Fix Problem Thats Not Broken - Yet

By Associated PressAugust 1, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesTwo players who will be wearing U.S. uniforms at the Ryder Cup won tournaments last week, a development that would have thrilled Tom Lehman except for one minor detail.
They were his assistant captains.
Corey Pavin won his first PGA Tour event in 10 years at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Across the ocean, Loren Roberts captured his first major by winning the Senior British Open in a playoff at Turnberry.
Both are expected to be carrying radios, not golf clubs, at The K Club in September.
As for the 12 Americans who will try to end two decades of European dominance, that remains a work in progress.
There is no shortage of suggestions how to fix a new selection process that some see as a big problem, although shouldn't we wait until the matches are over before deciding whether it's broken?
This is the 21st time the criteria for the U.S. team has been changed since the Ryder Cup began in 1927, either an overhaul or minor adjustment. What the PGA of America did this time was reward those playing the best golf in the year leading up to the matches. The current year was worth four times as many points, majors counted double and there was a 75-point bonus for winning.
It sounded good on paper.
But it supposedly became a problem when Brett Wetterich got hot in May, winning in Dallas and finishing second at the Memorial.
J.J. Henry, who previously tied for second in Phoenix (seven shots behind) and tied for fourth in Atlanta (14 shots behind), then won in Hartford and climbed all the way to No. 7.
Panic really set two weeks ago when John Rollins cracked the top 10 by winning against an ultra weak field at the B.C. Open, earning more points than Chris DiMarco got for finishing second to Tiger Woods at the British Open.
Even the captain has his doubts about the new system.
The PGA of America awards points only through 10 places on the PGA Tour. Because of the burgeoning number of international players on tour, Lehman has been keeping his own chart the last two years that lists only how the top 10 Americans fared.
'With 90-plus international players, the downfall is that all of our points don't get given out,' Lehman said. 'Some weeks, there are three American players in the top 10. Sometimes, it's five or seven. No weeks are all in the top 10. There's a huge difference when you include the top 10 Americans versus just top 10.'
Pebble Beach winner Arron Oberholser is 18th in the Ryder Cup standings. But if he were awarded points compared with other Americans in the field, he would be No. 7. One spot behind him would be Stewart Cink, who is 19th in the real standings.
That, too, sounds good on paper.
But it's not like the international players showed up overnight. The PGA of America considered foreign influence when it revamped the points system in 2004, and president Roger Warren came to a sound conclusion.
'The reason we reward points in the top 10 is it becomes difficult to look at a player who finishes 24th and 25th,' Warren said. 'And if there's a lot of European players in the field, those are the players they're going to compete against in the Ryder Cup.'
If the Americans can't beat these guys during the season, why should they get points? So they can lose to them in the Ryder Cup?
The last thing golf needs is for mediocrity to be rewarded.
'Play harder. Play better,' Warren said, and he sure didn't invent that cliche.
If we learn on Sept. 25 that the system is broken, there are a couple of alternatives.
One is to use raw world ranking points (very little math involved). Not only would that account for the strength of the field, it would award points beyond the top 10; 11th place would get a fraction less than 10th, instead of nothing. Europe uses this format to determine five of its 10 selections.
The second option is to use PGA Tour earnings. The most important tournaments have the largest purses, and the range of other PGA Tour events is $4 million to about $6 million, not enough to skew the standings. Opposite-field events only pay out $3 million.
The problem? That's how the Presidents Cup team is selected.
The PGA of America would rather give up their team uniforms than copy anything from the Presidents Cup.
The only other choice is to allow Lehman to pick his entire team -- that's right, 12 captain's picks.
Put your best guys on the field.
To help Lehman along, or perhaps to annoy him, 18 golf writers were asked to select who they thought were the 12 best Americans to play in the Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David Toms and Chris DiMarco were named on every ballot, while Chad Campbell and Scott Verplank were named on 16 ballots. The rest of the team was Cink, Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Davis Love III, with Oberholser and Lucas Glover tied for the 12th spot with nine votes each.
That team sounds as good as any.
Henry received two votes, Wetterich got one and Rollins got zero.
Then again, Love and his experience (he has played every Ryder Cup since 1993) was left off the ballot by eight writers, and there were a total of 27 players mentioned on the 18 teams.
Even though they were not tied to a point system, more than one writer came to this conclusion while struggling to fill out the final four spots on the 12-man team.
'We're going to get hammered, aren't we?'
But if the Americans win, the new points system undoubtedly will be the best ever.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Points List
  • European Points List
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”