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Hey, Rook: Inside new PGA Tour crop for 2018

By Will GrayOctober 5, 2017, 12:30 pm

A new PGA Tour season begins this week at the Safeway Open, and with it a new crop of fresh faces are ushered into the spotlight.

There's plenty of reason to expect that at least a few of the newest Tour members will thrive in the coming months. Last season five rookies made it into the winner's circle, including Cody Gribble, Mackenzie Hughes, Wesley Bryan and Grayson Murray.

A total of 23 players have the official rookie designation this season (more on that below), and it's a group that includes several familiar faces to fans who follow both amateur and professional golf. Here's a look at some of the players from the Class of 2018 hoping to follow in the footsteps of newly-minted Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele:

Peter Uihlein, 28

How he qualified: Made the Web.com Tour Finals via non-member FedExCup points, then promptly won the first Finals event to lock up his card.

Skinny: Uihlein is easily the most experienced player in this year's crop, having made 30 career PGA Tour starts and having played the last several years in Europe. But because he never made more than seven PGA Tour starts in any single season, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champ is still classified as a rookie and could be viewed as a favorite to top the class by season's end.


Beau Hossler, 22

How he qualified: Finished 23rd on Web.com regular-season money list

Skinny: Hossler grabbed headlines as a high-schooler at the 2012 U.S. Open, then had a standout career at Texas. A torn labrum delayed his pro debut, but he made up for lost time with two runner-ups in a four-start span this summer. While he has less experience than Uihlein, he won't be classified as a rookie because he made eight PGA Tour starts last season - one more than the rookie threshold allows. It's the same stipulation that kept Jon Rahm from consideration for top rookie honors last season.


Aaron Wise, 21

How he qualified: Finished 18th on Web.com regular-season money list

Skinny: While Hossler sat out the 2016 NCAA championship final with a shoulder injury, Wise powered his Oregon squad to a team title days after earning top individual honors. In his first full season on the Web.com Tour, he won the Air Capital Classic and notched two top-20 finishes during Web.com Tour Finals.


Tom Lovelady, 24

How he qualified: Fell short during the regular season, finishing 29th on the money list, but locked up his card with a T-3 finish in the first Web.com Tour Finals event.

Skinny: Lovelady won a pair of NCAA titles at Alabama while playing on a team that also included Justin Thomas and Bobby Wyatt. After turning pro last year, he started in Canada before earning status at Web.com Tour Q-School in the fall. Now he's poised to join Thomas as the latest Crimson Tide alum on the PGA Tour.


Stephan Jaeger, 28

How he qualified: Finished fifth on Web.com regular-season money list

Skinny: Jaeger was the first professional to shoot 58 in a Tour-sanctioned competition, one week before Jim Furyk pulled off the feat last summer. He went on to win that tournament but he still didn't crack the top 25 on the full-season money list, requiring another year on the Web.com. He gained consistency and won twice in between qualifying for the U.S. Open for the second time in three years.


Austin Cook, 26

How he qualified: Finished 15th on Web.com regular-season money list

Skinny: Cook was a Monday-qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, nearly earning his card after starting the year with no status. After a year on the Web.com, he flourished this past summer and closed out the four-event Finals series with three straight finishes of T-11 or better to move up in the reshuffle.


Corey Conners, 25

How he qualified: Finished 20th on Web.com Tour Finals money list

Skinny: Conners was a runner-up to Gunn Yang at the 2014 U.S. Amateur, and he nearly made the cut at the Masters the following spring. The Canadian opened the year with two straight top-10 finishes on the Web but faded in the summer before snagging one of the last cards available with a pair of top-15 finishes at Finals.

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Slump over? Sergio had 'very positive week' in Portugal

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2018, 8:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Sergio Garcia’s late commitment to the Portugal Masters may have given him the boost he needed for the Ryder Cup.

After failing to qualify for the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoffs, Garcia told European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn that he’d add the European Tour event in Portugal if he were selected to the team as a wildcard pick.

Garcia made good on his promise, and last week he tied for seventh – his best worldwide finish since March.

“I was very pleased the way I played,” he said. “I think I played very, very nicely throughout the whole week, which was nice. It felt like it was a very positive week.”

There hadn’t been many positive weeks throughout the year for Garcia, who has slipped from 10th to 28th in the world rankings. The 2017 Masters champion missed the cut in all four majors and struggled with inconsistency.

Still, Garcia was selected to the European team, and Bjorn often cited Garcia’s intangibles – his familiarity with foursomes, his presence in the team room – in justifying his pick.

Even Garcia conceded Wednesday that his selection had more to do with experience than form.

“That’s probably, to be totally honest, one of the reasons why the vice captains and the captain decided to have me on the team,” he said, “not only for what I can bring on the golf course, but what I can bring outside.”

Garcia may have found the spark that his game desperately needed. Six of his past eight rounds have been in the 60s, and he has shot a combined 27 under par during those two starts.

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McIlroy: Tiger is just one of 12 at Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2018, 7:59 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tiger Woods might be the biggest star in golf, but Rory McIlroy views him as just one of 12 this week at the Ryder Cup.

“We’re not looking at any individuals,” he said Wednesday. “We’re just trying to beat the U.S. team. It’s great what he did on Sunday. But to focus on one player is silly, especially when I might not even see him this week at any point this week because I mightn’t be on the course with him or play against him. …

“We’re looking to beat the U.S. team. We’re not looking to just beat Tiger Woods.”

McIlroy had a front-row seat to Woods’ first victory in more than five years on Sunday. Playing in the final group at the Tour Championship, McIlroy struggled with his driver en route to a final-round 74 and disappointing tie for seventh.

Asked whether there was any element of intimidation at East Lake, McIlroy replied: “That East Lake rough was really tough, yeah. That was the most intimidating part about it. Started hitting a few drives left and right early, and I didn’t actually have quite a good view from the trees on Sunday. I couldn’t really see what was happening too much.”

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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-