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USGA updates selection process for Walker Cup

By Ryan LavnerJuly 5, 2018, 9:52 pm

The USGA International Team Selection Committee revealed changes Thursday to its controversial selection process for the Walker Cup and two other team events.

Selection of the 10-man Walker Cup team will now be announced in two waves, in late summer, before the start of the biennial matches. The first few selections should be obvious (and what was already largely assumed): The top three Americans in the World Amateur Golf Ranking as of early August are automatically named to the team, as well as the 2019 McCormack Medal winner, given to the No. 1 player in the WAGR after the U.S. Amateur. An American U.S. Amateur champion will automatically earn a spot on the team, too, regardless of whether he was on the committee’s radar before the event.

The remaining spots – which must include one mid-amateur (players 25 and older) – will be determined by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee, the five-member group currently chaired by Martha Lang that previously had full control over all 10 picks.

In a release, the USGA said it will place a “primary emphasis on playing accomplishments, rankings and awards over the past 24 months, with an emphasis on results in USGA competitions.” To warrant selection, players must “have an unquestioned ability” to represent the U.S. with “character, sportsmanship and integrity.”

The USGA’s selection process has come under fire over the past several years, including by on multiple occasions (most notably here and here). Some of the most high-profile omissions were John Peterson, who won the Jones Cup and NCAA Championship in 2011, and Sam Burns, who last summer won the Nicklaus Award as the college player of the year.

The USGA said that Thursday’s announcement was years in the making, not a direct reaction to the Burns snub, but never before had their selection process come under such scrutiny. Walker Cup captain Spider Miller seemed blindsided by the committee’s picks when he answered questions at Riviera. Burns’ only communication with the USGA was a brief phone call with president Diana Murphy after the conclusion of the U.S. Amateur, during which she offered no reason for why Burns was left off the squad. Pressed for more details last August, the USGA’s response through a spokesman was this: “It would be a disservice to our process and to all our players to discuss specific deliberations.” (Apparently, Burns still hasn’t gotten closure. Upon seeing the news Thursday, he tweeted: “Still haven’t told me anything,” followed by a confused emoji.)

The Americans went on to rout Great Britain and Ireland at home a few weeks later, by a 19-7 margin, but the shadiness of the selection process lingered.

“I don’t think it was a question over the past couple of years of if we were going to do something like this, but when we would and what it would look like,” John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, said in a phone interview. “We’ve said that we don’t talk about it, and I think those days are over. The players deserve to know where they stand. We wanted to send that message to the kids, and we’re trying to do the best we can to give them some added guidance and transparency.”

The USGA uses an internal points system to assist with its selections, but it has no plans at this time to make that list public. And though the captain does not have a formal vote on the prospective team members – the USGA prefers to keep the captain focused more on relationship-building and strategy – Bodenhamer said that the committee “strongly encourages the captain to give us his input and feedback, and we listen to that very carefully.”

The vagueness of the selection criteria suggests the process won’t be completely transparent – and in that respect the Walker Cup is no different than any other team competition with wildcard picks – but this is at least a step in the right direction, with the 2019 matches set for Sept. 7-8 at Royal Liverpool in England.

“When you get down to the last handful of picks, it gets hard,” Bodenhamer said. “We want to have some of that flexibility but also to send a strong message to the players that we want to tell you information, we want to incentivize you to play in the events that will get consideration, and I think it’ll give the kids a lot more guidance to what they should be doing.”

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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

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''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

Current FedExCup standings

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“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.