Notes: Ryder Cup distresses and inspires Sticker

By Doug FergusonSeptember 6, 2016, 5:34 pm

NORTON, Mass. – The Ryder Cup loss at Medinah is what accelerated Steve Stricker's plan to reduce his schedule after 2012.

And it was the Ryder Cup that caused him to fill up his schedule again.

Stricker was not planning to play in any of the FedEx Cup Playoff events. His primary goal this year was to finish in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup so he would be eligible for The Players Championship and other tournaments that he enjoys playing.

So what was he doing at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship?

''There's only one reason I'm here,'' he said over the weekend at the TPC Boston, ''and that's to try to make that Ryder Cup team.''

Stricker felt he was a long shot, but he said U.S. captain Davis Love III, assistant captain Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson kept encouraging him to play. Stricker birdied the last two holes at The Barclays to make the cut, birdied the 72nd hole to assure he would get to Boston and was in position to advance to the third playoff event at Crooked Stick until he closed with a 73.

He all but ruled himself out if he didn't make it to the BMW Championship, suggesting it would be hard to pick a 49-year-old who didn't qualify for the last two playoff events. Love won't announce his three captain's picks until Monday.

Stricker went 0-4 at Medinah in 2012 when Europe rallied from a 10-6 deficit to win the cup. Stricker made a clutch 10-foot par putt on the final hole, but he had to watch Martin Kaymer make his putt to halve the hole and assure Europe would keep the cup.

And he took it personal.

''That took a lot out of me. It put a sour taste in my mouth,'' Stricker said. ''I wasn't too keyed up on the golf and playing a lot. I wanted to be home and do different things. I felt responsible. I played four times and didn't win a point. It was tough to swallow.''

He will be in Hazeltine as an assistant captain, just as he was for Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014. But it was fascinating to see Stricker go from such a bad experience at one Ryder Cup to adding tournaments to his schedule for a chance to play again.

His 15 PGA Tour starts this year were his most since he played 20 times in 2012.

''I guess I wanted to give it one more shot,'' Stricker said.

He is honest to a fault. Stricker said he had several conversations with his wife, Nicky, about whether it would be prudent to pick him even if he made it to the Tour Championship. He looked at himself as a 49-year-old who failed to qualify. She said he wasn't giving himself enough credit.

''She's trying to fire me up and I'm trying to beat myself down,'' Stricker said with a laugh.

Not making it to Indiana for the BMW Championship was hardly the end of the world. Stricker is in The Players Championship, where his daughters love going because they rent a house on the beach. And he gets to stick to his original plan for next week, anyway.

He's going elk hunting.

WALKER'S TURNAROUND: Jimmy Walker had gone 11 straight tournaments without a top 10 when he showed up at Baltusrol and went wire-to-wire at the PGA Championship for his first major and only victory this year.

Out of nowhere? Not really.

Walker traces his victory to the back nine of the RBC Canadian Open, where he closed with a 68.

''I felt like I keyed in on some good stuff in Canada. I started to drive it really well – a nice, tight draw,'' he said. ''Sunday on the back nine, I felt like it came together. I thought, 'This felt awesome.'''

That was the start. Walker played a few nine-hole matches with Rickie Fowler at Baltusrol, hopeful of taking the good form from Canada into the final major. And he did.

It was another reminder of how quickly fortunes can change.

The Deutsche Bank was an important week. Walker missed the cut in his next two events, leading to speculation the PGA Championship was an exception to how he was playing. Walker was a top contender all week at the TPC Boston, doing everything well except making putts. He still finished in third place.

Walker attributed the missed cuts to taking some time off to enjoy his first major, ''which we needed to do.'' And his finish in Boston was a sign he is coming back into form.

RORY'S CRITIQUE: Rory McIlroy does not mind hearing criticism, provided the foundation is factual. That would be just about everything golf-related. The one criticism that got under his skin was that he was spending too much time in the gym.

''If I wasn't in the gym, I wouldn't be here sitting today,'' McIlroy said after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship. ''It's a big part of who I am, it's a big part of my success. That's always I feel an unfair criticism.''

McIlroy said the critics, particularly on television, at least are educated in golf and ''for the most part know what they're talking about.''

''A criticism of my golf game, I take it, and I know what I need to work on and sometimes those people point out the obvious,'' he said. ''But yeah, I would say that's the most unfair criticism I receive is what I do in the gym.''

SCOTT'S BREAK: Adam Scott will play the Tour Championship at the end of the month and then most likely not show up on the PGA Tour until Riviera. Yes, there will be a long break. And there will be plenty of travel.

Scott said he plans to start his new PGA Tour season in Malaysia and Shanghai, just like last year, and then go home to Australia for three events, including the World Cup at Kingston Heath.

The surprise is that he does not plan to be at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. Instead, Scott will play in the Singapore Open on Jan. 19-22, a tournament he has won three times.

DIVOTS: Ryo Ishikawa has resurfaced after playing just once since January because of a back injury and getting married. Ishikawa won two weeks ago on the Japan Golf Tour for his 14th career victory, and was runner-up last week in the Fujisankei Classic. ... Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won the first two PGA Tour events this season, are the only rookies to make it to the BMW Championship. ... U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck will play in the Australian Open on Nov. 17-20 at Royal Sydney. The Aussie will delay turning pro so he can play in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open next year. ... Curtis Cup captain Robin Burke and Blaine McCallister are among those who have been selected for the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. The induction is Oct. 10 in San Antonio. ... Maverick McNealy of Stanford has won the Mark McCormack medal as the No. 1 amateur. He will be exempt to the U.S. Open and British Open next year provided he stays an amateur.

STAT OF THE WEEK: McIlroy joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win three or more FedEx Cup Playoff events. Woods has won four. McIlroy won his third at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

FINAL WORD: ''I came in here rusty this week. There's no driving range at the Winnie Palmer Hospital.'' - Graeme McDowell after missing the cut in the Deutsche Bank Championship. His wife gave birth to a son, Wills, at the start of the week.

Getty Images

Davies wins Senior LPGA Championship

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 10:45 pm

FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- Laura Davies won the Senior LPGA Championship on Wednesday at chilly and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two senior major events of the year.

Davies birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri. The 55-year-old Englishwoman won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open in July at Chicago Golf Club. In March in Phoenix, she tied for second in the LPGA's Founders Cup.

Full-field scores from the Senior LPGA Championship

Davies led wire to wire, finishing at 8-under 208 on The Pete Dye Course.

Alfredsson also shot 70, and Cavalleri had a 71. Michele Redman was fourth at 1 under after a 73. Brandie Burton, two strokes behind Davies after a second-round 66, shot 77 to finish fifth at 1 over.

Juli Inkster followed an 80 with a 73 to tie for 12th at 6 over.

Getty Images

Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

Getty Images

Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

Getty Images

Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”