Caddie Cowan set for 10th Ryder Cup
The competition is as intense as ever. The biggest difference might be his suitcase.
“We got next to nothing back then – a couple of sweat shirts, I think,” Cowan said. “We certainly get treated better than we did at my first one. Now we get all kinds of clothes. We fly over on the charter. They pay us nicely. Some guys say it isn’t enough, but I think it’s enough. The competition … there’s nothing like it.”
No other American brings as much experience to the matches as Cowan, and few have seen so much through so many players. Jim Furyk, his current boss, will be the fourth player for whom Cowan has caddied at the Ryder Cup.
He was on the bag for Peter Jacobsen in 1985 at The Belfry and for Fred Couples four years later (Couples hired Joe LaCava the following season). Jacobsen returned to the Ryder Cup in 1995, and Cowan worked for Tiger Woods at Valderrama in 1997. This will be his fifth consecutive Ryder Cup working for Furyk.
The biggest regret is playing on only two winning teams – the comeback at Brookline in 1999, and last time at Valhalla.
His favorite memory was two years ago at Valhalla, when Furyk won the cup-clinching point on the 17th hole, the matching ending with a handshake when Miguel Angel Jimenez conceded Furyk a short par putt.
“It was a matter of circumstances, but having Jim actually be the clincher, that was pretty much a nice memory – a thrill,” he said.
As for the worst?
Cowan went back to the 18th hole at The Belfry in 1989, when Couples was in a pivotal match against Christy O’Connor Jr. All square on the 18th, with Couples having blasted a 300-yard drive, O’Connor hit 2-iron to about 3 1/2 feet for a birdie he never had to putt.
“One of the most phenomenal shots in the history of the game,” Cowan said. “Freddie had a 9-iron and flared it out to the right. I felt awful for him. That was probably my worst memory, although I got to witness one of the greatest shots in the history of the competition.”
That wasn’t the only stunning loss. Cowan was with Woods when the world’s No. 1 player lost to Costantino Rocca in 1997. And he was with Furyk when Paul McGinley made a 6-foot par in 2002 at The Belfry to halve the match and give Europe the outright victory.
As for the most bizarre moment, consider a fourballs match between Jacobsen and Brad Faxon against Seve Ballesteros and David Gilford at Oak Hill in 1995.
Thinking that Faxon was in for par, Jacobsen rapped his long birdie putt about 4 feet beyond the hole and picked it up. Only then did he realize Faxon had taken a penalty drop from behind a willow tree in the fairway.
“That might be my worst memory, now that I think about it,” Cowan said. “I don’t even want to go into it.”
But he’ll go to Celtic Manor looking forward to these matches as much as he did 25 years ago.
“It’s always been an intense competition,” he said. “I guess just like the rest of the world of golf, it’s gotten bigger. But it’s the same intensity. The players treat it the same way.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The race for PGA Tour player of the year has only widened since the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Matt Kuchar’s win at The Barclays was a reminder how consistently well he has played this year. He is leading the PGA Tour money list and has the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Dustin Johnson is getting more attention with his victory at Cog Hill. That’s his second win, along with a chance at two majors. The notion of a “sympathy vote” for Whistling Straits is silly. What resonates with players is not that Johnson failed to win, but that he put himself in position to win. Johnson and Phil Mickelson are the only players this year to be in serious contention on the back nine of two majors.
A win at the Tour Championship by Mickelson, Johnson, Kuchar, Steve Stricker or Ernie Els might wrap it up. Don’t forget that Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose also have two wins.
Meanwhile, the PGA of America’s award is based on points and shows just how close this is. Stricker is atop the standings with 52 points, followed by Mickelson and Matt Kuchar at 50 points, and Els at 47 points.
Kuchar nudged ahead of Stricker for the Vardon Trophy last night, although that might not be decided at the Tour Championship. Kuchar is likely to play a Fall Series event or two, while Stricker is likely to strap a bow over his shoulder and go looking for deer.
HUNTER’S RIBS: Hunter Mahan makes it sound as though his pre-round routine is eat, stretch, hit balls and pop his ribs into place.
Mahan appeared to show discomfort in his back during the third round of the BMW Championship. He revealed after the round that a couple of ribs on the lower left side were out – and that this wasn’t the first time it happened.
“It happens almost every week, but this time it was in a little different place,” Mahan said. “It’s usually a little higher up. This one was a little low. Usually, it doesn’t hurt that much.”
Mahan said the ribs popped out of place when he drew a deep breath.
He said all this in such a matter-of-fact manner that when someone asked if it would affect the Ryder Cup, he laughed. Then, he tried to figure out where to put himself on the list if the Ryder Cup had an injury report like in the NFL.
“Doubtful. No, questionable,” he said. “Isn’t Tom Brady always questionable?”
MASTERS: Kevin Streelman and Jeff Overton are among five players in the Tour Championship who will be making their Masters debut next April. What sets them apart is that they have yet to win on the PGA Tour.
Streelman is getting a lot of attention for only having one good week against a strong field to get to East Lake.
As for being without a tour victory and going to the Masters. It happens more than one might think. There were six PGA Tour members at Augusta National who had never won on tour – John Merrick, Ricky Barnes, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman, Steve Marino and Jason Dufner.
There were five such players each of the previous two years.
DIVOTS: The Tour Championship will only have 25 of the top 50 players in the world ranking, and six of the top 10. … Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan are the only players to reach the Tour Championship all four years of the FedEx Cup. … The LPGA does not resume until the week after the Ryder Cup.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Since securing a spot on his first Ryder Cup team, Jeff Overton has not finished in the top 50 and has a scoring average of 72.8 in his past four tournaments.
FINAL WORD: “I was beating myself up. I wasn’t playing against anyone else, I was only playing against myself. And that’s probably worse than playing against everybody else.” – Robert Allenby on his bid to make the Tour Championship.
Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open
A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.
Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.
Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.
"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...
"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."
Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.
As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.
"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."
For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.
Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months
Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.
Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.
After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.
"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."
Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.
And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.
"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.
"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."
Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity
Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.
On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.
In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids.
Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.
Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'
Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.
He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.
McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.
"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."
Check out the full interview below: