Notes: Match Play changes; Spieth eyes Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonFebruary 25, 2014, 10:39 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – During a 7 1/2-minute chat with reporters on the Match Play Championship future, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem used the word ''change'' only once when he said, ''I wouldn't assume we're going to change at this point.'' On two occasions he said, ''I wouldn't rule out anything.''

Glad to get that cleared up.

The future depends largely on whether – or how quickly – the Tour can find a title sponsor to replace Accenture. A sponsor would have a lot of input on where it was played. While the players were not fond of Dove Mountain, Accenture loved being at The Ritz-Carlton.

Colombia remains a big part of the discussion. It's critical for golf to make a good first impression in the Olympics in 2016 – the IOC decides in 2017 whether to keep it on the program beyond 2020 – and getting South American fans acclimated to the highest level of golf wouldn't hurt.

The Match Play Championship hasn't left the U.S. since it went to Australia in 2001 and 28 players didn't show up. That was mainly because it was held so close to the holidays. Then again, there is concern a move out of the country would keep some players (most Americans) from going.

Thomas Bjorn noted the absence last week of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson and said, ''You've got to be careful that you don't put it out where more guys say no. It's a big deal that they're not here. If it goes to Colombia, you still get 90 percent of the guys. And you'll be missing a few.

''Tiger and Phil not here matter this week,'' he said. ''Any World Golf Championship, if they're not teeing it up, loses the feel of a big event. The tour needs to speak to them.''

The only hint Finchem offered was that the Tour would not be inclined to take the Match Play to an existing market, citing La Costa (20 miles from Torrey Pines) as an example. Tucson is not out of the picture, though Dove Mountain is most likely out. Finchem noted how such a large property kept down the energy (noise) level.

Finchem also said this would be a good time to ''dust it off and see if there's a better way to do it'' when asked about the format. A sponsor and TV might prefer a model where players are guaranteed at least a couple of days, and one plan getting the most attention is 36 holes of stroke play to qualify for match play.

He hopes to have a solution in the next month or so.


GOOD RETURNS: A year ago, the only way Jordan Spieth could get into a PGA Tour event was through help of a sponsor's exemption. By the end of the year, he was a PGA Tour winner and regarded as one of the rising stars in golf.

He has a two-year exemption. He is No. 12 in the world ranking. He's in all four majors. He has the Ryder Cup on his mind.

And he has a balancing act in his sophomore season.

Spieth can set his own schedule, but he also wants to honor the tournaments that gave him his start.

''I'm going to do both,'' the 20-year-old Texan said. ''I love playing in my home state. But it's a fine line of not playing every event and owing back to those who helped me get here. If I end up playing a lot of golf, I'll be OK. I'm young.''

He hasn't determined his schedule going forward. Spieth already has played Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, two tournaments that gave him exemptions a year ago (he loves Pebble Beach, anyway). He got his biggest break by tying for second in Puerto Rico, but that's the same week as the World Golf Championship in Doral for which he's eligible.

Spieth played 23 tournaments last year. He expects that number to be at least 25 this season. The only events he didn't play last year for which he now is eligible are the Masters, The Players Championship, U.S. Open and Bridgestone Invitational.

''The best advice I got was from Zach Johnson,'' Spieth said. ''He told me to make sure I had a two-week break somewhere.''


REDEMPTION: Maybe it's just a coincidence, but two players who had become regulars on U.S. teams are off to good starts this year after being left off the Presidents Cup team last fall at Muirfield Village - Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

Johnson talked about the motivation of being at home when he won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Since then, he tied for sixth at Kapalua and was runner-up in consecutive weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera.

Watson wasn't even considered as a captain's pick for Muirfield Village. In his last three events, he was runner-up in Phoenix, won at Riviera and reached the third round of Match Play.

''It motivates you watching it on TV,'' Watson said. ''I had the second worst year since I've been on Tour, so I knew what I needed to do. Bad golf motivates me.''


