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.

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.