The Life of Chris Riley

By Associated PressAugust 31, 2004, 4:00 pm
PGA TourAll it took was one phone call for Hal Sutton to get instant gratification as Ryder Cup captain.
On the other end of the line was Chris Riley.
'He could hardly speak to me on the phone,' Sutton said. 'He was ecstatic. If God lets me live long enough to hear one of my kids be that excited ... then it will all be worthwhile. Because Chris Riley was that excited.'
Chris RileyWait until Sutton really gets to know him.

Riley gets excited over a plate of onion rings.
'He's like an 8-year-old,' said Stewart Cink, who at 31 is about six months older than his Ryder Cup teammate. 'Jay Haas is like our uncle. And then Chris is like our nephew. He's got a naivete about him that draws you in. He's one of the great personalities on the tour that many people don't realize.'
For most people, Riley is one of the great unknowns.
His only PGA Tour victory came two years ago at the Reno-Tahoe Open. The most TV time he got this year was when his 5-foot birdie putt in the playoff at Torrey Pines somehow defied gravity and spun out of the cup, allowing John Daly to win for the first time in nine years.
Riley showed up again at the PGA Championship, somehow salvaging par from the bottom of the cliff on the par-3 17th at Whistling Straits. He missed a 4-foot par putt on the final hole and fell one shot short of the playoff, but still got the final spot on the Ryder Cup team with a tie for fourth.
On paper, he is the least accomplished player on the American squad.
But take a poll of his teammates, and all of them are just as excited about having him at Oakland Hills.
'He's going to keep everyone loose,' David Toms said. 'I think he's going to be great. Half of what he says is nuts. He asks so many questions that we call him 'Really Riley.''
Kenny Perry hasn't heard anyone that inquisitive since his son was in diapers.
'When my son was little, he was always saying, 'Why, Daddy? Why this? Why this?' And that's what Riley is like,' Perry said. 'He's a pure kid. Pure joy. He's a lot of fun to be around.'
Riley played a practice round at Firestone with Phil Mickelson, Chad Campbell and Davis Love III, asking them everything and more about the Ryder Cup.
When he sat down for lunch in the grill room, the questions kept coming.
'Do you think I'm going to like the Ryder Cup better because it's in the States?'
'If someone hits it in the water, will some knucklehead go, 'YEAH!' Really?'
'Hey, is there water at Oakland Hills?'
'Is it always close? Really?'
'Have you ever interviewed Johnny Miller? What's he like?'
'Hey, why did that captain not play those European guys until Sunday? You think Hal will do that? Really?'
'Do you want some of these onion rings?'
One of the famous stories on tour is the time Riley was playing in Reno and gazed at the snowcapped mountains. According to two players and their caddies, Riley asked one of them, 'That's not really snow up there, is it? Really? But it's warm down here, and wouldn't the snow melt being that much closer to the sun?'
Riley swears he never said that, but then he smiles and hits you on the arm, and you start to wonder if maybe he's not the one who had the best laugh.
His game is hardly a case of hit-and-giggle.
This is his sixth year on the PGA Tour, and he has been to the Tour Championship the last two seasons. He isn't the longest driver, and not always the straightest. But put the flat stick in his hand, and Riley expects to make everything inside 50 feet.
That wasn't always the case. Riley had the yips as a teenager, and that leads to another story that his frequent partner in junior matches - Tiger Woods - loves to tell.
'It was alternate shot. I teed off on a par 5, Riley laid up and I hit a wedge into about 3 feet,' Woods said. 'We were 2 up at the time, and if we made birdie, we were almost a lock to win. So we get to the green, Riley looks at the putt and says to me, 'You putt this one.' I said, 'Riles, I can't. It's not my turn.'
'I had to stand right next to him and say, 'OK, put a good stroke on it.' He jabbed it, but he made it.'
The turnaround came at UNLV, where golf coach Dwaine Knight recognized tremendous feel in Riley's hands. Knight taught him to keep his head still, let his stroke go through the ball and not worry about the result. Riley still follows that advice, and sometimes doesn't know he has made a 10-foot putt until he hears it drop in the cup.
'A lot of people don't see how hard he works,' Knight said. 'He looks flippant in a lot of ways. But what gets lost is he's a great competitor. He has a deep, deep passion for everything he does.'
Woods abuses Riley like a kid brother, but ask him what Riley brings to the Ryder Cup and he doesn't hesitate.
'He's someone who will fight all the way around,' Woods said. 'He never dogs it. He's one of the top grinders out here. And he's such a nice guy - a little strange at times, but that's just Riley.'
The first order of business for Riley is becoming a father. His wife is expecting a daughter (Taylor Lynn) on Sept. 17, the first day of the Ryder Cup, although they will try to induce sometime next week.
'What kind of father do you think I'll be?' Riley says.
'You have girls, right?'
'I think I'll be a good father.'
'Hey, is it awesome?'
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”