Notes Ryder Cup Fatigue Bubble Boy

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill ' The Americans could be worn out when they get to the Ryder Cup two years from now, and PGA of America officials are blaming the new FedEx Cup competition.
 
The FedEx Cup starts next year and is the PGA TOURs attempt at a playoff system. Its a season-long points race for $10 million, in which top players will be expected to compete in six of the final seven tournaments, ending in mid-September at the Tour Championship.
 
In 2008, the Ryder Cup will start five days later.
 
One week, Tiger Woods & Co. will be playing for $10 million. The next week, even more will be at stake playing for their flag.
 
Weve made it clear to the PGA TOUR we are not happy with the scheduling for 2008, that we were not able to achieve a one-week gap between their big Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, which we dont think is good, said Joe Steranka, the PGA of Americas chief executive officer.
 
We would prefer to have one week between, and I think thats in place for the subsequent years, he said. How players react to the new PGA TOUR schedule remains to be seen, were going to watch it. If it has an impact on the Ryder Cup that we think we need to address further, well address it.
 
There might not be anything the PGA of America can do.
 
PGA TOUR spokesman Bob Combs attributed the timing to NBC Sports, which televises the final three tournaments of the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup. He said the tour was able to negotiate a one-week gap between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in five out of the six years, the exception being 2008.
 
We agree there needs to be at least a week break, Combs said. It really was an NBC television issue that could not be resolved. I believe everything is locked up from a television perspective.
 
Steranka was clearly annoyed, however, choosing his words carefully when he spoke of the goodwill between both organizations.
 
Thats not the spirit of the relationship, he said. We dont agree on everything. But this is one thing they felt couldnt change, and we felt it needed to change.
 
PGA president Roger Warren said the 08 Ryder Cup was locked into Sept. 19-21 dates.
 
Were concerned about the impact it might have on the players, he said.
 
Still, no one is sure how the FedEx Cup will unfold. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem has said players likely will have to play the final four weeks to have any chance of winning the $10 million prize, although its mathematically possible that Woods, Mickelson or another hot player could skip a week and still win the cup.
 
As much money as the players already make, some might even skip events to have their game ready for the Ryder Cup, which is on the same scale of a major championship.
 
Asked what he thought about the situation, U.S. captain Tom Lehman said I want no part of this conversation.
 
Its not optimal, he eventually said.
 
ON THE BUBBLE
Brett Wetterich seems to be a poster boy for whats wrong with the new Ryder Cup qualification system, perhaps because not many people are familiar with his name, much less his game.
 
But theres a reason Wetterich is No. 10 in the standings.
 
He tied for fourth in New Orleans, and two weeks later captured his first PGA TOUR victory by holding off Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman at the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he went to the Memorial, where he tied for second.
 
Even so, Wetterich has gone through the last month coping with questions about whether he belongs on the team.
 
I guess people think we should have the same guys every year, like Davis Love, Fred Couples and Chris DiMarco, he said. Maybe it would be good to give some new guys a chance.
 
This is only his third major championship, and the first one with more than winning a trophy on his mind.
 
If he doesnt finish in the top 10 at Medinah and earn Ryder Cup points, hell have to watch the scoreboard and hope that no one behind him earns enough points to knock him out of the top 10 in the Ryder Cup standings.
 
Ill try not to think of it, but Im sure it will be in the back of my mind, Wetterich said. I want to make the team and get in by myself. I dont want to wait and see how other people are doing behind me, needing someone to make bogey or something.
 
CLARKE MEMORIAL
An hour before the PGA Championship gets under way Thursday, there will be a memorial service outside the clubhouse for Heather Clarke, the wife of Darren Clarke, who died Sunday of cancer at age 39.
 
Tom Lehman, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, will deliver the message.
 
I really dont know why they asked me, Lehman said. Theres a number of people who could, but maybe they are just so emotional about it and so close that they would prefer to let somebody else say a few words. Of course, Im honored.
 
Lehman is not an ordained minister, but he has experience.
 
He delivered a moving eulogy and prayer before the 1999 Tour Championship for Payne Stewart, the U.S. Open champion who was killed in a plane crash.
 
PLAYING CAPTAIN
Tom Lehman came awfully close from going from Ryder Cup captain to Ryder Cup player.
 
Maybe.
 
Lehman lost in a playoff at the International to Dean Wilson.
 
Had he won, Lehman would have gone to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings, virtually a lock to earn a spot among the top-10 qualifiers. But he didnt say whether he would have become the first playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963, and he wont say what he will do if he earns enough points this week to make the team.
 
Lehman believes his team should be filled with guys who have great short games, and he doesnt like the way he is putting. Then again, Chris DiMarco cornered him Tuesday and told him he would be on the team if he finished in the top 10, no questions asked.
 
I go, Well, thats really nice, but Im the captain, Lehman said.
 
If he finishes in the top 10, Lehman could either choose to play, or take himself off the team and take the player at No. 11, which could free him up for another captains pick.
 
Its all conjecture, and something well actually talk about if it happens on Sunday, he said.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

    Getty Images

    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

    Getty Images

    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”