Presidents Cup needs a boost - badly

By Rex HoggardSeptember 27, 2017, 10:02 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J.– The views will be breathtaking and the crowds, if even the most conservative estimates are reached, will be rowdy and ready when the Presidents Cup begins on Thursday at Liberty National.

If there’s one constant in this neck of the tri-state area, success depends on three elements – location, location, location.

It’s why the PGA Tour enthusiastically embraced the concept of a “City Cup.” Liberty National may not have been the most popular course among Tour types, but it is unquestionably prime real estate with sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline awaiting around every dogleg.

Unfortunately, idyllic views and raucous fans are only a single element of a successful competition, no matter the sport. The play on the field will ultimately dictate the success or failure of the 12th Presidents Cup. It’s why you play, and why Nick Price, the loquacious three-time International captain, talks like this is his side’s final stand.

“I’d like to think that Korea was a turning point. It was like a Wednesday, a hump day, in the Presidents Cup,” said Price, referencing, as he has regularly, the one-point loss his team endured two years ago in South Korea. “We’ve struggled, struggled, struggled, and now all of a sudden is it going to take off? That’s what we’re all hoping for. Is it going to be the competition we all want to play in and compete for?”

This is not a death notice. There will be a Presidents Cup in 2019 and ’21 and ’23. The Tour is far too invested in the biennial matches to let them go quietly, but it seems the matches have reached a tipping point and not just for Price and the International side.

On some level, the Presidents Cup suffers by comparison; always shoved into the shadow of the Ryder Cup, which itself was transformed from a one-sided affair by the American victory last year at Hazeltine National.

Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos

The Ryder Cup is the benchmark for all other team competitions, with each edition bigger and more compelling than the last. The U.S. loss in 2012 at Medinah set record attendance records, which were summarily broken by the mass of humanity that ringed the course last year in Minnesota.

Players spend two years thinking about the Ryder Cup, answering questions about the Ryder Cup, fixating on the Ryder Cup. Just last week at the Tour Championship, England’s Paul Casey, who isn’t even eligible to play next year’s event, was asked about the 2018 matches in Paris.

Even those involved in this week’s matches concede, the Presidents Cup is a victim of association and the unrealistic expectations that the Ryder Cup creates.

 “This doesn't have the same sense of hostility as the Ryder Cup and I think some people think outside of Europe and America, that because of that, it's less important,” International assistant captain Tony Johnstone said. “You can't fast-track tradition and heritage and I think the Presidents Cup is getting there, and it's just going to grow and grow and grow.”

Perhaps this week’s event, energized by the venue, is bound for bigger and better finishes. But the only way that happens is if the Internationals can do what few outside the blue and gold team room think is possible – win.

International futility has now reached 1-9-1 in the matches and other than the ’15 bout, five of the last six U.S. victories have been by three or more points, which is a statistical blowout in these kinds of team events.

All one needs to see to get a feel for the International team’s road ahead are Thursday’s foursome matches. In the day’s second match, Adam Scott, who didn’t advance past the second playoff event this year, and Jhonattan Vegas, a rookie, will play Dustin Johnson, a four-time winner this year on Tour, and Matt Kuchar, who is playing his eighth U.S. team event this week.

Match 3 doesn’t look any better for the away team, with rookies Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo set to play Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who proved unstoppable at last year’s Ryder Cup.

Every two years, the European Ryder Cup team receives an unexpected boost from a player most U.S. fans couldn’t pick out of a line up (see Pieters, Thomas 2016 Ryder Cup). It’s hard to look down Price’s scorecard and see a surprising savior this week.

On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson – who has played in every Presidents Cup – was asked if, for the good of the event, it may be better if the International team were to win this week’s matches. The competitive DNA of Lefty would never allow that kind of altruistic thinking, but there was a telling pause before he answered.

“I don't think so, no,” Mickelson said. “We're not there yet, no. We feel it. We know once the door opens how good the players are on the International team that could lead to more losses, so we've got to continue to be ready, play sharp, and play our best because if you look at the talent on the International team, it is strong and it is deep, and if we open the door and give them an opportunity, it will bite us.”

That would be the answer one would expect. Although technically an exhibition, players at this level have no interest in participation medals. But the question remains valid, if not now then when?

Price and his eclectic dozen need a win, the event needs a win, and not even the most picturesque panorama can change that competitive reality.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for an overall 15-under 201. The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is chasing his second Race to Dubai title but leading rival Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit crown, is tied for 13th on 10 under.

Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”