European caddie looping for Koepka at Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 17, 2016, 2:07 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – Ricky Elliott always hoped he could be in the Ryder Cup, the dream of any aspiring golfer from Portrush in Northern Ireland.

He finally got there as a caddie, which is not unusual.

Except that he'll be working for the other team.

''I'll be getting plenty of good needle, but it's all in good fun,'' said Elliott, the caddie for American player Brooks Koepka for the last three years. ''Whenever I'm out here, I stay with Kenny (Comboy), Billy (Foster) and all the other European caddies because we have the same things in common. I still am European. When it comes down to the matches, might they be a little wary in the team meeting? You just don't know. But it's all about getting the cup back to this side of the pond.

''And I'm working for the American team.''

The Ryder Cup is all about the flag, Europe against the United States, three days of frenetic golf and fanatical cheering.


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The PGA of America only began keeping records of Ryder Cup caddies in 1995. No European caddie worked for the American team in the last two decades, and no one could think of a European caddie on the American side in the decades before that.

If anything, there are stories of Europeans who didn't work.

Terry Holt of England worked for Paul Azinger in 1993, but chose not to go with him to the Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Dave Musgrove of England declined to work for Lee Janzen in 1997 at Valderrama, fearing a conflict in interest. ''He didn't want to be in a bad situation. People might wonder about his loyalties,'' Janzen said then.

The most recent example was Andy Sutton, the English caddie whom Ben Curtis hired when he won the British Open at Royal St. George's. Curtis qualified for the Ryder Cup in 2008 at Valhalla, and Sutton didn't want to work for him that week.

''We had talked about it in the past and he said, 'If you ever make the Ryder Cup, I can't work for you,''' Curtis said. ''When it came about, I remember saying to him, 'Are you serious?' He said: 'I can't. I'll catch too much grief from the other European caddies.' He decided it might be better for me to have someone else.''

Curtis hired Tony Navarro for the week. He said years later, Sutton regretted not working for him at the Ryder Cup.

What's in store for Elliott?

''I have no worries about him,'' said John Wood, who caddies for Matt Kuchar and will be working at his sixth Ryder Cup. ''There might be some out there I would be concerned about, but not Ricky. I think he'll jump right into the feel of the team and be part of it. I think it would be difficult if you had somebody who had been on a European Ryder Cup team and then came into the U.S. room. But for Ricky, it will be a fresh experience for him.''

There have been examples of American caddies working for European players in the Ryder Cup - Jerry Higginbotham for Sergio Garcia in 1999, and Lance Ten Broeck for Jesper Parnevik in 1999 and 2002.

''It was kind of weird in the beginning,'' Ten Broeck said. ''I remember I was kind of concerned about doing it, but the more I spoke to Hal Sutton, he said: 'Why wouldn't you do it? That's who you work for.' And I spoke to Jesper about it a long time. This is a golf match, not a war. And it's one of the great experiences.''

Elliott played college golf at Toledo, competing against Curtis at Kent State, and stayed in America. He lives in Florida near Graeme McDowell, one of his best friends from Portrush, and decided last year to become a U.S. citizen.

''I had to say a sentence in English and I had to spell a word, and I just squeaked by that,'' Elliott said in his sing-song Irish lilt. ''There was about 80 of us in the room and 2,000 people had come to watch. I was there on my own, sitting beside a wee Chinese man waving the flag. It was cool. I've spent half my life over here. You're still always where you're from, but I'm pleased as punch to be an American citizen.''

Elliott was trying to find a golf pro job during the economic downturn in 2008 when he caddied for Maarten Lafeber on the European Tour, and then Curtis. He was between jobs when Koepka, who began his career on the European Tour, received an exemption to the 2013 PGA Championship and his regular caddie had visa problems.

''First time I ever met him was on the range at the PGA,'' Elliott said. ''He's striping these shots and I'm like, 'Happy days.' I was still in Europe, but you know what it's like when you see a good player. He made the cut that week, played with Tiger (Woods) on Sunday and said to me in the locker room, 'Do you fancy doing a few in Europe?'''

