Riley Wants to Change Perception

By Associated PressOctober 6, 2004, 4:00 pm
Michelin Championship at Las VegasLAS VEGAS -- Chris Riley doesn't want to be known as the guy who was too tired to play.
 
Begging off an afternoon match in the Ryder Cup might have given Riley a label he'll have trouble shaking, though. He's already finding that out.
 
'I've got guys ribbing me in the locker room now,' Riley said, 'asking if I need to take a nap.'
 
Actually, Riley probably could use one. His infant daughter is just a month old, the Ryder Cup experience drained him, and he just returned to his adopted hometown from the American Express Championship in Ireland.
 
But Riley wasn't about to miss the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas, which begins Thursday on three local courses he knows very well.
 
'This is considered my hometown tournament,' Riley said. 'I know the courses and I'm excited. Plus my brother gets to work the bag.'
 
Riley, without a doubt the most excitable member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that got pasted last month by Europe, should be patting himself on the back for a job well done at Oakland Hills. A rookie, he won 1 1/2 points in three matches.
 
But it was his reluctance to go out again with Tiger Woods in Saturday's foursomes when the Americans were staging a minor rally that drew captain Hal Sutton's ire and made Riley a focal point of the American defeat.
 
At least that's what Riley has been told. The affable 30-year-old, whose demeanor sometimes borders on goofy, has had a hard time realizing what a fuss he created.

'The president of the PGA called me a couple of times saying they were backing me 100 percent,' Riley said. 'I didn't even know what was going on.'
 
Riley was paired with Woods in the morning fourball and had just stiffed a shot on the 13th hole when Sutton came up and told him he'd better be prepared to team with Woods again in the afternoon matches.
 
Riley told Sutton he was wiped out from the combination of being a new father and being in his first Ryder Cup -- and maybe someone fresher could play.
 
'That's when he came up with his line that a 46-year-old fat man went five straight matches in 1999 so a 30-year-old flat-belly should be able to go four,' Riley said.
 
Riley's careful not to blame Sutton for the comment he later repeated to the media, or his decision to pair Woods with Davis Love III in a losing afternoon match. But Riley said he wasn't trying to get out of playing in the afternoon, just letting Sutton know he was tired.
 
'Looking back at it, I wish he had played Tiger and I in the alternate shot because it would have been a lot of fun,' Riley said. 'But being Ryder Cup captain is a thankless job.'

Winning the $4 million Vegas tournament would salvage a season that has been somewhat disappointing for Riley.
 
The tournament has a new sponsor, a new four-day format and a new course (Bear's Best) in the rotation. But Riley is hoping for one thing it rarely gets -- some wind -- to even things up with the big hitters who take advantage of easy desert conditions each year to post some of the lowest scores on tour.
 
Riley, who is 50th on the money list with about $1.2 million, is also looking for something new in himself -- a more competitive edge -- to help take his game to another level.

'It's not my personality to be one of those gung-ho competitors,' he said. 'But I'm trying to find that little extra to get me over the top.'
 
Riley was still suffering some effects of jet lag from his trip to Ireland on Tuesday when he helped host a junior clinic at the TPC Summerlin layout that is the main course for the tournament.
 
'If I had to tee it up tomorrow, I'd probably get tired,' he said with a laugh.
 
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    Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

    Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

    Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

    “It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

    No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


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    On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

    “Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

    “Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

    A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

    “But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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    Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

    Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

    Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

    Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


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    "I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

    But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

    After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

    "What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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    McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

    For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

    The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

    McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


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    "I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

    By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

    But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

    Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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    Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

    The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

    While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

    It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

    There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

    Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.


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    "The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

    Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

    While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.