QUEL DOMMAGE: This was only the second time in 16 years that the final of the Match Play Championship went extra holes.

Both times, the losing player was from France.

With an asterisk.

Victor Dubuisson lost in 23 holes to Jason Day of Australia. The other runner-up when the championship match went overtime was Andrew Magee, who lost to Jeff Maggert's chip-in at La Costa in 1999.

Magee was born in Paris.


MJ AND POULTER: Ian Poulter made his debut hosting a show on SiriusXM and included an amusing tale from the Ryder Cup involving Michael Jordan.

Poulter said the Chicago Bulls great, a presence at the Ryder Cup the last several years, was watching what turned out to be the pivotal match Saturday afternoon when he and McIlroy defeated Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Poulter birdied his last five holes that match.

''I remember walking off the tee box at 13, looking over and he kind of wagged his – I don't know if you can call it a finger, it looked like an arm – this big finger comes up and he was wagging it at me, pulling a face as if to say, 'We've got you,''' Poulter said on the show two weeks ago.

McIlroy made a big birdie on the 13th to start the comeback – Europe was 2-down through 12 in the match. Poulter took it from there. He recalled seeing Jordan again on the 15th, staring at him.

''I'm a little golfer, Ian Poulter, playing golf in the Ryder Cup, and there's legend basketball player Michael Jordan psyching me out in the Ryder Cup,'' he said. ''And you know what? I said, 'I'm gonna hole this putt.' He'd done that for so many years on a basketball court. He hit the shot time and time again. I said to myself, 'I'm not going to allow him to get in my space.'

''He was playing his basketball game and ... it was my court, and he's not playing ball.''


DIVOTS: With Adam Scott at No. 2 and Jason Day at No. 4, Australia has two players in the top five of the world ranking for the first time since July 2008 (Scott and Geoff Ogilvy). ... Miguel Angel Jimenez has made Pablo Larrazabal and Thorbjorn Olesen his two captain's picks for the EuraAsia Cup on March 27-29 in Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the European team includes the captain, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Stephen Gallacher, Joost Luiten and Graeme McDowell. All 10 were in the Match Play Championship last week. ... Anna Nordqvist at the Honda LPGA Thailand was the first Swede to win on the LPGA Tour since Maria Hjorth at the 2011 Avnet LPGA Classic.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day's victory in the Match Play Championship ended a pair of American streaks – 13 consecutive wins in PGA Tour events and four straight wins in the World Golf Championships.


FINAL WORD: ''I don't see it as being in a groove. I'm just not in a slump right now.'' – Bubba Watson, who has four top 10s in six starts this season, including a win at Riviera and a runner-up finish in Phoenix.

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McIlroy: U.S. Open MC 'blessing in disguise'

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 11:47 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Watching a major championship unfold from the comfort of your living room is never an ideal strategy for any top-ranked pro, but sometimes players are forced to make the best of a bad situation.

Case in point Rory McIlroy, who ballooned to an opening-round 80 at the U.S. Open and never factored after that. The Ulsterman struggled to find a comfort zone at Shinnecock Hills, missing the U.S. Open cut for the third straight year.

But given a few extra days to prep, McIlroy appears to have cured what was ailing him after leading the Travelers Championship field in a number of ball-striking categories during an opening-round 64 that left him one shot behind leaders Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Obviously you never want to miss a cut in a major, but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of the year,” McIlroy said.

Even after hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation during his second trip around Shinnecock, McIlroy went back to the drawing board as he looks to emulate the swing he used in 2010 and 2011 when he won twice on the PGA Tour including the U.S. Open. While he notes that changes to his body will limit his ability to conjure an exact replica, he’s more in search of the positive thoughts that helped get his burgeoning pro career off the ground.

“It’s just trying to go back and, OK, I was swinging it really well then. What was I doing? What was I thinking about? What was the focus on the swing?” McIlroy said. “Just trying to rack your brain to recreate feelings that you had back then. That’s basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really sort of resonated with me, and brought me back to a time when I was swinging it really well, and just sort of went with that feeling.”

