Stricker bulldozing field at John Deere, leads by two

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2011, 10:33 pm

SILVIS, Ill. – Steve Stricker stood in the bunker left of the first fairway, eyed his ball in the rough on the edge of the trap, then looked at the flag 122 yards away.

If it felt like he’d been in that position before, well, that’s because he had.

“I had that same stance in my pro-am,” he said. “Same bunker, same exact shot. I was right in the same spot.”

All he wanted to do was get the ball on the green, which he did. And then came the shot of the day, a 75-foot putt for birdie that led to an 8-under-par 63 Saturday and a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the John Deere Classic.

I was just trying to get a two-putt and par and move on,” Stricker said. “To make a put like that, you don’t expect to, nor are the odds in your favor to make a putt like that. But it went in with perfect speed and it got me going.”

Stricker fashioned his best round of the year while closing in on his third straight victory in the tournament. He’s at 20-under 193 following a par on save on 18, where he twice hit into bunkers before drilling a 15-foot putt.

That put Stricker in a good spot because he’s won the last four times he held the outright lead going into the final round. Stricker said he often hears stats like that, but insisted he doesn’t remember them.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in numbers past, present, whatever,” he said. “I just try to go out there and do the things that I’m capable of doing. You’ve just got to stick to your own game and that’s what I’ve been able to do the last four or five years.”

Zimbabwean Brendon De Jonge is alone in second at 195 after matching Stricker’s 63. Second-round leader Chez Reavie, who started the day two strokes up on Stricker, shot 68 and was 17 under, one ahead of Kyle Stanley (65).

With one more solid round, Stricker would join an elite group. Only 20 times previously on the tour has someone won a tournament three years in a row, a list that includes Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller,

Woods has done it six times and was the most recent to accomplish the feat, winning the Bridgestone Invitational in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“I haven’t really given it much thought, but it would mean a lot,” Stricker said. “It’s hard enough to win an event three times, let alone three in a row. So it will be tough. I’ve got to fight through nerves, but it would be special to be part of that list.”

As he has done so often recently at TPC Deere Run, Stricker made it look easy, even after getting into immediate trouble with that opening tee shot. He took a baseball-type swing to get out of the rough and hit a line drive that stopped on the front part of the green, where the pin was in to the right and in the back.

Then he stepped up and knocked his putt in, the ball rolling uphill, topping a crest and carrying back down into the center of the cup.

Stricker raised both arms in celebration, then smiled at playing partner Jhonattan Vegas and shrugged as if to say, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.”

“At first, I thought I hit it too hard and then it looked like it was going to be good to tap in (for par),” he said. “And then it just went right in the last couple of feet.”

Stricker moved into the lead with a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 7 as Reavie made bogey at 6. When Reavie bogeyed 8, he suddenly found himself four strokes behind—a six-shot reversal in about 90 minutes.

De Jonge, meanwhile, kept making birdies to keep Stricker from running away with the lead.

“I got off to a great start today, which was the key to set up the round,” de Jonge said. “I think tomorrow’s going to be more of the same. You’re going to have to make a bunch of birdies. The golf course is in such good condition, the ball’s going so far, that you get a lot of wedges in your hands.”

Stricker birdied six of his first 10 holes before turning more humanlike down the stretch and making only two more birdies the rest of the way. But on this warm, breezy Midwestern day, no one was sharp enough to catch him, though for a few minutes at the end it looked as though his lead would drop to one.

His tee shot found a bunker left of the fairway and his second shot landed in a bunker in front of the green. He got the ball up to within 15 feet, not an easy putt by any means, but he knocked it in.

“That was a good save to kind of keep the momentum going into tomorrow,” he said.

De Jonge kept himself in position for his first tour victory if Stricker should falter on Sunday. He matched Stricker’s 30 on the front nine, then had his momentum blunted slightly when he bogeyed 13 after missing a 10-footer for par.

But he came back with a nifty chip from the fringe on 14 to set up a 2-foot birdie putt and capped his round with an approach from 163 yards to 11 feet for a birdie on 18.

De Jonge also was in contention going into the final round of the Transitions Championship, where he was just one stroke off the lead. But he shot a final round 73 to slip into a tie for fifth.

He seemed undaunted about facing down Stricker in the final round of this one.

“I think anybody’s got a chance that’s within a couple,” de Jonge said. “Obviously you’re going to have to play a good round of golf. But yeah, I think everybody feels like they’ve got a chance.”

 

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U.S. Ryder Cup team arrives in Paris

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 3:27 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The U.S. Ryder Cup team landed in Paris just before 1 p.m. (local time) on Monday and most players headed to the hotel to rest following a long week at the Tour Championship.

