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Tale of the tape: Sizing up Prez Cup pick options

By Will GraySeptember 5, 2017, 2:28 pm

With qualification over, it all boils down to a phone call.

The top 10 players for the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams qualified automatically on Monday, leaving two spots open on each roster. Those will be filled Wednesday by captains Steve Stricker and Nick Price, with the 12-man squads facing off later this month at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

Here's a look at some of the most compelling candidates the two captains will have to choose from, starting with Stricker's American options.

Charley Hoffman: OWGR No. 22, finished 11th in qualification. While Hoffman would be another rookie on Stricker's squad, it would seem unusually cruel to leave him off the team after he was edged by Kevin Chappell for the final spot by less than a point. Seven top-10 finishes this season.

Brian Harman: OWGR No. 28, finished 12th in qualification. Harman could make for an intriguing pairing with fellow Georgia alum Kevin Kisner. He edged Dustin Johnson to win the Wells Fargo Championship and was a runner-up at the U.S. Open.

Jason Dufner: OWGR No. 32, finished 13th in qualification. Duf brings some match play experience to the table, having played in the 2012 Ryder Cup and 2013 Presidents Cup. He won the Memorial in June but hasn't cracked the top 10 since.

Gary Woodland: OWGR No. 42, finished 14th in qualification. Woodland would offer plenty of firepower off the tee for a best-ball match, and he boasts three top-25 finishes over his last five starts including a fourth-place result at the RBC Canadian Open.

Phil Mickelson: OWGR No. 29, finished 15th in qualification. Mickelson hasn't missed U.S. team competition since 1993, and his T-6 finish at TPC Boston may have been just enough to ensure that streak continues another year.

Here's a look at the choice Price faces on the International side, where Canada's Adam Hadwin clinched the 10th and final automatic qualifying spot on Monday:

Emiliano Grillo: OWGR No. 54. Last year's Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour advanced to the BMW Championship, and that may have given the Argentine a leg up on the rest of the contenders. Grillo struggled this summer but has top-30 finishes in each of the first two playoff events.

Hideto Tanihara: OWGR No. 55. Tanihara plays primarily in Japan, although he did tie for third at the BMW PGA Championship and finished fourth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Hasn't played since a T-67 finish at the PGA Championship.

Yuta Ikeda: OWGR No. 63. Like Tanihara, Ikeda plays primarily in Asia and won an event in Japan two weeks ago. But he missed the cut in all four majors this year, failing to capitalize on chances to earn valuable world ranking points.

Haotong Li: OWGR No. 67. Li burst onto the scene with his third-place finish at The Open, a result that booked his ticket to the 2018 Masters. His inclusion on the team could prove to be a boost for golf's popularity in his native China.

Byeong-Hun An: OWGR No. 71. An nearly won the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he has largely struggled since June. Prior wins at the U.S. Amateur (2009) and BMW PGA Championship (2015) prove that he can hang with the best on the global stage.

Anirban Lahiri: OWGR No. 75. Lahiri would love a shot at redemption after missing a critical putt during his singles match at the 2015 Presidents Cup in Korea. He represented India at last year's Olympics and was a runner-up to Dufner at the Memorial.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”