Premature celebrations aren't premature

By Rex HoggardOctober 1, 2017, 12:16 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – With 1,300 fans crowded in around the first tee at Liberty National it was impossible to see the scoreboard at the 12th Presidents Cup, but you really didn’t need to see the math to know the moment.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker could have marched two of his assistants – Tiger Woods and Davis Love III, one rehabbing from back surgery and the other inching toward retirement, being the popular choices – onto the tee for the afternoon fourball session and they really wouldn’t have changed what everyone crowded around the opening hole already knew.

This thing is over. Had been for some time.

It was over before the final team matches set out on a blustery afternoon along the Hudson River, and the U.S. side’s fourball performance, a 3-1 frame that extended the home side’s lead to 14 ½ to 3 ½, only put an exclamation point on a competition that had long ago turned ugly for the Rest of the World.

From the chants of the capacity crowd that echoed across the former toxic dump to the smiles on the faces of Stricker and his assistants, this was a blowout of historic proportions.

It took a heroic effort from India’s Anirban Lahiri, who birdied the 16th and 17th holes to hold off Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, to keep the U.S. from closing out the Internationals on Saturday, which has never happened at either the Ryder or Presidents cups.

But then you didn’t need to see a scoreboard to know this thing had gotten out of hand. You could hear it. You could see it etched into the knowing grins of the Americans.

Rickie Fowler charged into the grandstands surrounding the first tee to lead the celebration, and Kevin Kisner followed him like he’d just cleared the hedges at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium – it was more celebration than competition at this point. Perhaps it was a bit premature, but it was perfectly understandable given the U.S. team’s performance.


Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos

Presidents Cup: Match-by-match scoring


The Americans high-fived and fist-pumped and performed strangely pre-rehearsed celebrations, while the Internationals mulled about with all the excitement of a wake, or maybe the awkwardness of a high school reunion would be more apropos considering the reintroduction that’s required every two years for the Rest of the World.

Adam Scott slumped into the shotgun seat of a golf cart stone faced, ½Hadwin marched down the 16th fairway as the afternoon session was winding down, hands stuffed deep into his pockets and hat pulled low – his own green mile of sorts.

“We've just come up against a juggernaut of an American team that has not put a foot wrong, it seems like, in three days,” said International captain Nick Price. “They have had all the momentum and we've had nothing.”

There were countless haymaker moments on Saturday at Liberty National. With their match all square against the American powerhouse of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman and Jason Day watched the U.S. tandem play their last four holes in 3 under – in foursomes – and never saw the 16th tee.

After dropping the morning session (3 ½ to ½), it must have felt like piling on for the likes of Hideki Matsuyama when he hit his approach shot at the first in the afternoon fourball session to birdie range with his opponents, Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, both in trouble off the tee. Berger, playing in bare feet from a creek, toe-hooked his approach to tap-in range to halve the hole.

The look on Matsuyama’s normally stoic face spoke volumes.

“I legitimately thought we were going to have to get another captain out here to carry [Berger’s] stones around,” Thomas laughed following the duo’s 3-and-2 victory.

It was all a scene so unsightly one would half expect Lady Liberty, just some 1,000 yards from the layout’s posh clubhouse, to turn away in disgust. The Washington Generals had better results against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Four hours after the fourball frame began, the day’s final match reached the 18th tee and Fowler, who’d sat out the afternoon session, wandered up with a cup of coffee. The entire episode was sobering considering the extent of the American dominance.

The U.S. was denied the closeout, by Lahiri no less, a player who failed to earn even a half point in the matches two years ago in South Korea, but that didn’t stem the celebration.

Well on their way to the most lopsided defeat in match history, there was no solace to be found for the Internationals, just a genuine appreciation.

“I mean, there's no weaknesses in any of their pairings,” Price marveled. “They just get things done when they need to, and that's the difference.”

In 1947, the U.S. Ryder Cup team boat-raced Great Britain, 11-1, in Portland, Ore. Ben Hogan was the American captain and was probably angry he didn’t get the shutout. But unlike the Hawk, Stricker is the subdued compass of this U.S. team, and he didn’t have any interest in changing his message on the eve of Sunday’s walk regardless of how forgone the outcome may be.

“Take care of business tomorrow, to win the session,” Stricker said of his Sunday message to his team. “It's different playing with a big lead like we have, the message is it's not over yet.”

Stricker hasn’t missed on much this week, but on this he’s off the mark – the 12th Presidents Cup is over, he just hasn’t joined the celebration yet.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern of architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.