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Spieth, McIlroy get back on track at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 11:18 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – What a difference a week makes.

Players speak in unison about a desire to peak four times per year when the major trophies are on the line. But it’s a soft science, easier said than done. Sometimes the key is to play your way onto the biggest stages, while other times the best practice is to build reps far away from the PGA Tour rope line.

Jordan Spieth got to Shinnecock Hills the weekend before the U.S. Open began, logging two full practice rounds before sitting down for his pre-tournament interview. Rory McIlroy went to an even further extreme, basically establishing residency in the Hamptons while playing every top-100 golf course within a 20-mile radius.

They were concerted efforts, carefully calculated plans of attack that both men hoped would yield a second U.S. Open title. They also blew up in their faces in record time.

Spieth was 4 over after just two holes at Shinnecock, while McIlroy played his first 11 in 10 over. Just like that, the best-laid plans got lost in the knee-high fescue as one of a finite number of legitimate shots at major glory went by the wayside before lunch was served.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Both players snuck off the premises well before the course became the weekend storyline, each bearing the battle scars of a missed cut. But given a chance to quickly reverse their fortunes, they both took full advantage at the Travelers Championship.

Spieth has spoken openly in recent weeks about the wars he continues to wage with his own game, as his putter has been downgraded from balky to outright uncooperative. Just as things started to turn around on the greens at the Memorial, his reliable ball-striking began to fade. A full-blown game of whack-a-mole has ensued.

“It’s certainly a testing year for me, and it’s a building year,” Spieth said. “It’s one where I can actually come out stronger. I’ve kind of looked at it that way the last couple months.”

It’s also been difficult for Spieth simply to get out of the gates in recent weeks. His third-place showing at the Masters remains a high water mark, but it was the product of a scintillating finale that came after starting the day well off the pace. Spieth remains candid about the fact that he has lacked a quality chance to win this year, one that he has previously defined as being within six shots of the lead entering Sunday.

All of those factors combined to make his opening 63 especially satisfying, as he returned to TPC River Highlands as defending champ and quickly grabbed a share of the lead, once again carving up a lush layout where he has nothing but positive memories.

“First rounds have been tough for me, trying to do a little bit too much. Trying to get shots back when I drop one and trying to have to birdie easy holes,” Spieth said. “The putter is starting to look better to me, so I can play a little bit more conservatively and still get a lot out of the round.”

McIlroy was alongside Spieth and Zach Johnson before a bogey on the final hole, but even a 6-under 64 matched his low round of the season on Tour. The Ulsterman downplayed his eye-popping score at Shinnecock entering a fresh week, noting that his tee-to-green performance where he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation during the second round might be good enough to win this week at a more vulnerable venue.

It appears his thesis has merit, albeit through one round.

“I did a lot of similar things to what I did today. It’s just a completely different animal,” McIlroy said. “Like, it’s nice getting off to a good start here. But as I keep saying, I’m not playing that differently now than I did last Thursday, and it’s a 16-shot difference.”

Just like his last competitive round, McIlroy missed only one green in regulation. But this time the stat line portends even greater potential, as he also led the field Thursday in driving distance, strokes gained: off the tee and strokes gained: tee-to-green.

McIlroy’s ceiling remains absurdly high, as demonstrated by the way he surged from the pack to win at Bay Hill and seemingly took early command of the BMW PGA Championship without breaking a sweat. It also doesn’t need lowering after a couple errant days on a grand stage.

“I played really well today. I feel like the work that I did over the weekend sort of started to pay off already,” McIlroy said. “Being able to work the ball both ways was something I wasn’t quite as comfortable doing last week.”

Despite flooding their respective scorecards with birdies, neither Spieth nor McIlroy created any distance from the field on a day when low scores were ripe for the picking. A total of 22 players opened with rounds of 66 or better, including four major champions not named Spieth or McIlroy.

