USA's Walker Cup roster up in the air at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2017, 11:45 pm

LOS ANGELES – So, here’s the question on everyone’s mind here at the U.S. Amateur: Who will represent the United States at the upcoming Walker Cup?

No, seriously.

Who?

The 10-man team is expected to be unveiled Sunday night, and there are even more questions than usual about how the USGA International Team Selection Committee will arrive at its decision.

Earlier this year, the USGA announced that it was breaking from tradition and releasing the names of all 10 Walker Cup members at the same time, following the conclusion of the Amateur.

For at least the past decade, the USGA has named part of the team well ahead of the biennial matches. The rationale was that the blue blazers wanted to assure the team’s stars that they had a spot on the team, lest they were enticed by parents or agents to turn pro early. But in some cases, there were unintended consequences: With the pressure off, a few players scaled back their summer schedules and came to the matches out of form.

The USGA said the decision to make one formal announcement was for team unity, to “avoid the perception of a Tier 1 and Tier 2 group.” That sounds swell in a press release, but this decision created an unsettling scenario for the best young Americans, who were forced to decide whether to test the pro ranks or travel all over the country (on their parents’ dimes) in an attempt to impress a committee it has never met.

And it’s not just the bubble boys who have no clue where they stand.

The stars are out of the loop, too.

“I don’t have any idea,” Maverick McNealy said. “I’m just going to wait with my phone on loud Sunday night.”

There is no public Walker Cup points list, no objectivity to the super-secret selection process. It’s a stark contrast to the increasingly popular Palmer Cup, a match-play event between top U.S. and European college players, in which the standings are released several times before the roster is finalized.

Even U.S. captain Spider Miller, who is not involved in the final roster decision, said Wednesday at Riviera: “If there were a points system for the Walker Cup, then I think that would make sense. But that’s not my decision to make.”


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


If there’s one thing this amateur season has proved, however, it’s that the allure of the Walker Cup remains strong. There was some apprehension that recent changes to Web.com Tour Q-School would tempt more players to turn pro after the NCAAs in June – even in Walker Cup years – to chase the seven sponsor exemptions allowed for PGA Tour non-members. But that hasn’t panned out, at least not this year.  

Ultimately, only one player (USC’s Rico Hoey) who attended the 16-man practice session last winter opted to turn pro early, while a few contenders such as Sam Burns (LSU) and Sean Crocker (USC) postponed their pro debuts for a chance to wear the Team USA uniform.

The only problem? Now they aren’t sure if they’ll make the squad.

Burns won the Nicklaus Award as the top college player last season and tied for sixth at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship (his 18-under total was the best by an amateur in Tour history). Crocker, meanwhile, played four events overseas this summer and missed the 36-hole cut at the Am.

“I don’t really know, to be honest with you,” Burns said. “Hopefully I’ve put together a strong enough résumé to make the team. But we’ll see.”

Despite the USGA reducing the mid-amateur requirement from two players to one, Miller has suggested that he expects two over-25 players to be on the team. One of those spots will go to Stewart Hagestad, the reigning Mid-Am winner who made the cut at the Masters. The other pick, if the committee indeed green-lights two mid-ams, is likely Scott Harvey, who was part of the losing U.S. team in 2015.

As for the other eight players?

The safe bets are NCAA champion Braden Thornberry and Hogan Award winner Maverick McNealy. Also in strong shape (one would assume) are Norman Xiong, the NCAA Freshman of the Year and recent Western Amateur winner; Cal star Collin Morikawa, who captured the Northeast Amateur; and Pacific Coast winner Doug Ghim, ranked seventh in the world.

The rest of the roster is anyone’s guess.

Burns should receive plenty of consideration. So should big-hitting Cameron Champ, who starred at the U.S. Open and followed it up with a victory at the Trans-Miss.

A few months ago, Illinois senior Dylan Meyer would have been a lock, but the fourth-ranked amateur in the world has struggled this summer. Former USGA champions Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler and Brad Dalke are ALL on the USGA’s radar, too, along with Nick Hardy and a half-dozen other players. Oh, and one spot is reserved in case there’s an American U.S. Amateur winner.

All would make fine selections, of course.

But the how and why matters.

How will the selection committee arrive at that 10-man roster Sunday night?

Why was Player A valued differently over Player B?

“The committee is going to have some difficult choices to make,” Miller said.

And frustratingly, it’ll do so behind closed doors.

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“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,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.


Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:


Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.