Price: 'Very, very, very important Presidents Cup'

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2015, 9:18 am

INCHEON, South Korea – For Nick Price this is not personal.

With as much objective detachment as he could muster on Tuesday at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, the International captain explained that after more than two years of backroom bargaining he’s cautiously optimistic that the Presidents Cup has turned the proverbial competitive corner.

What other option does Price have? The alternative for the 58-year-old who has now dedicated four years of his adult life to being a captain – and is a five-time Presidents Cup player – is unacceptable.

But on Tuesday when pressed for his thoughts on this year’s matches Price didn’t shy away from the competitive elephant in the International team room that is America’s 8-1-1 advantage in the biennial event.

“I will tell you guys, this is a really important Presidents Cup,” Price said. “I’m not going to say, ‘What if?’ But this better be closely contested. I’ll let you guys figure out the repercussions.”

If that sounds like the International captain is laying down an ultimatum it’s important to understand Price’s passion when it comes to the Presidents Cup.

The Zimbabwean played in the first Presidents Cup in 1994 and was a member on the only winning International team in 1998 at Royal Melbourne on his way to an 8-11-4 record as a player.

Also know that the International team’s loss two years ago at Muirfield Village, another blowout in a long line of U.S. boat races, left a scar. So much so, that when Price was approached to captain the team again for this year’s matches he accepted with an eye toward a sea change for an event that has largely been defined by its lack of competitiveness.

Like Greg Norman before him, Price began lobbying the PGA Tour and commissioner Tim Finchem shortly after the 2013 matches to reduce the total number of points from 34 to 28, which is the same number used at both the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup.

“We seem to think looking at the past, that the most excitement there is in an event is when you have a 28-point format. I think the Solheim Cup showed that two weeks ago,” Price said. “Some people think that you're hiding your weakest players, but in actual fact what you're doing is putting your strongest team forward. It's glass half-full or glass half-empty, depends which way you look at it.”

Following months of internal dialogue over the proposal, the Tour and Finchem reduced the total number of points available to 30 with the caveat that every player must play at least twice before Sunday singles.

For Price, the change is encouraging albeit still short of what the International side would have wanted. “We’re the underdogs, again,” he allowed.

To be clear here, while Price became the front-man for the International push to change the points format he was very much the messenger, a conduit between the Tour and a group of International players who have become increasingly disenfranchised with the biennial blowout.

That at least partially explains Price’s comments regarding the gravity of this week’s matches. It was neither a threat nor an ultimatum when the captain made a not-so-veiled assessment of what awaits if the Americans roll over the “home” team again this week.

“It’s hard for these guys,” Price said. “You ask these guys to give up a week and to play in an event that is not competitive. Any one of these guys can go play anywhere around the world and receive money and they can easily dump this event if they wanted to. Most of them don’t want to do that.”

That sense of apathy dates back to 2012 when arguably the International side’s deepest team lost, 19-15, at Royal Melbourne to extend the losing streak to four consecutive matches.

From Price’s perspective, competitive relevance is crucial to the long-term success of the Presidents Cup and not just among fans, but the players as well.

“This is a huge deal for us right now. If it doesn’t happen and we keep losing guys won’t get interested in it and won’t want to play in it and won’t want to travel,” Jason Day said. “I’m here for the captain and for the guys. We would like to win one. No one likes losing.”

After months of debate regarding the points structure, Price – who is walking a fine political line this week in what he says will be his last turn as captain – sees a more fundamental concern when it comes to the Presidents Cup.

Unlike the Ryder Cup, which is a joint venture between the PGA of America and European Tour, the Presidents Cup is the exclusive property of the PGA Tour.

Or, put another way, “The difference with the Presidents Cup is you have one guy [Finchem] controlling both sides. At the Ryder Cup you have two sides controlling each side. That may be something that needs to change as well,” Price said.

Last month at the Tour Championship, Finchem had an interesting take when asked about the “negotiations” between himself and Price over the 28-point proposal.

“We don’t look at it as meeting anyone halfway. We took everybody’s input, digested and said, ‘Are we going to make a change or not?’ It’s not like you’re here, and we’re there and come halfway,” the commissioner said. “We were making the decision, we weren’t negotiating. We were just listening to all the input.”

The International team doesn’t necessarily need a signature victory to turn things around in Price’s eyes, just a compelling and competitive event that comes down to the final match on Sunday ... say, between Jordan Spieth and Day.

“The absolute perfect scenario for all of us would be Jordan and Jason in the final group, playing the 18th hole, the whole thing tied up,” Price said. “Then who is going to complain about the four-point change?”

There are those who will label Price an alarmist, or worse; but throughout this process his only motivation has been to be a realist about an event that means the world to him and contains limitless potential.

“This is about the long-term health of the Presidents Cup going forward,” he said. “I swear it’s not about individuals. If this is going to survive and grow, it could blow the Ryder Cup out of the water if it becomes exciting and competitive. It’s about making this the very best it can be.”

As Price made his way back to the golf course on Tuesday afternoon he was pressed one last time for what he meant when he said there would be “repercussions” if this Presidents Cup ended the way so many others had.

With a deep sigh, Price shook his head, “This is a very, very, very important Presidents Cup.”

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.