“I’m not going to be at the golf course tomorrow,” Justin Thomas said on Sunday following his final round at East Lake.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk said he encouraged his players to take a day to rest and recover with a busy week looming. Half of Furyk’s team have never played Le Golf National, site of this week’s matches, and the next three days promise to be a crash course in learning the nuances of the layout.


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“These next three days are very key for us and very important in practice to get to know this golf course, to understand as best we can the ins and outs,” Furyk said.

Thomas played the French Open on the Ryder Cup course in July and Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau made a scouting trip to Le Golf National prior to The Open.

“I was always a guy who broke down golf courses in a major trying to learn, like at a major championship, trying to learn a golf course in 36 holes and be very prepared for that round on Thursday,” Furyk said. “That's what we're going to have to do, and the European side is going to know the golf course a lot better.”

Tiger Woods' First Win in Five Years Leads to Highest-Rated FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 24, 2018, 3:05 pm

5.21 Overnight Rating Becomes Highest-Rated PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

18.4 Million Minutes Streamed on Sunday (+561% YoY); Most-Streamed NBC Sports Sunday Golf Round Ever (Excluding Majors)

 NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:15 p.m. ET) earned a 5.21 Overnight rating, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast is up 206% vs. 2017 (1.70).  It also becomes the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-’18) and the highest-rated PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excluding majors). Coverage peaked from 5:30-6p (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion, only trailing the peaks for The Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 p.m. ET) posted at 4.35 Overnight rating, which is the highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (2000-’18).

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Sunday’s Final Round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports’ Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (Noon-1:30p) also earned a .74 Overnight rating to become the highest Sunday lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-’18).

This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris, beginning with the premiere of its latest Golf Films’ project, Famous 5, tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The network’s Ryder Cup week programming will be led by nearly 30 hours of its Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

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As Woods marched toward victory, the masses followed

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 2:26 pm

ATLANTA – As Tiger Woods made his way to East Lake’s 18th green and a victory that was five years and four back surgeries in the making the masses that had tracked his every move crested the gallery ropes and began rushing down the fairway behind the day’s final group.

The decorum of golf was temporarily whisked away by the urgency of the moment and a career that had come full circle under a blinding public spotlight.

Just as Woods was making his way to his 80th PGA Tour title Paul Casey was stepping to a stage behind the 18th green to speak with the media and glanced at a television that was showing the pandemonium in all of its raucous glory.

“It’s mental,” Paul Casey smiled. "He’s the only person who does that. It’s cool.”

For two days fans flocked to East Lake to get a glimpse at history, Woods’ long-awaited return to the winner’s circle after five seasons of setbacks and substandard play. The knock on the Tour Championship has always been its utter lack of atmosphere. That changed last week.

Despite sporting the season’s 30 best players and the lingering $10 million drama of the FedExCup champion since 2007, the finale has always felt more like a cozy member-guest.

Even the 2009 edition - which was headlined by an epic duel between Woods and Phil Mickelson that finished with the former winning the season-long race and the latter hoisting the Tour Championship trophy - didn’t deliver anything even approaching buzz.

It’s this general lack of excitement that, at least in part, prompted the Tour to dramatically overhaul both its schedule and the format for the finale. Beginning next year the Tour Championship will be played the week before Labor Day weekend, avoiding the stifling shadow of football.


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But not even football’s draw could rob last week’s event of its celebrity thanks entirely to Woods’ weekend at East Lake, an inspiring performance that featured six birdies through his first seven holes on Saturday and a commanding if not technical performance on Sunday.

With fans lined five and six people deep down the first fairway, Woods wasted no time giving the public what they wanted with a birdie at the first that echoed to every corner of the property, and when he scrambled for par at the 17th hole the stage was set for one of the season’s most rowdy finishes.

The bedlam that broke out on the 18th hole as Woods completed his round was like a scene from an old Open Championship, when fans were allowed to walk down fairways behind players.

“That was awesome,” said Woods’ caddie Joey LaCava. “I kept telling the cops, as long as they don’t trample us let them keep coming, why not? That was fun. This is what golf needs, right? They don’t do it for anyone else.”

The quiet game with its gentile rules had gone mainstream. Officials often talk of attracting a more general sports fan to the game and this is what it looks like – loud and unapologetic.

Woods has always transcended golf and his appeal has drawn many to the game, but this comeback from injury has reached even further to an element of the public that appreciates how far he’s come this season if not the nuanced brilliance of his game.

“I was talking to Rory about it. I think Tiger played here in 2013, but in 2014 when Rory and I were in the final pairing, we didn't have this many people, and he was the No. 1 ranked player in the world at the time,” said Billy Horschel, who played three groups ahead of Woods on Sunday. “It shows you what he does for an event, and it's exciting. We miss it because there's always that extra buzz, that extra energy around the course, and for someone like me, a player that feeds off that, I love it. I actually absolutely love having more fans, more energy. It just makes me play that much better, and especially when I get in contention, I thrive off it.”

