Prez pick? Mickelson's Cup streak in jeopardy

By Rex HoggardAugust 24, 2017, 9:30 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – “What did he shoot, 2 [over]?” Steve Stricker asked as a cool morning gave way to the last vestiges of summer at Glen Oaks on Thursday.

Although he’d just finished a round of 4 over himself, Stricker’s focus was squarely on Phil Mickelson and how he fared on Day 1 of what is essentially an eight-round Presidents Cup qualifier.

The toughest part of Stricker’s job as the U.S. Presidents Cup captain has been made that much more complicated by Mickelson’s performance this season which has left the southpaw 18th on the points list and in danger of not playing for a U.S. team, any team, for the first time since 1994.

As the Sept. 4 deadline approaches, Mickelson’s plight has been particularly consuming for Stricker, who will make his two captain’s picks following the final round of next week’s Dell Technologies Championship.

Although two stellar weeks could make all of Stricker’s anxiety go away, Mickelson’s start at The Northern Trust wasn’t exactly encouraging, and the fact that Lefty has just a single top-10 finish in the last five months is hard to ignore.

He is, however, Phil Mickelson.

“I’m going to talk to him when this is all over the next two weeks and see how he’s feeling,” Stricker said. “He deserves that, more than anything. He’s been a part of so many teams and he’s shown when he’s down to 30th on the points that he can come and contribute and contribute in a big way.”

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FedExCup standings entering the playoffs

Although Stricker stopped short of giving Mickelson the keys to the kingdom when it comes to a potential captain’s pick, it seems clear that when the time comes Lefty will have a voice at the table which creates an interesting dynamic for a player who has never lacked for confidence.

Even if Mickelson doesn’t catch lightning in a bottle over the next fortnight, it’s hard to imagine that the inner competitor would concede that he’s not playing well enough to contribute to the U.S. team at Liberty National.

Asked on Thursday at Glen Oaks if he thought he could be “honest” with Stricker when the time comes Mickelson said, “I will be. I will be.”

Perhaps Mickelson will be able to come to terms with his Presidents Cup plight, but that still leaves Stricker faced with an ever-evolving reality. If not Phil, then who?

“No one else is really standing out in my mind right now. [Kevin] Chappell has played well, he’s No. 11, but 12 through 20 no one has really done anything. I’m looking for someone to really step up and play some good golf,” Stricker said. “If nobody does, then it will be a tough pick.”

That list of would-be picks includes Chappell at No. 11, Brian Harman (12), Jason Dufner (13), Gary Woodland (14), Brandt Snedeker (15), Brendan Steele (16) and Ryan Moore (17).

Of those six players ranked 12th to 17th, only one (Woodland at the Canadian Open) has a top-10 finish over the last month – although Moore did finish tied for 13th at the PGA – and Snedeker recently announced he was done playing this season due to an injury to his sternum joint.

Stricker is also eyeing a team that currently includes five Presidents Cup rookies (to be fair, Koepka’s experience at last year’s Ryder Cup would mitigate some of that inexperience).

Without the likes of Mickelson - who has evolved into the team-room leader - or Jim Furyk, an assistant captain for this year’s matches there’s the potential for a leadership vacuum. Who fills that space without Lefty?

“I don’t know, that’s a good question,” Stricker said. “There could be potentially a lot of leaders. We have [assistant captains] Tiger Woods in our locker room, Davis Love, Freddie [Couples], Jim Furyk. Jordan Spieth is a veteran in so many ways except for his age, there are a lot of guys who are going to lead by example.”

There’s no denying that Mickelson brings more to the team room than just a 23-16-12 record in the matches, and from Stricker’s point of view there’s no statistic to accurately quantify what that means.

“He’s got a calming influence,” Stricker said. “He thinks about everything, he’s got a lot of knowledge. He’s a team guy. He’s important for the team.”

A few weeks ago at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Stricker spoke with Mickelson, encouraged him and offered a final thought, “you’ve got to show me a little bit more than what you’ve shown lately.”

For those who know Stricker, it was entirely out of character and the U.S. captain quickly offered an apology.

“It’s weird coming from a guy who has never won any majors and only won 12 times on Tour telling Phil, 'Hey you’ve got to show me more.' That doesn’t sound right coming from me.”

To Mickelson’s credit, he acknowledged that his current form simply won’t due regardless of how beneficial his experience and leadership could be to what promises to be a young U.S. team.

“I've got to bring something to the table,” Mickelson said. “If I can play well this week and next week and show that I'm playing as well as I know I'm playing, but the only thing that matters is the score.”

All season Mickelson has said his game is close, but now so is a deadline that could potentially end one of the most impressive streaks in golf unless he can turn things around in a hurry.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''