Time is now for International team to win

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2017, 7:12 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Nick Price played in the third match back in 1994 when the PGA Tour’s experiment with a match-play team event was launched.

Price lost that first fourball Presidents Cup match to Davis Love III and Fred Couples. Twenty-three years later he’s still facing Boom-Boom and DL3, both assistants for the U.S., with painfully similar results.

For Price, who turned in his scorecard for a captain’s golf cart in 2013 at the biennial bout between the U.S. and International teams, it’s been a definition of insanity deal ever since.

To put Price’s history with the Presidents Cup in context, the last time his International side won the event he was ranked No. 6 in the world, and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were 5 years old.

Although there will be non-stop chatter about how evenly matched the teams are and how competitive this edition will be, on this the Presidents Cup is what its record says it is – a 1-9-1 International rout.

It’s not as though Price isn’t aware of the competitive swoon his side faces, it’s just that his options are limited.

Even before Price’s first turn as captain at the ’13 matches he’d made his plea to anyone who would listen at the Tour that change was needed if the Presidents Cup was going to be competitive.


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For Price and the other members of the International side, there was nothing wrong with the Presidents Cup that some new math couldn’t fix. Specifically, he wanted the matches to follow the same format as the Ryder Cup, which features just 28 points up for grabs compared with 34 at the ’13 Presidents Cup.

The Tour balked, the Internationals lost by three points.

Two years later, Price made another run at the Tour to adjust the points to mirror the format used at the Ryder Cup, which is the undisputed pinnacle of team golf.

Price and others contend that reducing the points would allow the International team, which is not as deep as the U.S. squad, to be more competitive, and prior to the ’15 matches the Tour agreed, to a point, and reduced the number of available points to 30.

The result was the closest match in a decade, with the cup decided on the final green by the final match when Bill Haas defeated Sangmoon Bae to secure a 15 1/2 to 14/ 1/2 U.S. victory.

On Tuesday at Liberty National, Price was asked if he made another run at the Tour and new commissioner Jay Monahan to further reduce the amount of points to 28.

“No, I didn’t. It would be very hard to go and push after what happened in South Korea,” Price said. “If you were commissioner and I came to you and said I want to reduce another two points, you’d say what was wrong with South Korea. I wouldn’t have had a strong leg to stand on with that argument, so I didn’t touch it.”

Perhaps this is the new normal. Maybe the matches are entering a long-awaited era of parity like that enjoyed at the Ryder Cup, which has been decided in recent years by the slimmest of margins. On paper, however, Price should ready himself for more of the same.

The average world ranking of the U.S. team is 15th and captain Steve Stricker’s crew won a combined 17 events this season on Tour, including three of the four major championships. That modern day Murder’s Row will face an International team with an average world ranking of 32nd and just eight combined victories this year on Tour.

These events aren’t won on paper, but you can’t hide talent. Or, more to the point, Price can’t hide mediocrity.

In ’15 in South Korea, Price had the benefit of a breakout performance from Branden Grace, who went 5-0 teamed with Louis Oosthuizen. Asked on Tuesday who this week’s “Grace” would be, he rattled off a list of potential leaders that included Anirban Lahiri.

Lahiri is one of the game’s most thoughtful and endearing players, but he has just two top-10 finishes this year on Tour and he failed to earn even a half point two years ago in South Korea. Perhaps it’s simply optimism, be it hopeless or otherwise, but under the current points structure it’s Price’s only option if his team is going to win the event for the first time since 1998.

“The next few we’ll see,” Price reasoned. “Maybe this is the optimum, maybe 30 is the right number. I don’t know. It’s just that the Ryder Cup has been proven over the last 30, 40 years, so maybe this is the better way to go. Time will tell.”

Perhaps, but how much time does the event have until it loses any semblance of competitive relevance?

In 2015, Price talked about the need to simply have a close match, a competitive match, something his players could see as progress; but the time for moral victories is over.

Anything short of an absolute sea change for the International side and it will be time for Price and Co. to make another plea for a points change, and time for the Tour to finally take action.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.