How U.S. Ryder Cup pairings could play out

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2014, 7:45 pm

If U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson had an idea of how his pairings for this week’s matches were going to shape up he wasn’t letting on.

To a man, those who were bound for Gleneagles and this week’s Ryder Cup remained very much out of the loop just a week ago at the Tour Championship.

“I haven't spoken yet with Tom. I'm sure he wasn't going to bother me (at the Tour Championship),” Jim Furyk said following his final round at East Lake. “But I'm guessing we'll talk about that this week. When we land and arrive over there in Scotland, we'll be ready to go.”

It doesn’t seem likely Captain Tom will utilize a “pods” system like the one 2008 captain Paul Azinger created, at least not officially. That’s not his style.

Instead, Watson appears to be leaning toward a more informal approach with heavy input from assistant captain Steve Stricker.

As of Sunday at the Tour Championship there had been little if any contact between the team and their captain, but many players had spoken to the captain’s lieutenants.

“I’ll tell you the assistants have. Stricker called me. I don’t know if he’s called everybody, but he did want to get my thoughts,” said Zach Johnson, who will be playing his fourth Ryder Cup.

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At 65, Watson will rely heavily on Stricker’s insight as well as any individual player preferences. Johnson, for example, has plenty of history in both Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play and, depending on the format, would be a relatively easy choice for America’s top matchmaker.

In 2010 at Celtic Manor he went 1-1 in foursomes play with Hunter Mahan and the duo also won a fourball match at the 2009 Presidents Cup.

“I’ve got my preferences. There are certainly guys I’d like to pair with depending on the format and there are certain guys I’m not so sure they should even look at for me depending on the format,” Johnson said.

“Fourball? It really doesn’t matter. Foursomes? Maybe a little bit of strategy. The (brand of) golf ball is a little bit of an issue. Likeness of games and chemistry of certain individuals should be a part of that as well.”

Furyk, who after Phil Mickelson will be the United States’ most experienced player this week, would also be an inspired pairing for Johnson. “I’d think we’d be great,” Johnson said.

Rickie Fowler should also be low-hanging fruit for the U.S. captain. He paired with Furyk at the ’10 matches and is a regular partner of Mickelson’s during practice round matches on Tour.

Fowler & Co. even gave Watson some early scouting two weeks ago at the Tour Championship when he paired with Jimmy Walker, one of three rookies on this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, in a nine-hole, fourball match on Wednesday at East Lake.

“I played with Jimmy (Walker) this week and I’ve played with Furyk and Phil quite a bit (in) best-ball games,” said Fowler, who birdied the ninth hole at East Lake to beat Johnson and Jordan Spieth in their impromptu match. “I thought those were the guys who stood out.”

Watson may have also given a glimpse at his lineup card with his three captain’s picks. Keegan Bradley, who went undefeated in team play paired with Mickelson two years ago at Medinah, was his first pick; and Webb Simpson has played a combined seven team matches (2012 Ryder Cup and 2011 Presidents Cup) paired with Bubba Watson. The duo is 5-2-0 over that stretch, including a 2-1-0 record at Medinah.

Matt Kuchar has proven himself the ultimate swingman in international play, having paired with six different partners in four international matches with varying degrees of success; and Spieth seems to be on everyone’s “wish” list considering his play at last year’s Presidents Cup when he went 2-1-0 in team play.

Watson’s wildcard may be Patrick Reed, a rookie playing his first international team match of any kind. Reed rubbed some of his peers the wrong way when he announced earlier this year at Doral that he considered himself a “top-5 player” and according to various sources Fowler has been the only player on the team who has shown a willingness to pair with him at Gleneagles.

Based on Watson’s first turn as captain in 1993 it seems likely he would lean heavily on his veterans on Day 1. This is, after all, the same man who made 51-year-old Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins his captain’s picks his last time around.

But just as the PGA of America broke the mold when it named Watson this year’s captain, the 2014 team was prepared for a Ryder Cup that was not exactly by the book.

“We’ll see once we get over there and see where Tom’s at,” Fowler said.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.