Players sweat while Presidents Cup captains pick

By Rex HoggardSeptember 3, 2013, 8:13 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Sweat dripping from his temples and mud caked up the side of his pants, Brendon De Jonge sighed as the metaphorical weight lifted from his shoulders late Monday afternoon at TPC Boston.

“There’s nothing more I could do ...,” he allowed when asked about his Presidents Cup plight.

The same epiphany, and sweat, radiated from Jordan Spieth just moments before. Widely regarded as America’s top prospect, Spieth had just signed for a 62 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a furious finish punctuated by an eagle at the last, and was asked to weigh his own Presidents Cup fortunes.

“The only way to make a statement was play great golf the last few weeks, and I feel really solid about today’s round,” the 20-something mused.

In the ultimate show of competitive pass the buck, Spieth and de Jonge will now leave the heavy lifting to Presidents Cup captains Fred Couples and Nick Price, who officially went on the clock late Monday in the run up to Wednesday’s unveiling of each team’s captain’s picks.

Both captains danced the annual dance, telling reporters they will review all available data on the potential picks and get back to us.

Price said he’s down to five, “maybe six” potential picks – a short list that includes No. 14 de Jonge, No. 11 Thongchai Jaidee , No. 12 Marc Leishman and No. 13 Tim Clark.

“To be honest, I'm going to be looking at the guys who are in form harder than the other guys,” Price said.

Translation: Clark, a three-time Presidents Cup participant, would be an asset on a team that may be a tad too young for Price’s liking; Leishman, who closed with a 70 and tied for 16th in Boston; and de Jonge, one of the International side’s most consistent players the last two years and something of a protégée of Price’s, would appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse.

Price plans to poll his current team to help him determine his two picks, which would lean toward the South African (Clark) and Australian (Leishman) since his current team includes two players from Oz and five from South Africa.

Couples, however, was not so coy about his potential picks.

“Just go right off the list, and it would be, you know, Webb (Simpson), Dustin Johnson and the next guy would be Jim Furyk,” Captain America said. “And then Jordan Spieth, I don't know if I'm going on a limb, probably has had as good or better a year than those guys.”

It is worth noting that 24 hours earlier Couples would likely have had a much different take on his potential picks, what with part-timer Steve Stricker lingering just on the outside the bubble (No. 11 on the points list) and Spieth reeling from a 1-over 72 in Round 2 in Boston.

But Stricker closed with 67 to finish alone in second place at the DBC and crack the top 10 on the points list, bumping Simpson off the team, and Spieth put on his Monday show.

And then Simpson bogeyed two of his last four holes to lose his head-to-head duel with Zach Johnson, who finished 10th in points, for the final spot on the team and told Golf Channel he was going to go home and nurse a “jacked-up neck.”

To be clear, last week’s second playoff stop was not a Presidents Cup qualifier, to suggest otherwise would be a disservice to the process. It’s also worth noting that Couples’ track record as a captain is relatively clear – he tends to lean toward the established and the status quo when making his picks.

In 2009 during his first turn as the U.S. captain, Couples picked No. 11 Lucas Glover and No. 13 Hunter Mahan, skipping Brian Gay in the 12th spot.

In 2011, he selected Bill Haas at No. 12 on the points list and No. 29 Tiger Woods, an outlier in that “Boom Boom” had told anyone who would listen that he would be picking Woods if he didn’t qualify.

Before Sunday, conventional wisdom suggested the only Jordan in the U.S. team room in October at Muirfield was going to be Michael. But Monday’s coming and goings may have tipped the scales for Spieth, who became the first player since Woods in 1996 to play his way from no status to the Tour Championship in a single calendar.

“Knowing what he had to do, (he) really played very solid, birdieing the last three holes on Saturday to turn a bad round into an OK round and going out (on Monday) and shooting the low score by three or four strokes was a remarkable score,” said Couples of Spieth, who moved to 22nd on the U.S. points list. “So, you know, he’s got a 50/50 chance.”

But then from Couples’ point of view there is something to be said for not fixing what isn’t broken. He is 2-0 as a Presidents Cup captain with the likes of Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Simpson on his team.

“How do you not pick a guy (Simpson) who has been in the top 10 for two straight years here and up until the very last second, he gets pushed out?” said Couples, thinking aloud more so than answering a specific question. “So none of this is easy, but we all have great players to choose from, and it will be a tough decision.”

Now it’s Price and Couples’ turn to sweat and Spieth and de Jonge’s time to sit and wait. Eighteen muddy and muggy holes on Monday seem easy by comparison.

Note: Tune into Golf Channel at 2PM ET, Wednesday Sept. 4 as the captains officially reveal their picks

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.