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Z. Johnson looks to end victory drought at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

Nearly three years after his most recent victory, Zach Johnson has a chance to get back into the winner's circle at the Valero Texas Open.

Johnson started the third round at TPC San Antonio with a share of the lead, and he maintained that position after closing out a 4-under 68 with a birdie on the final hole. At 13 under, he is tied for the lead with Andrew Landry and one shot clear of Trey Mullinax as he looks to win for the first time since The Open in 2015.

"Different wind today. Misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above," Johnson told reporters. "But truthfully, I mean my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities, especially on the back side."

Johnson started slowly, making the turn in even-par 36, before carding four birdies on the inward half. It was a microcosm of his week at TPC San Antonio, where Johnson is even through three trips across the front nine but has played the back nine in 13 under while picking up more than six strokes on the field in strokes gained: putting.

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009 when it was held at nearby La Cantera, but he has only cracked the top 10 once since it shifted venues in 2010. But facing off in the final group against two players who have yet to win on the PGA Tour, the veteran hopes to capitalize on his back-nine prowess this week in order to deliver career win No. 13.

"I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side, and that was give myself opportunities on every hole," Johnson said. "I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well. So it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch."

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Mullinax fires course-record 62 at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 9:01 pm

Trey Mullinax surged into contention during the third round of the Valero Texas Open, shooting a 10-under 62 that set a new course record on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.

Mullinax started the day seven shots off the pace, but his sizzling round left him alone in third place through 54 holes, one shot off the lead. The former Alabama standout caught fire on the back nine, shooting a 7-under 29 despite a bogey after chip-ins for eagle on No. 14 and birdie on No. 16 to go along with an eagle on the home hole.

"It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had," Mullinax told reporters. "To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good."

Mullinax appeared headed for a missed cut after a 74 in the opening round, but he bounced back with a second-round 68 to earn a weekend tee time and his third-round score broke the previous course record of 63 held by multiple players.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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The 25-year-old finished 137th in FedExCup points last season, leaving him with only conditional status this season. His lone top-10 finish of the year came at the Valspar Championship, where he survived a Monday qualifier and went on to tie for eighth, and this marks only his third start since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

"Obviously I would like to play a little more, but the tournaments I get in, I'm really excited about playing golf," Mullinax said. "I've loved every start I've gotten, and I'm very thankful to be in the position I'm in."

Mullinax holed a putt to clinch a national title for the Crimson Tide in 2014, and he finished T-9 at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But success has been fleeting among the professional ranks, meaning Sunday's opportunity to notch a career-best finish or breakthrough victory is nothing short of enticing.

"I'm sure you'll be nervous," Mullinax said. "To have a chance to win or just go play good golf is what I came here for, so that's what I'm going to do."

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Quiros maintains one-shot lead through 54 in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 7:46 pm

RABAT, Morocco - A birdie on the last hole gave Alvaro Quiros a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Trophee Hassan II.

Quiros' birdie on No. 18 allowed the Spanish golfer to sign for an even-par 72 on Saturday to stay at 7-under par overall and clear of four players in second place.

South African pair Erik van Rooyen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, France's Alexander Levy, and Finland's Mikko Ilonen were just a shot behind at 6 under heading into the final day at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat.

Quiros is a seven-time winner on the European Tour, but went six years without a victory until last year with his triumph at the Rocco Forte Open in Italy.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


He's seeking a wire-to-wire victory in Morocco after sharing the first-round lead with Bradley Dredge before taking it outright on Day 2.

Quiros had an on-off day in the third round - he said it was ''suddenly great shot, suddenly not so good'' - and carded four birdies and four bogeys to come out even and still hold on to his lead.

Van Rooyen shot 71, Bezuidenhout 68, Levy a 69, and Ilonen the best round of the week so far with his 6-under 66.

Ilonen had seven birdies and just a single bogey - on his first hole - to leap 23 places up the leaderboard and into contention for a first tour title since 2014 when he won the World Match Play Championship.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.