Practice partners Rickie, Phil playing for bigger stakes

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2014, 1:36 am

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It was during the traditional Tuesday game earlier this year at Augusta National when things began to click for Rickie Fowler.

The 25-year-old had been working with new swing coach Butch Harmon for just four months when he teamed with Phil Mickelson against Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson. When the match was complete, a reported 2-and-1 triumph for Fowler and Mickelson, the guy in the flat-bill hat had posted nine birdies and an eagle.

It was, according to Fowler’s caddie Joe Skovron, an epiphany for one of the game’s most popular players and sent him down the road to his most consistent season on the PGA Tour.


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On Sunday at the PGA Championship, Fowler and Mickelson will unite again, this time in the day’s penultimate pairing at Valhalla Golf Club.

Fowler carded a 6-under 65 on Saturday to move to within two strokes of front-runner Rory McIlroy and within 18 holes of his fourth consecutive top-5 finish in a major championship.

That he will be vying for his first major championship alongside his regular Tuesday practice round partner will only make the opportunity that much more enjoyable.

“We’re going to have some fun and hopefully (he) and I are going to get things rolling like we do on Tuesdays against the boys,” Fowler said. “We’ll have a good time, that’s for sure.”

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Euro experience at Le Golf National 'a help to us'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

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First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”  

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Impressionist Moore creates 'hilarious' video for Euros

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 7:54 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European Ryder Cup team began its week by laughing at itself.

Noted impressionist Conor Moore made a 10-minute clip in which he took turns poking fun at the 12 team members in a press-conference setting.

The video has not, and probably will not, be made public.

“It was extremely funny, I have to say,” Ian Poulter said. “Clips like that, they can help the team get together. Although we’re taking the mickey out of one another, it’s quite a good way to start the week off.”

The best impression, apparently, was of reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari.

“I think Fran’s has made me giggle for about 10 hours now," Tommy Fleetwood said. 

"Just how deadpan he was – just trying to make how excited he was with his deadpan tone. It was perfect, really. It was absolutely spot-on."

Even the typically stoic Molinari found the video hilarious.

“I’m actually thinking of it all the time now answering questions, trying to smile a bit more,” he said, laughing.

So is this the new, more lively version of Molinari?

“Can’t you tell the difference?” he said dryly.

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Woods' final round is highest-rated FEC telecast ever

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 9:05 pm

We've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods doesn't just move the needle, he IS the needle.

Here's more proof.

NBC Sports Group's final-round coverage of Woods claiming his 80th career victory in the Tour Championship earned a 5.21 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs and the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast in 2018 (excluding majors).

The rating was up 206 percent over 2017's Tour Championship.


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Coverage peaked from 5:30-6PM ET (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion. That number trailed only the 2018 peaks for the Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28). The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 PM ET) posted a 4.35 overnight rating, which is the highest-rated Tour Championship telecast on record.

Sunday’s final round also saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (up 561 percent year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports Sunday round (excluding majors) on record.