Notes: Crane heading to British despite no invite

By Doug FergusonJuly 10, 2012, 6:34 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ben Crane was on vacation with his family three years ago when it came to an abrupt end. His brother just happened to notice a crawler on television that said Phil Mickelson had withdrawn from the British Open, and Crane was next alternate to replace him.

There was one problem. This was on a Friday. Crane was in Idaho. The Open was at Turnberry.

''I went to a golf shop and bought every piece of warm clothing they had,'' Crane said Monday. ''I went with my brother, and we had a great time.''

It's a tougher call this year.

The alternate list for the British Open was established Monday by the most recent world ranking. Crane is at No. 54, making him the highest player not eligible, and therefore the first reserve. He is planning to go to Royal Lytham & St. Annes and take his chances of playing a major championship he loves.

But the alternate list won't kick in until the field dips below 156 players.

Even with Mark O'Meara withdrawing Tuesday, there already are 156 players who are exempt or who have qualified for the British Open, which is supposed to have a 156-man field. Still on offer are two spots this weekend to the leading player from the top five, not already eligible, at the John Deere Classic and Scottish Open.

Royal & Ancient spokesman Malcolm Booth said an overbooked Open can happen. For example, there were four Presidents Cup team players who didn't already qualify by being among the top 50 in the world. Three players got in only because they were among the top 20 in the FedEx Cup standings. Both those numbers are unusually high.

''We had this situation in 2008 at Royal Birkdale,'' Booth said. ''By the time a couple of players dropped out, it just resolved itself.''

And that could be the case again.

Webb Simpson has not officially withdrawn, though he is not likely to play because his wife is expecting. There's a chance Jason Day won't travel to England because his wife his expecting their first child. By the time next week gets here, it's possible the field will be down to 156 players.

Even if there were more than 156 players, that's not a problem like it would be for other majors. Another tee time simply would be added. Daylight is not an issue at the British Open, where the final group typically tees off at 4:21 p.m.

Crane took his family vacation in Idaho last week. He headed for the John Deere Classic knowing he was the first reserve, just not certain how many spots he was away from getting in. If it works out for him, this might be the only thing that has gone right for Crane when it comes to the British Open this year.

He was at No. 50 going into the final week of qualifying. Just his luck, Nicolas Colsaerts won the World Match Play Championship that week in Spain, which bumped Crane to No. 51. Plus, he did not enter the British Open qualifier in the Dallas area.

The second alternate is Michael Thompson, who is not playing the John Deere. Thompson plans to monitor the size of the field and decide this weekend if he is close enough to getting in that it warrants the flight over to England.


MOTIVATED MAHAN: Hunter Mahan had a good time making the ''Golf Boys'' video with Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, and it now has more than 5 million views on YouTube. But it also helped serve up some motivation for Mahan.

Early in the video, it is not difficult to detect a slight bulge in his belly. And it's still a slightly sensitive subject.

''Two things,'' Mahan protested when it was brought up last week. ''I'm fitter than I was back then. And the pants were about a 28-inch waist. And I am not a 28-inch waist. They got all the clothes from Goodwill. As soon as I put them on, I said, 'Oh, boy.' I better get this coat on top of me. I don't want to be a fully Monty in front.''

He just looked fuller than he realized.

Mahan said some of his buddies in Dallas gave him some grief. Mahan was never out of shape, though seeing that video made him work even harder. A year later, whatever flab is now muscle. His waist is trimmer. His upper body is thicker. He is stronger, and he cares deeply about his fitness.

''Those are things that are good, because they motivate you,'' he said. ''I've tried to make it a priority and get in the best shape I can. I eat right. You look at (Rory) McIlroy and what he's done. In golf, it pays to be stronger. Over 30 tournaments a year, over 30 years of playing golf, it pays to take care of yourself. You see guys in their 40s, they start breaking down. They try to fix it, but it becomes difficult at that point.''


PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: Most players keep an eye on the top 50 in the world ranking as a major championship approaches. For Jeff Overton, the trick is to stay in the top 100.

Overton, who has not qualified for a major this year, has a spot waiting for him at the PGA Championship, which will be played Aug. 9-12 at Kiawah Island. The final major offers an exemption to all members of the most recent Ryder Cup team, provided they remain within the top 100 in the world on July 29.

Even though he tied for 17th last week at The Greenbrier Classic, Overton dropped to No. 96. Unless the PGA of America gives him an exemption - as it did for Jerry Pate last year in Atlanta - Overton has three weeks to stay inside the top 100.

The other Ryder Cup players are in the same predicament - Ross Fisher at No. 113 and Edoardo Molinari at No. 158.


PLAYING THEIR OWN AGE: To get a sense of how young golf is getting, Andy Zhang and Beau Hossler will be playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur, which starts next week at The Golf Club of New England.

It was only last month that Zhang, 14, became the youngest player in U.S. Open history at The Olympic Club.

Hossler, a 17-year-old going into his senior year of high school, briefly had the lead on Saturday at the U.S. Open, and only a sloppy finish kept him from being low amateur. Two weeks later, Hossler made the 36-hole cut in the AT&T National at Congressional.

Now they are back to playing against guys their own age. And keep this in mind - while Hossler qualified for the U.S. Open last year, he didn't even reach the semifinals of the U.S. Junior.

Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior last year. A sophomore at Texas, he is too old to compete and plans to try PGA Tour qualifying later this year.


DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy has vanished from the golf scene since the U.S. Open. His oldest daughter starts school in San Diego this fall, meaning it no longer is practical for them to spend December in Australia with family. Instead, Ogilvy, his wife and three children have spent the last month in Melbourne, even though it's winter Down Under. ''I'm as far away from the PGA Tour as you can get,'' he said Tuesday. ... The John Deere Classic has a $4.6 million purse. That's the smallest among tournaments that offer full FedEx Cup points, and the prize money is less than two domestic tournaments that are part of the Fall Series. ... Steve Stricker made his 300th career cut at The Greenbrier Classic.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of The Greenbrier Classic have been ranked No. 159 (Stuart Appleby), No. 224 (Scott Stallings) and No. 218 (Ted Potter Jr.).


FINAL WORD: ''The more different guys that win them, the more guys who think they can win them.'' - Geoff Ogilvy, on 15 different players winning the last 15 majors.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

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

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ 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.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.