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International stars fail to shine on Day 1

By Rex HoggardSeptember 29, 2017, 12:01 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Officials rerouted Liberty National for this week’s Presidents Cup, moving the picturesque closing hole up in the lineup to No. 14 in order to assure matches reached the signature par 4.

At the rate things are going for the International team, just making it to the re-designated 14th will be a challenge. The day’s opening foursomes match ended on No. 14, a 6-and-4 rout for the American tandem of Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas over Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel.

Moments later, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed finished off the wildly over matched pair of Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo, 5 and 4, at the 14th hole.

It wasn’t the start International captain Nick Price envisioned, but it’s not as though he hasn’t been here before.

The U.S. has now won its 27th consecutive session, a streak that stretches back to Day 3 of the 2005 matches, and will take a 3 ½-to-1 ½-point lead into Friday’s fourball matches.

After those two early blowouts, things got better for Price’s crew, but only slightly.

Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas at least pushed the U.S. duo of Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar to the 18th hole only to drop a 1-up decision.

It’s as regular as the Staten Island ferry at the PGA Tour’s biennial member-member; captains and competitors talk of how evenly matched the two teams are and yet as soon as meaningful shots start to fly it’s largely only American flags that find their way to the leaderboard.

Foursomes isn’t the International team’s forte, observers note. The format, which features 30 available points, doesn’t favor the Rest of the World’s top-heavy lineup, the reasoning goes.

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Valid concerns, to be sure, but it ignores the central elephant in the International team room.

For the last decade the Rest of the World’s best and brightest have largely been a bust at the biennial event.

On Thursday at blustery Liberty National, the International side needed better from their big guns. All told, Matsuyama, Jason Day and Marc Leishman – the team’s top three ranked players – went winless on Day 1, with the two Australians halving a sloppy duel with Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this - the International team, which is mired in a 1-9-1 slump, struggles from the top down – with the notable exception of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who are 5-0-0 in the last two Presidents Cup as partners.

Matsuyama, the side’s top-ranked player, is now 3-5-2 in the matches and managed to make just two birdies on Day 1 on his way to the session’s most lopsided loss.

“I think he still may be reeling a little bit from the PGA [where Matsuyama tied for fifth place] and that. And also he's had such a huge year,” Price said of his Japanese star. “I think he's probably a little tired but he played so well in the practice rounds.”

To be fair, Thomas and Fowler were a combined 4 under par through 14 holes against Matsuyama and Schwartzel, which was the alternate-shot equivalent of a format haymaker; but tired or not it just wasn’t enough for a team that has proven incapable of coming from behind.

Scott wasn’t any better.

The Australian has seven cups etched into his bag this week, one for each match he’s played and the most of any active player, and they are all half empty and hopelessly beyond the benefit of perspective.

Scott, who endured perhaps his most inconsistent season on Tour in 2017 and has a 13-18-5 record in the matches, has lost with Stuart Appleby as a partner, Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els. On Thursday, it was Vegas, a Presidents Cup rookie, along for the walk; but it was Scott who looked like the first-year player with shots like the one he hit on No. 10, a chippie 7-iron that sailed long and into a hazard that led to the U.S. team tying the match.

Although Day and Leishman, ranked seventh and 16th in the world, respectively, appeared to be Price’s strongest duo, they failed to play like it down the stretch.

Day found the water with his tee shot at the 12th hole, missed an 8-footer for par at the 17th hole that would have won the match, mis-hit his tee shot short of the 18th green and didn’t touch the hole with his 18-footer for par at the last for the halve.

Some might say the Australians ran into the better team, but that ignores the fact that Kisner and Mickelson failed to make a birdie on the closing nine. Some might say the International core simply got beat by better play, but that ignores years of history.

Earlier this week Ernie Els, one of Price’s four assistants, was asked what it would take for the International team to do what they haven’t done since Bill Clinton occupied the White House – win.

“There’s always a core of guys that have to play well, there’s always quality guys on the team, I would say five guys and we need points from those guys and they are going to have the toughest matches,” Els said. “We need points from our star players.”

Els, a lock to captain his own International team someday, wasn’t calling anyone out, but we all know who those stars are and they know what they must do on Friday to keep this from being another blowout.

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.