But after pouring time, effort and energy into last week’s major and watching it all go so horribly wrong, this was a day to remember that sometimes the solutions are closer than the recent results make them appear.

“I’ve been sticking to the process. I’ve been very positive about making progress from how I got pretty off earlier this year. So it’s nice to see a good score,” Spieth said. “Just glad. The first rounds have been kind of detrimental to me, so it’s nice to be in the thick of things.”

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Spieth shares Hartford lead; Rory 1 back

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 10:35 pm

Just a few miles north but light years removed from the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills, the PGA Tour returned to week-in, week-out normalcy with the Travelers Championship. Here's what happened in the first round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.:

Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Rory McIlroy (-6), Peter Malnati (-6), Brian Harman (-6)

What it means: The two biggest names in the field, Spieth and McIlroy, are looking for a boost of confidence after missing the cut in the U.S. Open. Their scores look good, but McIlroy won't be happy about closing with a bogey.

Round of the day: Johnson and Spieth both put up 7-under 63s. Johnson, after a relatively pedestrian 2-under front nine, caught fire on the back, making six consecutive birdies on holes 11-16. A three-putt bogey at the 17th ended the run, and he parred the last for his 63. Spieth, the defending champion, put up two birdies and an eagle on the front and four more birdies on the back. Like Johnson, he had only one blemish, a bogey-5 on the drivable par-4 15th when he hooked his drive into the water.

Best of the rest: McIlroy, Malnati and Harman each shot 64. Malnati eagled the 15th and followed that with birdies at 16 and 17 and a back-nine 29. Harman had a rare birdie on the 444-yard 18th for his 64, but McIlroy threw away a shot at the closing hole to fall out of a share of the lead. His right foot slipped as he was hitting his approach shot, and he missed the green. After taking a drop to get away from a sprinkler head, he was unable to get up and down.

Biggest disappointment: Bubba Watson, a two-time winner of this event, could manage no better than an even-par 70. Two-under through 11 holes, he bogeyed three of the next four.

Shot of the day: Can we safely say that Spieth likes the bunkers at River Highlands? Last year he got up and down from one at the 18th hole to get into a playoff, then he holed out from the same bunker to win the playoff. On Thursday he worked his magic at the par-5 sixth hole, sinking his sand shot for eagle.

Biggest storyline going into Friday: Most eyes will be on Spieth and McIlroy, to see if they're over their U.S. Open funks and gearing up for The Open Championship.

NBC Sports Group to Showcase Top Players in Women's Golf With Comprehensive Coverage of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, June 25-July 1

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

Golf Channel and NBC to Combine for More Than 40 Hours of News, Tournament and Instruction On-Site from Kemper Lakes Golf Club, Most in Tournament History 

KPMG Ambassador Phil Mickelson to Join Golf Central on Monday, June 25 Live from Soldier Field 

Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani to Headline KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Wednesday, June 27

 

ORLANDO, Fla., June 21, 2018 – Featuring one of the strongest fields of the year, NBC Sports Group will dedicate more than 40 hours of comprehensive on-site news, tournament and instruction coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – most in tournament history – Monday, June 25 - Sunday, July 1. Taking place at Kemper Lakes Golf Club near Chicago, the third LPGA Tour major of the season will be headlined by World No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No. 3 Lexi Thompson, ANA Inspiration champion Pernilla Lindberg and defending champion Danielle Kang. In 2017, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was the most-watched women’s major championship of the year. 

Through the partnership with KPMG, the PGA of America and the LPGA Tour, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has been elevated to become one of the most impactful weeks of the year in women’s golf,” said Molly Solomon, executive vice president of content, Golf Channel. “As the broadcast partner for the championship, we strive to elevate our coverage each year to celebrate not only the best players in women’s golf but also female leaders in the workplace through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.” 

BROADCAST TEAM: Live tournament coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be anchored by Dan Hicks, joined by Paige Mackenzie and Gary Koch in the broadcast booth. Tom Abbott will report from an on-course tower, with Kay Cockerill, Jerry Foltz and Mark Rolfing walking the course. Steve Sands will conduct player interviews. 

