Playing on Paper

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 10, 2001, 4:00 pm
The United States will enter the 34th Ryder Cup at The Belfry as the prohibitive favorite.
On paper, they are the superior team. They have the top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking on their team. They have three of the four 2001 major champions on their team. They have seven of the top ten 2001 PGA Tour money earners on their team.
Basically, the U.S. is loaded.
But are they playing better golf heading to Birmingham, England?
There are two weeks remaining until the matches commence. The WGC American Express Championship and the Tampa Bay Classic will be contested this week; while the SEI Pennsylvania Classic and the Trophee Lancome (European Tour) will be played the following week.
That leaves just a couple of more competitive chances for any of the 24 participants to hone their games.
Heres how the players are playing with two weeks to go.
United States
Tiger Woods -- Won the WGC-NEC Invitational two weeks ago, but unexpectedly faltered after sharing the first round lead in the Bell Canadian Open. Rating ' (A-)
Phil Mickelson -- Has three top-10 finishes in his last three starts, including a runner-up at the PGA Championship. Still, for a man who measures himself by titles, no victories since the Canon Greater Hartford Open to start July. Rating ' (B+)
David Duval -- Won the British Open in July, but slipped in the final round of the PGA Championship. Also failed to finish in the top-20 at The International and the NEC Invitational. Rating ' (B)
Mark Calcavecchia -- Tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, his only top-10 finish since the Masters Tournament in April. Rating ' (C-)
David Toms -- Secured a spot on the team with his PGA Championship victory. Played respectably the following week at the NEC, tying for 13th. Rating ' (A-)
Davis Love III -- Torrid start cooled due to back injury. Tied for fifth at the NEC, but failed to crack the top 20 in each of the last two majors. Rating ' (B-)
Scott Hoch -- Won the Advil Western Open in July. Tied for 7th in both the PGA Championship and the Taiwan Open (Sept. 2). Rating ' (B+)
Jim Furyk -- Went seven straight starts without a top-10, but has since earned a pair of runner-up finishes (Buick Classic, NEC) and a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship. Rating ' (B+)
Hal Sutton -- Discovered sleep disorder was the result of a heart condition. Hasnt earned a top-10 finish since winning the Shell Houston Open in April. Rating ' (D+)
Stewart Cink -- Collected back-to-back third-place finishes at the U.S. Open and Buick Classic, yet hasnt finished inside the top 10 in his last six starts. Rating ' (C)
Scott Verplank -- Captains choice solidified selection with victory in Bell Canadian Open. Also tied for seventh at the PGA Championship. Rating ' (A)
Paul Azinger -- Was in contention at the NEC before shooting final-round 72; tied for fifth to earn first top-10 in over two months. Rating ' (C+)

Darren Clarke -- Won the Smurfit European Open in July and finished third in both the British Open and NEC Invitational. Lone blemish ' a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Rating ' (A-)
Padraig Harrington -- Also missed the cut at the PGA, but has three runner-up finishes and five top-10s in the last two months. Rating ' (A-)
Thomas Bjorn -- Collected a pair of top-20s at theVolvo Scandinavian Masters and the BMW International, but finished outside the top-30 in the British Open, PGA Championship and NEC Invitational. Was forced to withdraw from last weeks European Masters due to a shoulder injury. Will skip this weeks AmEx event, but is expected to play the Trophee Lancome. Rating (C+)
Colin Montgomerie -- Was disqualified from the PGA Championship after realizing he had signed an incorrect scorecard. Still, has picked up his game. Led through two rounds of the British Open before faltering over the weekend into a tie for 13th. Also has two wins this season, both of which have come since the start of July. Rating ' (B+)
Pierre Fulke -- Hasnt sniffed a top-10 since finishing runner-up in Januarys WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Rating ' (D-)
Lee Westwood -- Tied for second in the Scandinavian Masters, but finished outside the top-40 in both the British Open and PGA Championship. Withdrew from the NEC due to wrist problems; though, did return the following week to tie for 16th in the European Masters. Rating ' (C)
Paul McGinley -- Won a weather-shortened Wales Open, tied for third at Loch Lomond and tied for 10th at the BMW International. Has only missed one cut worldwide this year. Rating ' (B)
Niclas Fasth -- Finished runner-up at the British thanks to final-round 67; his only top-10 over his last seven starts. Rating ' (C+)
Bernhard Langer -- Despite a missed cut at the PGA Championship, won the Dutch Open, tied for third at the British and tied for 11th at the NEC. Rating ' (B)
Phillip Price -- Won Portuguese Open earlier in the year, but hasnt recorded a top-10 in his last seven starts. Rating (D+)
Sergio Garcia -- Won twice on the PGA Tour before July. Finished tied for ninth at the British Open, tied for 11th at the International, tied for seventh at the BMW and tied for fifth at the Bell Canadian. Only blip was a missed cut in the PGA Championship. Rating ' (B+)
Jesper Parnevik -- Three top-20s since the British Open, but no top-5s since his victory at the Honda Classic. Rating ' (C)
Overall, the U.S. grades out to a (B) average, with the European team garnering a rating of (B-).
Take into consideration the home course advantage and the European's may be less of an underdog than you might think.
Who do you think has the stronger team on Paper?
Share your thoughts!
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.