Ryder Cup pants propel Captain America into contention

By Randall MellJune 17, 2017, 10:23 pm

ERIN, Wis. – We’ve been waiting for this guy to show up at a major.

You know, Captain America.

AKA Patrick Reed.

We’ve been waiting for Reed to work out exactly how to channel all the ferocity and intensity that makes him such a force at the Ryder Cup into a force in a major championship.

Well, he arrived in a big way Saturday at Erin Hills.

Reed got himself into contention with a 7-under-par 65, equaling the lowest score in relation to par in U.S. Open history. He lipped out a 6-foot birdie chance at the last that would have momentarily given him a record-breaking effort.

“All I could ask for is to get myself in a position where if I go out and have a good round tomorrow, I win a golf tournament,” Reed said

When Reed walked out of his post-round interview, he was locked in a seven-way tie for the lead, though he had a pretty good idea that wouldn’t last with all the other leaders still out on the course.

In fact, Reed’s share of the U.S. Open single-round scoring record didn’t last, either. About an hour after Reed finish, Justin Thomas posted a 9-under 63 to set the new mark.

Still, Reed got himself in the Sunday hunt to win his first major championship title.

Really, though, Reed gave all the credit to the women in his life for figuring out how to channel some of his Ryder Cup mojo into a major. They encouraged him to wear red, white and blue every round this week.

“I don't have a say in the wardrobe change,” Reed said. “I have my wife, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. And they mainly tell me, 'This is what you're going to wear.’ I just say, `Okay. Sounds good.’”

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They also got him to wear a pair of actual Ryder Cup pants on Saturday, with “USA” lettering down a pant leg.

“First time I've worn them in competition,” Reed said. “I've worn them a lot around the house and stuff like that and practice. Yeah, it was the first time popping them back out in play. They felt good.”

Reed, 26, a five-time PGA Tour winner, has been such a formidablee Ryder Cup player. He’s 6-1-2 in his two Ryder Cup appearances. He took down Rory McIlroy in an epic singles match at Hazeltine in the American victory last September.

While Reed loved hearing all the “Captain America” shout-outs to him Saturday at Erin Hills, he said playing the role in majors has been tougher than wearing Ryder Cup clothes. He isn’t quite sure if the role translates the same.

“It's hard to say,” he said. “You always can take that fire from the Ryder Cup and use it in other events. But you're talking polar opposites. You're talking one-on-one competition against 155. And because of that you can go out and play some great golf, but you have a bunch of guys out there that can play some good golf, as well.

“I think the biggest thing is not getting ahead of yourself. Every time I've been in majors so far, my first two years, I've put so much emphasis on them and tried so hard at them that I kind of got in my way.”

In 13 previous major championship starts, Reed doesn’t have a top-10 finish. He has never gone into the final round of a major with a real chance to win. Reed says he put too much pressure on himself going to majors early in his career.

“I worked too hard Monday through Wednesday,” Reed said. “And so by Saturday, I was tired. And then also I was living and dying with every golf shot, every putt and everything. Coming into this year, I was like, `It’s just another golf tournament. Show up. Do what you do on a normal event and just play golf.’ Because at the end of the day, if I go out and play the best I can and am happy with how I play, the result will take care of itself. And that's the kind of mindset I am going into tomorrow with.”

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.