Ryder qualifying looming large over U.S. hopefuls

By Jason SobelJuly 31, 2014, 7:59 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Anyone who has witnessed Keegan Bradley’s stutter-step approach to his ball or constant club-twirling while standing over it understands that he’s quirky and eccentric and …

“I’m a really weird guy,” he stated matter-of-factly on Thursday. “I do a lot of weird stuff.”

One such example came after the last Ryder Cup. Despondent following the United States’ loss, Bradley arrived at his South Florida home and left his team-issued travel bag completely intact. Didn’t touch a zipper, didn’t empty a single pocket.

Nearly two years later, he still hasn’t opened it.

“I’m not even 100 percent sure what’s in there,” he said. “It’s sitting in my house. I just saw it before I left. For a split-second, I thought about opening it. Get a little motivation just to see what was in there.”

Like others who are currently on the bubble for automatic qualifying to this year’s roster, Bradley doesn’t need much motivation.

This week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and next week’s PGA Championship offer opportunities to climb inside the top nine on the points list and – to use a cliché – control your own destiny, rather than remain beholden to captain Tom Watson for a potential wild-card selection. Dustin Johnson was No. 5 on the U.S. points list, but Johnson announced Thursday that he is taking leave of absence "to seek professional help for personal challenges," one that will keep him out of the Ryder Cup. His absence opens up one more spot for guys fighting to make the team.

“It’s brutal,” admits Bradley, currently 16th in the standings. “It’s stuff you don’t think about when you’re younger, grinding it out for spots on Ryder Cup teams. You think about having fun out here. That’s not very much fun.

Therein lies a problem, though. Every player within shouting distance of making the team has those thoughts in the forefront of his mind – and every one of ‘em maintains that he’s trying his best not to think about it.

“It's about the farthest thing from my mind,” Ryan Moore, 14th on the points list, said after an opening-round 5-under 65 at Firestone. “It's just simply, I've got two chances to go play good and hope I can get it done.”

“It's one of those things where you have to take care of yourself,” explained Patrick Reed, another bubble boy who opened with a 67. “If so, then everything will fall into place.”

That’s the goal, at least – and with double points available at Valhalla next week, the qualifying process is far from a done deal.

“I’m so far out of it that I’ve got to play spectacular golf the next few weeks,” said Brandt Snedeker, who shot 68 on Thursday. “I’m playing better golf now than I have all year. I know I’m hitting it really good. I’m excited about that. I have no doubt in my mind I can win one of these next two tournaments and put myself right in the mix.”

Most players also understand, though, that with a few notable superstars – namely, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – currently on the outside looking in, the chance of securing one of the three captain’s picks is even less than in years past.

“Every year there’s a couple of guys who seem like they’re locks for captain’s picks,” Snedeker continued. “I would find it hard to see a Ryder Cup team without those two guys on it. I think there’s one spot that’s available and I think that’s how everyone views it.”

Neither of them are taking anything for granted, though.

Woods has repeatedly stated some form of his longtime mantra: “Winning takes care of everything." Mickelson has been echoing those sentiments, as well.

“It's been a really good streak that I've had going,” the lefthander said after a first-round 1-over 71. “I have not had to rely on a captain's selection in two decades and I'd like to keep that going. I definitely want to be in Scotland, a country that I've played some good golf in the last few years and I always enjoy going back to. So it would be nice and beneficial, I think, if I were able to play my way on the team by myself. And I feel like I'm starting to play well enough to do it now.”

From those firmly on the bubble to those who need to make a major move in the standings, every potential U.S. team member is thinking about the Ryder Cup without actually trying to think about over these next two weeks.

That’s a difficult conundrum, one that might even flummox the best mental gurus.

There’s not much else these players can do, though, other than block it from their minds and post some low numbers over the next two weeks.

At least one players has a little extra motivation, too.

“I want to play on that Ryder Cup team,” Bradley said. “If good stuff happens, I’ll open that bag.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.