.

Hunter Mahan (third, 4-4-1)

Skinny: Mahan’s withdrawal from the Australian Open is Couples’ second-biggest concern, after Stricker, heading into the matches, but the “old soul” is a natural fit to be paired with Toms or Jim Furyk.

Jim Furyk (seventh, 15-10-3)

Skinny: Steady utility man who sports one of the U.S. side’s best Presidents Cup records and gives Couples plenty of pairing options.

Tiger Woods (seventh, 18-11-1)

Skinny: The “comeback” was cut short on Saturday at the Australian Open but he showed the kind of spark in Sydney that Couples had hoped for when he selected him for the team.

Bill Haas (rookie)

Skinny: The only true rookie on the U.S. side has plenty of support in Melbourne, with father Jay an assistant captain and longtime swing coach Billy Harmon on the bag.

Fred Couples, captain

Skinny: Questioned for his captain’s picks and his handling of the Keegan Bradley situation, Couples’ second turn as the U.S. captain will likely be his hardest.

International team

Jason Day (rookie)

Skinny: The top-ranked player on the International side is peaking at the right time (T-4 at Australian Open) and likely a lock to play with Adam Scott in Greg Norman’s uber pairing.

Adam Scott (fifth, 8-10-2)

Skinny: If he can keep caddie Steve Williams quiet the Australian may emerge from this week’s matches as the heir to Ernie Els’ crown as the team’s point man.

Charl Schwartzel (rookie)

Skinny: Quietly consistent and largely overlooked, the Masters champion may be Norman’s wild card and is a natural fit to play with his mentor Els.

K.J. Choi (third, 3-6-0)

Skinny: The “Tank” has been slowed by injuries and pedestrian play the last few weeks and has struggled to find a suitable partner in his previous matches.

Kyung-tae Kim (rookie)

Skinny: South Korean will likely play with Choi and has little experience on the international stage. How he handles the atmosphere will be the key to Kim’s week.

Retief Goosen (sixth, 11-10-3)

Skinny: Goose managed to earn just a half-point in ’09 at Harding Park and his recent form, no top 10s since June, suggests he may struggle again.

Geoff Ogilvy (third, 4-5-0)

Skinny: This is a big one for Ogilvy, a Victoria Institute of Sport product who cut his teeth on the sand-belt courses and appears to have finally emerged from a series of injuries that slowed him in ’11.

Ernie Els (seventh, 16-12-2)

Skinny: The captain in waiting is the only member of this year’s team who played in the ’98 matches at Royal Melbourne, the site of the International side’s lone victory. The Big Easy lost just a single match in ’98.

Y.E. Yang (second, 2-2-1)

Skinny: Decent record in his first team turn and his unflappable demeanor, as well as his sneaky-good putting, makes him a match-play natural. Don’t be surprised to see him play Woods.

Ryo Ishikawa (second, 3-2-0)

Skinny: The 20-year-old was solid in his debut at Harding Park, clipping Kenny Perry, 2 and 1, in singles play and he teamed well with Yang.

Aaron Baddeley (rookie)

Skinny: He watched nearly all of the ’98 matches from behind the ropes at his beloved Royal Melbourne and delivered under pressure at The Tour Championship to land one of Norman’s captain’s picks.

Robert Allenby (sixth, 8-13-3)

Skinny: Why Allenby, who Couples correctly pointed out hasn’t won a PGA Tour event in a decade? Because he owns Royal Melbourne, where he won the ’92 Johnnie Walker Classic and ’93 Players Championship and was a runner-up as an amateur at the ’91 Australian Open.

Greg Norman, captain

Skinny: The Shark probably didn’t do himself any favors with his pointed assessment of Woods’ game recently and the pressure to win on home turf will be intense, but if he’s successful it will be a fitting swan song for one of Australia’s finest.

Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel beginning Monday at 6PM. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Wednesday 9PM-2AM, Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 3PM-2AM and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.