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Garcia needs strong finish just to make playoffs

By Doug FergusonJuly 25, 2018, 1:15 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three tournaments remain before the top eight players qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, including $10 million or more purses from the World Golf Championship at Firestone and the PGA Championship.

Another deadline quickly approaching is the FedExCup, and Adam Scott did himself a big favor with his tie for 17th at The Open.

Scott moved from No. 123 to No. 107 in the FedExCup standings. He should be set, especially being guaranteed points in two weeks at the Bridgestone Invitational. Scott, who has fallen to No. 73 in the world ranking, gets into Firestone because he played in the Presidents Cup last year.

''There's good stuff in my game,'' Scott said. ''I didn't hit it as well as I wanted this week, but there was still plenty of good in that. My short game is really good, I thought. So if I can just get the rhythm of the golf swing going a little better over the next couple weeks, I really feel like I can make a mark at the PGA and try to put a dent in the end of the season.''

Others remain in a tough spot.

Sergio Garcia missed the cut at Carnoustie and fell to No. 132, which is why he decided to play the RBC Canadian Open this week for the first time since 2001. Garcia has played only 11 events on the PGA Tour this year.

Bill Haas, who took time off from golf after being the passenger in a fatal car accident outside Riviera in February, is at No. 144.

BUSY TIMES: Henrik Stenson banged the top part of his left arm on a door, and it was sore enough that it nearly kept him out of The Open. He could use some quick healing with a schedule that is busier than usual.

A year ago, Stenson was at No. 75 in the FedExCup standings and in danger of not fulfilling his minimum 15 tournaments, so he entered the Wyndham Championship, which he won. Now, the Swede has a World Golf Championship at Firestone and the PGA Championship, and then the title defense at the Wyndham before the FedExCup playoffs start.

''That's why I'm hoping the arm will clear up in a week or so, and I can get back into playing without thinking about that and just working on my game,'' Stenson said. ''If I'm going to play all that golf, I need to pace myself and not do too much. But at the same time, I'm not feeling like I'm firing golf-wise, so you still need to put the work in. So that's a bit of a tough one.''

It's tough in other aspects. The Nordea Masters in Sweden, which he has never won, was moved this year to the same week as the Wyndham Championship.

''So we're disappointing a lot of people,'' he said.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: The PGA Tour Champions has its final major of the year at St. Andrews this week for The Senior Open, and it's been a year of spreading out the victories.

Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Regions Tradition in Alabama. Paul Broadhurst won the Senior PGA Championship. David Toms won the U.S. Senior Open in Colorado, and Vijay Singh won the Senior Players Championship two weeks ago in Chicago.

Missing from the list is Bernhard Langer, who has won majors each of the last four years.

For the last six years, at least one player has won multiple senior majors. The last time the five majors were won by five players was in 2011, when they were won by Tom Lehman, Tom Watson, Olin Browne, Fred Couples and Russ Cochran.

GLOBAL TOURS: Shubhankar Sharma turned pro at 16 and got his start on the Professional Golf Tour of India, which offered small purses and little else. Now, it is one of three small circuits that will start awarding world ranking points.

The board of the Official world Golf Ranking approved India, the All Thailand Golf Tour and the feeder circuit of the Japan Golf Tour into its system. Winners in Thailand and India will get a minimum of five points over 72-hole events, while the Abema TV Tour in Japan awards four points.

''I think it's fabulous,'' Sharma said. ''India has some great players, and the scores are pretty low. I think it's truly one of the better tours in Asia now. It's great we have world ranking points. It will just attract more and more sponsors, and it will help making India bigger.''

The ranking starts one year before the Olympics, and Anirban Lahiri expects quick movement. Lahiri was the first Indian to play in the Presidents Cup, and Lahiri and S.S.P. Chawrasia represented India in the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro two years ago.

''It's unbelievable what that's going to do,'' Lahiri said. ''We're suddenly going to have another 20 guys in the top 300, I think.''

PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE: Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas are in a tight race for the points-based PGA Player of the Year, and none has won a major.

Johnson, Rose and Thomas are all three-time winners (each event is worth 10 points). Johnson leads in scoring average and is third on the money list, while Rose is second in scoring and money. That leaves both of them at 56 points.

Thomas leads the money list and is No. 4 in scoring average, leaving him two points out of the lead.

As for the major champions, that is their only victory this year on the PGA Tour. Majors are worth 30 points, and there is a 50-point bonus for winning two majors.

The PGA Tour's award is based on a vote of the players.

DIVOTS: The R&A reported attendance for the week at The Open at 172,000, a record for Carnoustie. The previous mark was 159,000 in 1999. ... Tiger Woods raised $19,000 for his foundation last month when he auctioned the camouflage bag he used at the Quicken Loans National. The bag was made specifically for Woods to support the tournament's military camouflage day initiative. He autographed it and wrote a personal message to the winning bidder. ... U.S. Junior Girls champion Yealimi Noh and semifinalists Lucy Li were among seven players named to the 12-member Junior Ryder Cup team. Li, who was on the Curtis Cup team, is playing the Junior Ryder Cup for the second time. ... Rory McIlroy was the only player with all four rounds under par at Carnoustie. ... By winning The Open, Francesco Molinari took over the lead in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. It had belonged to Patrick Reed since he won the Masters.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Francesco Molinari and Y.E. Yang are the only players to win a major while paired with Tiger Woods in the final round.

FINAL WORD: ''There's going to be a lot of European guys vying for his partnership in the foursomes at the Ryder Cup, that's for sure.'' - Rory McIlroy on The Open champion Francesco Molinari.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."

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Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

''And it was worth it.''

Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.

Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years

And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

It wasn't all bad.

Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

And that's just what Woods did.

McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

He leaves behind a style all his own.

Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

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CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

Key stats:

 This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

• 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit

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Els eyeing potential Prez Cup players at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:55 pm

Ernie Els is teeing it up this week in South Korea as a player, but he's also retaining the perspective of a captain.

While the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia is still more than a year away, Els has already begun the process of keeping tabs on potential players who could factor on his International squad that will face an American contingent captained by Tiger Woods. Els played in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and this week received one of eight sponsor exemptions into the limited-field CJ Cup on Jeju Island.

Els played a Tuesday practice round with Presidents Cup veteran and Branden Grace and India's Shubankhar Sharma, who held a share of the 54-hole lead last week in Malaysia.

"It's going to be a very diverse team the way things are shaping up already," Els told reporters. "We've got another year to go, so we're going to have an interesting new group of players that's going to probably make the team."

In addition to keeping tabs on Grace and Sharma, Els will play the first two rounds with Australia's Marc Leishman and South Korea's Si Woo Kim. Then there's Sungjae Im, a native of Jeju Island who led the Tour money list wire-to-wire last season.

"There's so many Korean youngsters here this week, so I'm going to really see how they perform," Els said. "Still a long way to go, but these guys, the young guys are going to be really the core of our team."

Els, who will turn 49 on Wednesday, made only five cuts in 15 PGA Tour starts last season, with his best result a T-30 finish at the Valero Texas Open. While it's increasingly likely that his unexpected triumph at the 2012 Open will end up being his final worldwide victory, he's eager to tackle a new challenge in the coming months by putting together the squad that he hopes can end the International losing skid in the biennial matches.

"The U.S. team is a well-oiled team. They play Ryder Cups together, they obviously play very well in the Presidents Cups against us, so they're a very mature team," Els said. "We are going to be a young team, inexperienced. But that doesn't scare me because I know the course very well down in Melbourne, I've played it many, many times. I feel I have a very good game plan to play the golf course strategy-wise and I'm going to share that with my players."