Record and raucous galleries are nothing new for Woods, but this season has been particularly intense.

When he began the final round of the Valspar Championship in March a stroke off the lead record crowds flocked to Innisbrook Resort, a normally subdued stop on the circuit, and roared for his every shot.

The intensity grew with each missed opportunity. A tie for fifth place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a fourth-place finish at the National followed by a tie for sixth at The Open all set the stage for the season’s most frenzied moment, Woods’ runner-up showing at the PGA Championship.

The prospect of a breakthrough combined with a St. Louis fanbase starved for major championship golf reached a crescendo on Sunday when even Woods had to stop on his way to the scoring area to marvel at the masses.

The crowds at East Lake weren’t to the level to those that made Bellerive the year’s largest party on grass, but it’s the most recent example of how Woods, a heathy and hungry Woods, continues to reach well beyond golf.

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Maybe U.S. Ryder Cup team has too much leadership

By Brandel ChambleeSeptember 24, 2018, 2:05 pm

In the annals of mistaken predictions, Wired magazine’s challenge to Apple in 1997 to “Admit it, you’re out of the hardware game” might be worth downloading on your iPhone to remind you the next time someone gives you a sure bet, or in this case a sure loser. In the past 17 NFL seasons exactly two teams that were predicted to win it all went on to win the Super Bowl. From 1979-2014, 13 horses won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and every one of them from Spectacular Bid to California Chrome either failed to win or didn’t even start at the Belmont. All would have been favorites to win—which brings us to the United States and the Ryder Cup.

Yes, I know the USA won the Ryder Cup in 2016, but the Americans haven’t won on foreign soil since 1993, so what is the likelihood that Paris will be any different from Spain, England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland?

I have been told, mostly by those defending the losses of the U.S. teams, mind you, that match play is unpredictable, that on any given day anyone can win.

A fair point. After all, Brian Barnes did beat Jack Nicklaus twice in one day at the Ryder Cup.

But a closer look at the career Ryder Cup records of both men – Nicklaus, 17-8-3; Barnes, 10-14-1 – it’s obvious that, just as in medal play, over time the best players will win more often regardless of the format.

Tiger Woods’ singles match play record (Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, WGC Match Play, etc.) as a pro is 50-16-2. Add what he did as an amateur, winning six USGA match-play events in a row -- three U.S. Juniors and three U.S. Amateurs -- the argument that match play is unpredictable becomes less convincing. Indeed, by any definition the best match-play players of all time would include Woods, Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, who could easily be supported as the best medal-play players of all time as well.

Over time, the unpredictability of match play washes away to insignificance.



Only 12 of the 28 points up for grabs at the Ryder Cup involve singles matches. The other 16 are contested in team-play events. To understand the nature of that format, we must go beyond the obvious factors of world rankings and who is home or away and into the very nature of group dynamics, which it seems to me is what the Ryder Cup is really about.

In the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers reported what happens when groups of leaders are put together to collaborate.

The results were about as pretty as, well, the United States’ Ryder Cup record since 1995.

In one experiment, six people were divided into three pairs. One person in each pair was told they were the leader and given complete control of a task in which they were to build a tower out of toothpicks and candy. The leaders were told to make all of the group’s decisions and even determine how much money was to be divided among them should their group design the highest tower. A control group, with no power manipulation, also took part.

After this task was completed, the six people were divided into two groups with all three of the leaders in one group and all three of the followers in another group. They were assigned the creative task of designing a business. Independent judges rated the creativity and the interaction of the various groups. The control group and the followers’ group generated more creative ideas than the leaders’ group, which had more conflicts and proved less likely to work with each other and share ideas. More tests followed, with similar results.

The research suggests that while leaders are very good at learning how to influence others, they are less likely to learn how to follow. As a result, when groups of leaders get together they may have difficulty in coordinating their activity.

University of Texas professor Paul Woodruff, a classics scholar whose knowledge of the ancient world and military background influence his classes on leadership, often lectures about the problems that occurred as far back as recorded history among groups and armies when there were too many leaders. It is necessary, he argues, especially in this era where the assumption is that everyone should strive to be a leader, that leaders also know when to follow to optimize the potential of a group.

Professor Woodruff often makes the analogy that today’s business world is not unlike the story in Greek mythology where Agamemnon struggled for years with how to best manage the Greek heroes Achilles, Ajax and Odysseus, who fought for him against the Trojan army. Is it merely a coincidence that Odysseus finally conceived of the Trojan horse and the Greeks defeated the Trojans, after Achilles and Ajax had died?