NBC SPORTS GROUP TO IMPLEMENT POPULAR “PLAYING THROUGH” ENCHANCED COMMERCIAL BREAKS: Making its debut on NBC at the Ryder Cup in 2016, Golf Channel and NBC will implement the popular “Playing Through” enhancement in an effort to elevate the viewing experience for fans tuning in to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. NBC Sports Group is partnering with several national advertisers to present select commercial breaks in utilizing “Playing Through,” which will employ a split-screen model for a select number of national commercial breaks. This enhanced break will display both the commercial with audio as well as a continuous feed of the tournament action. 

COMPREHENSIVE ON-SITE NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel’s signature news programs, Golf Central and Morning Drive, will provide comprehensive, wraparound news coverage throughout the week, produced on-location at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. In addition to daily shows, Golf Central will present special player news conference shows Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26 and 27, at 5 p.m. ET. 

Rich Lerner will anchor Golf Central’s live coverage alongside LPGA major champion Karen Stupples and Arron Oberholser beginning Wednesday, June 27, with Lisa Cornwell reporting and conducting player interviews. Chantel McCabe will set the stage each day on Morning Drive with on-site interviews and analysis, with Paige Mackenzie joining her Monday-Wednesday. 

PHIL MICKELSON TO JOIN GOLF CENTRAL LIVE FROM SOLDIER FIELD MONDAY, JUNE 25: Kicking off KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week will be the KPMG Windy City Skills Challenge, taking place at Soldier Field in Chicago on Monday, June 25. KPMG Ambassadors Phil Mickelson and Mariah Stackhouse along with athletes from the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Fire, Red Stars and Skywill be conducting a special clinic and skills challenge event with local youth organizations. Mickelson will join Golf Central live from Soldier Field on Monday following the conclusion of the skills challenge. 

SCHOOL OF GOLF ON-SITE AT KEMPER LAKES: School of Golf will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. from on-site at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, with Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal hosting a special short-game episode. Scheduled guests include 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn and her coaches, Golf Channel Academy coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, as well as LPGA major champion Morgan Pressel.  

KPMG WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP SUMMIT: Golf Central will offer news coverage of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, which will be hosted on-site Wednesday, June 27, featuring an assembly of accomplished leaders in sports, business, politics and media to inspire the next generation of women leaders. 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan, Hilary Knight and Maia Shibutani will headline the gathering. NBC Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya will serve as master of ceremonies. The summit will be streamed live on Wednesday on Golf Channel Digital. In addition, portions of the summit also will be streamed via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live. 

DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Golf Channel Digital will feature expanded editorial content during KPMG Women’s PGA Championship week. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell will report from Kemper Lakes Golf Club with columns and daily blogs, and Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will contribute to Golf Channel’s social media platforms with exclusive behind-the-scenes content throughout the week. Golf Channel and NBC also will integrate social media throughout the telecasts, incorporating social media posts from players and fans using the hashtag #KPMGWomensPGA. 

News and tournament action surrounding the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship can be accessed at any time on any mobile device and online via Golf Channel Digital. Fans also can stream NBC Sports’ coverage of live golf via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports app.

 GOLF CHANNEL / NBC LIVE TOURNAMENT AIRTIMES(all times Eastern):

Thursday, June 28

Round 1

11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Golf Channel

Friday, June 29

Round 2

11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Golf Channel

Saturday, July 30

Round 3

3-6 p.m.

NBC

Sunday, July 1

Final Round

3-6 p.m.

NBC

 

The PGA of America and KPMG joined forces with the LPGA Tour in 2015 to create a world-class major championship that not only sustains the 60-year legacy of the former LPGA Championship, but also aims to elevate women on and off the golf course. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship provides a platform to inspire the next generation of women leaders through the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and the KPMG Future Leaders Program.

 -NBC Sports Group-