Mailbag Ryder Cup Debate Continues
It was a debacle for the U.S. And the readers are still writing. So many suggestions. Here are a few along with appropriate reaction:
Reader: How about you guys giving credit to the Euros for outplaying the Americans??? How about the fact that the American tour is way, way overrated? Why all the excuses? Why all the analysis? Did an overtaxed Hal Sutton make bad choices? This was a match play event which is not really reflected in the rankings or the points. We should have more match play tournaments, maybe convert the PGA to a match play format.
Hewitt Comment: ABC Sports pioneer Roone Arledge is spinning in his grave.
Reader: It is not unlike the way the English always believed that they had the best national soccer team in the world only to inevitably be beaten by some lesser nation and instantly start campaigning to fire the manager but at least in their case they had actually invented the game!
Comment: America has won more Ryder Cups than World Cups. Thankfully.
Reader: My Big Theory--The PGA should stop conducting Ryder Cups at U.S. Open Venues. The players have a mind set that pars win on those courses. They do--in U.S. Opens. They do not in Fourballs. They can in Foursomes--sometimes.
Comment: Luke Donald is a terrific par maker.
Reader: Have you noticed there is no 'i' in Europe and their players exhibited their tremendous team play with incredible efficiency. To develop a sense of team play, perhaps we can lobby for a name change and drop the 'i' in America. How about 'Ameraca'? or 'Uncle Sam's Men'? or 'a-mer-E-an'?
Comment: There is, however, an i in win.
Reader: Any two-year system of ranking any sport is INSANE. Our Cup teams should go right off the world ranking which should be a sliding scale going back one year with a decreasing multiplier so that the last tournament gave full points, gradually reducing to only 5% of points from a year ago. And major points should only be about 30% more than regular tournaments. Not only do we not field our best team when the cup actually happens, the world rankings erroneously give us the added pressure. Add on the media whose number one agenda is reporting train wrecks, looming over their shoulders constantly, so our guys get so beaten down they withdraw in all ways for weeks following the cup. Let's close this paragraph with more insanity: They have to choose afternoon teams during the morning matches! What an unbelievably bad joke.
Comment: Langer didnt seem to mind.
Reader: I commend you on your analogy that the Americans 'look forward' to the Ryder Cup but the Euros 'live' for the Ryder Cup. Nothing could be closer to the truth than that. The Euros are constantly bringing up new, young talent. Nurturing them, teaching them, exposing them to the pressure cooker that is Ryder Cup play. The Americans on the other hand, keep resting our hopes and dreams on the 'old war horses'. We keep saying, 'he's battle tested', 'he lives for these moments', 'yeah he's older but remember when he... There is far too much of that going on. We need to get some younger talent fired up about these matches. The only fire you ever see from Tiger is during the singles matches.
Comment: Oakland Hills was Tiger Woods fourth Ryder Cup. He has been the youngest player on the American team all four times.
Reader: Can you imagine Chris Riley telling Ben Hogan that he was too emotionally tired to play the afternoon match? The American team is just too soft and it appeared to me that some of them did not care about playing for their country. The next Ryder Cup captain needs to be Bobby Knight. Then we would see who wants to play and who doesn't. No one would tell Bobby Knight that he was not going to practice with the team or that he was too tired to play 36 holes.
Comment: The best part about Bobby Knight coaching the U.S. Ryder Cup squad is Charles Barkley wouldnt be a Captains pick.
Reader: I think that coach Sutton had the right idea but, players like Woods, Mickelson, Haas, DiMarco, Toms and Love don't need a college football coach mentality to inspire them to play well. Pride for their country and the belief in their own abilities should be motivation enough.
Comment: Guess that leaves out Lou HoltzBy the way, Sutton talked for two years about heart and pride. So much so that I thought his Captains picks were going to be Dudley Hart and Dicky Pride.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
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.
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.
Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round
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.
“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.”
Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win
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.”
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.
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
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.
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.”