U.S. dominates another Presidents Cup

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2013, 10:57 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The exhibition felt more like another evisceration.

Too vivid?

How about this: Despite some truly inspired performances by International captain Nick Price’s team, the only time the American team found itself in harm’s way over four damp days was when a wayward squirrel named Sammy crashed the team room.

As hard as Price & Co. planned and plodded to make this Presidents Cup a game, this wasn’t a fair fight. It hasn’t been for some time, but a fitful week of starts and stops at muddy Muirfield Village proved to be the latest indication of the event’s lack of relevance.

“This is a pretty tall order,” an emotional Price allowed after the final foursomes collapse set up the singles formality on Sunday. “I just hope the golfing gods are on our side this afternoon.”

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It’s not a higher power that has rendered this biennial bash a non-story. That liability rests on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s shoulders.

Earlier this year Price, former captain Greg Norman and future captain Ernie Els pleaded with Finchem to give the Internationals a fighting chance and reduce the number of foursome and fourball matches, the idea being fewer team bouts would favor the Rest of the World’s perceived lack of depth.

Instead, Finchem allowed for a format change – this year’s event started with a fourball session instead of foursomes, with which the Internationals have struggled – and the United States rolled to an 18 ½ to 15 ½ victory to improve to 8-1-1 in the matches.

And it really wasn’t that close.

Don’t get it twisted – the Internationals fought. They fought like a wild squirrel trapped in an assistant captain’s golf cart. But when Round 4 play finally ended early Sunday the visiting team was down 14-8 and the home side needed to win just four of the 12 singles matches to keep the cup.

It would have been the largest comeback in Presidents Cup, or Ryder Cup, history. The Internationals needed a Medinah-like miracle and then some. But then the Europeans only had to dig themselves out of a four-point hole and they had Ian Poulter.

For Davis Love III, last year’s Ryder Cup captain and an assistant this time for Fred Couples, the déjà vu was impossible to ignore.

“We flashed back last night,” Love said. “It was me and Fred and Jay (Haas) and Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson) and Hunter (Mahan) talking about how we were going to do the pairings. It was hard for me all week because I felt so bad about it. It was like, here’s what we said we were going to do at Medinah, we know now.”

Lesson learned.

Mahan, in the singles leadoff position, set the tone, quickly dispatching surprise rookie standout Hideki Matsuyama, 3 and 2, and Jason Dufner added another point when he beat another newcomer, Brendon De Jonge, 4 and 3.

There were tense moments after the Internationals won four of the first six matches. Couples, who is notoriously low key, may even have felt nervous with five matches remaining on the course. The math was straightforward: If the International team won the final five matches they would force a tie.

“I must have asked 500 times, ‘How are we getting this fourth point?’” Couples said.

The answer? Tiger Woods. Who else?

Sent out in the ninth spot, it seemed unlikely the world No. 1’s point would count, but shortly after a particularly forceful swing at the 15th hole nearly sent Woods to his knees with back pain, it became clear his point would be pivotal.

Woods took a 1-up lead when little-known Richard Sterne hit into the grandstand at the 16th hole, then calmly two-putted from 36 feet at the last to secure the winning point for the third consecutive Presidents Cup.

“I was just trying to hang on,” said Woods, who found a new partner at Muirfield Village in the form of Matt Kuchar. “The problem was, I knew I wasn't feeling good, and if I happened to mess up 18 and we had to continue playing until it's been decided. I was like, 'I really don't want to play anymore. Just can I win, can I halve this last hole, somehow?' And it ended up being that way.”

This marks the fifth consecutive match that the Internationals failed to finish closer than three points to the Americans and the title drought has now been run to 15 years.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom for the Internationals. A pair of young stars emerged in Graham DeLaet – think Poulter without the wardrobe stipend – and Matsuyama and two long-term potential power pairings in DeLaet and Jason Day and Matsuyama and Adam Scott.

Combined, those four players contributed 11 points and considering his team included seven rookies and little room to hide any weaknesses, Price’s post-match assessment was only slightly less dark than the gray skies that blanketed Muirfield Village for most of the week.

“Our rally this week in a couple of the sessions, and particularly today, showed how much fight we've all got in us,” Price said. “We all wanted this badly, but 9 ½ (points, what his team needed to win the cup in the singles session) is almost an unobtainable task.”

Even Els, whose inevitable turn at captain seems certain to wait considering his play at this week’s matches (3-2-0), allowed for a glimmer of hope the next time the Rest of the World meets America’s best in 2015 in Korea. “It’s closer than you think,” he said.

Perhaps, but from 30,000 feet this still has all the markings of a homecoming game for the United States.

If International captains past and present really want to turn the tide in the biennial blowout they may want to make another run at Finchem in an attempt to increase the number of singles matches. The U.S. has won just one of the last three Sunday singles sessions at the Presidents Cup and we all know America’s singles record in the Ryder Cup.

But on Sunday, Medinah and The Meltdown felt like another lifetime for the Americans.

Relaxed, if not rested, the U.S. side responded to nearly every move Couples made at Muirfield Village, the byproduct of the captain’s laid-back lead and a six-point advantage heading into the final frame.

Media types always want to know why the U.S. team plays so well at the Presidents Cup but tightens like an ailing Achilles’ at the Ryder Cup. The answer could be found in Mickelson’s mood Sunday as players marched out to end the muddy marathon.

“This morning everybody was worried about when their tee times were and Phil comes in and says, ‘I tell you what. I’m going last and I don’t want my point to count,’” Love said. “You guys get out there and win this thing. I want to come giggling down the fairway.”

Like clockwork, only the Americans were giggling at the Presidents Cup.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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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Mickelson 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.

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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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.