Getty Images

Birdie run gives Wheatcroft (62) early Deere lead

By Will GrayJuly 13, 2018, 12:16 am

As is often the case, there were plenty of birdies to be found during the opening round of the John Deere Classic. Here's a look at the leaderboard after the opening round, where Steve Wheatcroft's late birdie barrage put him out in front at TPC Deere Run:

Leaderboard: Steve Wheatcroft (-9), Michael Kim (-8), Johnson Wagner (-7), Nick Taylor (-7), Andres Romero (-7), Joel Dahmen (-7)

What it means: Most of the best scores of the day came from the morning wave, including Wheatcroft who set the early pace despite only one top-50 finish this season. The veteran closed with six birdies in a row to cap an inward 29 and put him one shot clear of former Cal standout Michael Kim. While Whee Kim later got within a shot of the lead en route to an opening 65, Wheatcroft was left standing alone at the end of the day as he looks to win for the first time on Tour.

Round of the day: Wheatcroft has struggled mightily this year, entering the week outside the top 200 in the points race and with his best finish coming in the opposite-field event in the Dominican Republic. But he found an extra gear at the close of his opening round, pouring in six straight birdies from Nos. 13-18 that included only one made putt longer than 15 feet. He split his scorecard evenly, making nine birdies and nine pars.

Best of the rest: Michael Kim has struggled to reach the same heights as a pro that he achieved as a star at Cal, but an opening-round 63 quickly put him in contention for his first career victory. Kim started on the back nine and birdied seven of his first 10 holes, with a bogey on No. 8 his only dropped shot of the day and the only thing preventing him from joining Wheatcroft in the lead.

Biggest disappointment: It wasn't a great day for players who typically shine at this event. Zach Johnson (69) and Steve Stricker (70) both sit well off the pace, while defending champ Bryson DeChambeau appeared headed for a missed cut before withdrawing on the 16th hole because of a shoulder injury. DeChambeau was 3 over on his round on a day when most players went well into red figures and now will get an early start on his prep for The Open after a visit to a doctor to assess his injury.

Main storyline heading into Friday: It remains to be seen how well Wheatcroft can handle the top spot given his inconsistent form of late, but keep an eye on Francesco Molinari. The Italian cruised to an eight-shot win at the Quicken Loans National just two weeks ago, and now playing against another watered-down field he sits just three strokes back after an opening 65.

Shot of the day: Working with a 16-year-old caddie that he found via Twitter, Aussie Steven Bowditch holed out for eagle from 172 yards on the par-4 fifth hole. Bowditch went on to shoot a 2-over 73.

Quote of the day: "I'm so far behing the 8-ball at this point. I just want to keep playing golf, keep making birdies." - Wheatcroft, who started the week ranked No. 209 in FedExCup points.

Getty Images

Phil on pairing with Tiger: 'I think we'd both welcome it'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 2:46 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Fourteen years later, Phil Mickelson said that he’d be open to teaming again with Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup.

“I think we would both welcome it,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “I think we would both welcome it.”

Asked whether he thinks it’ll actually happen, Mickelson smiled. “I do have an idea of what Captain (Jim) Furyk is thinking, yeah.”

It’d be a remarkable pairing – again – for America’s two most popular players.

Captain Hal Sutton infamously put the pair together in 2004 at Oakland Hills, when they were Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and nowhere near as friendly as they are now. They failed spectacularly, going 0-2 en route to a blowout loss by the Americans.

Earlier this year, during an interview on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” Furyk shot down any prospect of a Tiger-Phil pairing. “I hope they’re both watching, because they just fell off the couch laughing,” he said. “I wouldn’t guess that would be a good idea as a captain, I’m just saying.”

The two stars’ relationship has improved dramatically over the past few years, beginning with the decision to put both on the Ryder Cup task force. During that time together, Mickelson said, “we realized that we both have a lot more in common than we thought, and I think we both have really come to appreciate working together to achieve things.”

They’ve worked together so well, and so often now, that Woods and Mickelson will now play in a pay-per-view, 18-hole match during Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.

Though Furyk said that the practice-round groups Tuesday were focused more on putting players who hadn’t seen Le Golf National with at least one who has, there were some obvious partnerships who went out together.

Woods was grouped with Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. Rounding out the foursome? Mickelson.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 42nd Ryder Cup

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 25, 2018, 1:15 pm

Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods is competing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. We're tracking him.

Getty Images

Euros wearing yellow ribbons to honor slain golfer

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:51 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – European Ryder Cup team members will wear yellow ribbons this week to honor Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was murdered last week while playing golf.

Arozamena went to school at Iowa State, but she was a native of Spain and won the European Amateur Championship in July. She was attacked and killed Sept. 17 while playing a round by herself at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa.

European captain Thomas Bjorn wore one of the ribbons while addressing media Tuesday at Le Golf National, and he explained that the decision to honor Arozamena came out of a discussion between Ryder Cup Europe and her mother.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“The golfing family extends beyond what we are trying to do this week,” Bjorn said. “It’s nothing about us, but it’s just more about that the golfing family gets touched by these things all over the world. It’s terrible when things like this happen.”

Arozamena considered Ryder Cup stalwart and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia one of her idols growing up, and the two met when she was a child. Garcia sent condolences out via social media last week, saying he was “heartbroken” over her death.

“Such a great prospect for the game of golf she was, but also a wonderful person,” Bjorn said. “When you speak to Sergio and [Spaniard] Jon [Rahm] about it, they couldn’t talk highly enough about her. We felt like that was appropriate for the week.”

Getty Images

Spieth, Reed in different groups during Tuesday practice

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 12:38 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tuesday’s U.S. groupings at the Ryder Cup may give a glimpse into what potential pairings we will see this week at Le Golf National.

In the day’s first foursome, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed played together. The second group included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; and the anchor group was Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Whether those groups will make up captain Jim Furyk’s version of the team’s pods, however, remains to be seen. Given that half of his team has never played Le Golf National, Furyk said he tried to match players on Tuesday with those who had some experience on the course.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“Today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots,” Furyk said. “There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have.”

Given the success of previous pairings and some relatively obvious choices, it seems there are some likely options for the U.S. Woods and DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners and at the Tour Championship they experimented with the other player’s golf balls on Tuesday.

It also seems likely that Spieth-Thomas and Fowler-Johnson will be paired in some form this week.