As Professor Woodruff would say, there is only one corner office and only one No. 1.

Tiger Woods has been the No. 1 player in the world for an astonishing period of 683 weeks. Phil Mickelson, though he never ascended to No. 1, has been the second-ranked player in the world a record 270 weeks. Additionally, Phil has been in the top 20 in the world rankings 1,085 weeks, a staggering period of 20 years and 10 months—more than twice the time of the Greek and Trojan war if you are keeping count, and 2 1/2 years longer than Tiger has spent in the top 20.

Quite clearly, Tiger and Phil have been the dominant forces in the world of golf over the last 20 or so years.

Except at the Ryder Cup.

Since 1979, the year the Ryder Cup first became a competition between the United States and Europe, six men from either the U.S. or Europe have won four or more majors: Woods, Mickelson, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Rory Mcilroy. Their Ryder Cup records are as follows:

Woods, 13-17-3, for a win percentage of 43.94

Mickelson, 18-20-7, for a win percentage of 47.87

Watson, 10-4-1, for a win percentage of 70.00

Ballesteros, 20-12-5, for a win percentage of 60.81

Faldo, 23-19-4, for a win percentage of 54.35

Mcilroy, 9-6-4, for a win percentage of 57.89

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the only two players that have losing records in the Ryder Cup are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Perhaps too it’s a coincidence that Tiger and Phil have played on seven Ryder Cup teams together and those teams have lost six times, with their only win coming in the most unlikely of comebacks at Brookline in 1999. It is worth noting that the average world ranking of the seven teams that Tiger and Phil have played on together have been almost twice as good as Europe’s, but those U.S. teams have been outscored, 109 1/2 to 84 1/2 points.

The combined records of Tiger and Phil on those teams? 23-33-8.

The week before the Ryder Cup in 2002, during the WGC-American Express event, Tiger was asked which event was more important to him, the WGC or the Ryder Cup. The WGC, he said. When asked why, he said flatly, “I can think of a million reasons,” which was the exact number of dollars he won that week. That same week he was asked if, because of the formalities at the Ryder Cup, multiple practice rounds and dinners , etc., all of which Tiger had complained about, would he consider one day skipping the event. To which he replied, “Let me ask you a question, would you rip me?” Implying that the obligation to play trumped the honor of playing.

The day before the 2004 Ryder Cup, Phil Mickelson practiced not with his team, but by himself… on another golf course, and in 2014 Mickelson flew not with his team to the Ryder Cup but by himself, on his own plane, to Scotland. And at the end of the week, after yet another U.S. loss on foreign soil, when he was criticizing the strategy, not only of captain Tom Watson but of every captain that he had played for since Paul Azinger, he said that, “Nobody here was involved in any decisions,” although he had been asked at the beginning of the week who he wanted to play with and certainly would’ve made the decision all by himself to not fly with his team to Scotland.

The point of rehashing the inelegant nature of some of Tiger and Phil’s Ryder Cup moments is merely to underscore how in my opinion they have been awkward participants both in their words and in their actions and that, combined with their competing personalities, has been the larger part of the losses of the teams they have played on.

The “Blame Game” is never fun and there is no clearly defined responsibility for who’s accountable in each of these losses. Many want to claim that Europe simply cares more, a query put to many a player on both teams and dismissed by all, but none so poignantly as Lee Westwood back in 2002 when he stated that whoever said such a thing was speaking out of their backside, asking everyone thereafter to pardon his French. He went on to say that he had seen up close the passion in the eyes of the American players and that they wanted the Ryder Cup not one ounce less than the Europeans.

Many want to argue that the Europeans just get along better and that makes all the difference, as if camaraderie alone would allow them to beat a team nearly twice as good as them over and over and over again. While camaraderie is hugely important to a team optimizing its potential, relationships ebbing and flowing as they do, it cannot be as simple as the Europeans have a few more laughs so they dominate a team nearly twice as good as them for more than 20 years.

More likely it has been a combination of Europe coming close to optimizing its potential, a sort of alchemy that has eluded the United States, who has come nowhere close to optimizing its. The various U.S. captains, just as Agamemnon struggled with a surplus of heroes 3,000 years ago, have struggled to get the best out of the two best players in the world for the better part of two decades. It’s the Tiger and Phil dilemma, if you will. Which given the lopsided losses of the teams that they have been on together, is at least a plausible explanation for the results.

It’s possible that there simply has never been two stronger competing personalities on a U.S. team than the duo of Tiger and Phil. Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup captaincy will likely be defined by the impact that Tiger and Phil have on his team, and while both seem to have adopted a generosity of spirit toward the Ryder Cup in recent years, it remains to be seen if their presence on a team can be directed toward a purposeful whole.