U.S. rides perfect storm to blowout Prez Cup win

By Rex HoggardOctober 2, 2017, 1:00 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – It was the perfect storm.

As a fall evening slipped away and the most anticlimactic Sunday competition since Tiger Woods took a 10-stroke lead into the final round of the 2000 U.S. Open came to a close, the final score only told a part of the story as the Americans celebrated a 19-11 victory over the International team at the Presidents Cup.

It wasn’t nearly that close.

After three days of utter domination, the U.S. came out predictably and understandably flat on Sunday, dropping four of the first five singles matches after losing just two full points in the four team sessions.

After coming within two holes of closing out the Internationals on Saturday, the greatest American team in a generation only managed to win 4 ½ of 12 points, but on this the record books will be skewed.

A decade from now, observers will note that the Internationals lost by eight points, but that won’t even begin to paint an accurate picture of the 2017 matches.

International captain Nick Price called the U.S. dozen a juggernaut, while U.S. frontman Steve Stricker said his crew reminded him of the American team that finally stopped the European domination of the Ryder Cup in 2008 at Valhalla, only better.

The talent amassed on the red, white and blue side was undeniable, with the U.S. team featuring three of this year’s four major winners and four of the world’s top-eight ranked players. The American side was deep - deep like the 1992 U.S. Dream Team - and it was always going to be a long shot for an International team that hasn’t won since Bill Clinton was the nation’s chief executive; but in retrospect the bigger advantage went to current form, which weighed heavily in the Americans' favor.


Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos


Eleven of the 12 Americans played last week’s Tour Championship, as telling a sign as any that Stricker would have no problem going with a “next man up” mentality. In fact, if there was a hole in the U.S. lineup, it was Phil Mickelson, who was one of Stricker’s two captain’s picks

“This team was just an amazing bunch of guys, amazing performance. Everybody was on great form. For us to have 11 guys in the Tour Championship; everybody except Phil Mickelson was at East Lake,” Matt Kuchar cracked, a not-so-subtle jab at Mickelson (who went 3-0-1). “It was like, how many times does it happen that you get 11 out of 12? If it was only for Phil, we would have had 12 of 12, but Phil was not there.”

The Americans nearly swept the opening foursomes session, winning 3 ½ of five points, won four of five matches on Day 2, and lost just a single outright team match in Saturday’s two sessions.

“We played maybe the most on-form United States team that I can remember,” said Adam Scott, the elder statesman of the International team.

The Americans also enjoyed immediate chemistry. There will likely be volumes written about this team, which promises to carry the U.S. flag for years to come, and why they gel so seamlessly. There are natural friendships, like Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, who are South Florida neighbors and emerged this week as a new power pairing. There are compatible personalities, like Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who added a new chapter to an already impressive legacy. There are bona fide fits, like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, whose power game paired perfectly in the fourball format.

But most of all there was talent. So much talent.

“This was one of the best putting teams I've ever seen,” said Woods, one of Stricker’s assistant captains. “I know that they are young, they are talented, hit the ball a long way, but in the end, look at how many more putts we made. Probably from [Nos.] 15 to 18, it was pretty impressive to watch.”

And, finally, this U.S. team had its perfect captain.

Stricker was serious and subdued and kept things exceedingly simple for his players. Where Fred Couples, who captained the U.S. team to victories at three consecutive Presidents Cup, kept things relaxed; Stricker seemed to embrace an edgy aggressiveness while maintaining a quiet and conservative demeanor.

Win each session was Stricker’s simple message and he maintained that Darwinian drive even as the Americans faced a 14 1/2 to 3 1/2 point advantage heading into Sunday singles. He didn’t complicate things, didn’t overthink pairings or attempt to reinvent an already productive wheel following the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s victory last year at Hazeltine National.

“We’d be the stupidest guys on earth if we split up [Jordan] Spieth and [Patrick] Reed, [Justin Thomas] and Rickie [Fowler],” Stricker reasoned. “That’s not the thing to do.”

It’s a commonly held notion that captains receive far too much credit in victory and a disproportionate share of blame in defeat, and some might argue that it would have been difficult for any captain to mishandle this Murder’s Row; but there’s no denying that Stricker’s style was a perfect fit for this team.

“He's just such a great leader. He's a quiet leader but he's a really good leader and we all respect him. We all trust him,” Dustin Johnson said. “It really has been an amazing week playing for captain Stricker. I think we would all agree that he's been an amazing captain this week. We all love playing for him.”

Whether this team goes down as the best ever depends on what they do going forward, and Sunday’s post-match news conference included its share of questions about next year’s Ryder Cup, but for an American side that not that long ago went searching for answers with a task force, it was a victory on many levels.

Those dark days seemed like a lifetime ago as the Americans boarded the ferry back to Manhattan and a celebration that promised to spill well into Monday morning.

Sunday’s swing toward the Internationals will blur the historical significance of the U.S. domination at Liberty National. Although the winning margin was not a record, the performance was unquestionably record breaking.

It was the perfect storm.

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.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”