Simpson, Snedeker set to make Ryder Cup case

By Will GrayAugust 13, 2014, 10:30 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – With the top nine positions on the U.S. Ryder Cup team finalized at last week’s PGA Championship, the race is on to catch the attention of Tom Watson, who will fill out the squad with three captain's picks.

It's a competition that widened significantly Wednesday, when Tiger Woods removed his name from consideration because of health concerns.

While many notable names will begin their audition at The Barclays, bubble boys Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker are getting a head start this week at Sedgefield Country Club.

“I feel like there’s a host of things for me to play for this week,” said Simpson, who finished 15th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list.

Simpson won earlier this season in Las Vegas, and he has seven top-10 finishes in 2013-14. But his game cooled off this summer as he missed the cut in four high-profile events – the Masters, Players Championship, Open Championship and PGA Championship.

“Super frustrating,” he said. “I had two good tournaments last fall to start the year, and I had a decent West Coast swing. March, April and part of May were just tough.”

This is a familiar position for Simpson, who last year failed to earn a Presidents Cup automatic berth. He was added as one of two selections by captain Fred Couples, and he hopes to get a similar phone call from Watson prior to the Sept. 2 announcement of the three captain’s picks.

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“I texted with Tom a little bit, and I want him to know I want to be on that team,” Simpson said. “Hopefully I’ll play well the next three weeks, or at least solid golf, to make it hard for him not to pick me. That’s my goal.”

Snedeker is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Simpson. The 2012 FedEx Cup champ didn’t notch his first top-10 finish this season until the Arnold Palmer Invitiational, but since the U.S. Open he has reeled off six top 25s in his last seven starts.

That stretch was capped by a T-13 finish at Valhalla, where Snedeker closed with 66-67. He heads into this week’s event with no shortage of confidence.

“I feel like I’m playing the best golf of the year,” said Snedeker, who finished 20th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. “I feel like I’m doing a lot of really good stuff, and I’m excited about my chances this week and going forward.”

Like Simpson, Snedeker has been in touch with Watson, but he knows his game will speak louder than his words.

“I’ve talked to him numerous times, just letting him know that I know I need to play well, and I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to show him that I want to be on that team,” Snedeker said. “Besides that, it’s in my court. You can talk to Tom all you want to, but you’ve got to prove it to him. He’s not going to pick you because he likes you, he’s going to pick you because he thinks you have the best chance of winning.”

Snedeker was in the same position two years ago, when captain Davis Love III made him one of his four picks for the Ryder Cup team at Medinah. While things went in his favor that year, relying on a captain’s pick is hardly a position that Snedeker finds comfortable.

“It’s tough. You hate being on the outside looking in,” he said. “There’s no certainty. I’ve been on the outside looking in on quite a few of them.”

At No. 69 in the FedEx Cup standings, Snedeker has his eyes on a return to East Lake for the third straight year, with confidence that strong play will take care of his other goals.

“I’m putting everything into making the Tour Championship,” he said. “I know if I do that, that means I’ve had to play some pretty darn good golf, and that would give me a good chance to make the Ryder Cup team as a byproduct.”

Back in 2012, Snedeker was en route to the BMW Championship when Love called to tell him he was on the team. Snedeker still has the message on his phone.

“Really short and sweet,” he said. “Still listen to it every once in a while when things aren’t going good, so I remember what that felt like. Pretty cool phone call to get.”

The chase for another voicemail begins Thursday at Sedgefield.  

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."