Houston For Couples Only

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 27, 2003, 4:00 pm
Fred Couples was in contention through two rounds of this years Players Championship when he was asked whether or not he thought he could win.
Its probably a long way down the road, but if I keep working and doing this, I think I can get in the hunt, he said at the time.
Couples has been in the hunt much of the last two months, but victory seemed just beyond his grasp. That was until Sunday, when he finally reached the end of the road.
The 43-year-old Couples used a late birdie run at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas, to secure his 15th career PGA Tour victory, and his first since the 1998 Memorial Tournament.
I owe a lot to my wife and to Butch Harmon, said the normally stoic Couples before breaking down into tears.
He shot his fourth sub-70 round of the week ' this time a 5-under 67 ' to finish at 21-under-par 267. Mark Calcavecchia (70), Stuart Appleby (69) and Hank Kuehne (67) tied for second at 17-under.
''I feel honored to win again,'' said the 1992 Masters champion. ''I played a very, very good round of golf.''
The former Houston Cougar became the first Houston affiliate to win near his old college town. He also pocketed a career-best $810,000 paycheck.
In the money department, Kuehne, who entered the week with no status on tour, collected $336,000. That was more than enough to guarantee him unlimited exemptions for the remainder of the season. He needed to finish eighth or better in Houston in order to match 150th place on the 2002 money list.
The win was an emotional one for Couples, who married wife Thais shortly after his Memorial win. Following an extended slump, in which he had only one top-three finish in four years, he rededicated himself to the game in late 2002 by employing the services of Harmon.
The results were swift in coming. He finished inside the top 15 in four straight events earlier this year, including a seventh-place finish at the Nissan Open.
He was two back entering the final round at The Players, but shot 74 on Sunday to fall to 10th. This Sunday story, however, had an entirely different ending.
Couples and Calcavecchia were tied for the lead when the former made birdie at the par-4 fourth while the latter made double bogey.
Couples errantly returned the favor three holes later. After Calcavecchia birdied the fifth to cut his deficit to two, Couples hit a heavy 6-iron into the water ' short and right of a green with a massive amount of safety to the left ' at the par-4 seventh.
He, too, made double bogey.

Calcavecchia and Couples were tied at 16-under when both ' surprisingly so ' recorded birdie at the par-3 eighth. Calcavecchias 2 wasnt astonishing, as he hit his tee shot inside of two feet. Couples, however, matched the birdie by making a 65-foot downhill roller coaster. The casual Couples threw his putter in disbelief; his good friend displayed a wry smile.
Couples then regained sole possession of the lead, at 18-under, when he got up and down from 110 yards at the par-5 ninth for birdie, while Calcavecchia three-putted for par.
But it didnt last long. After missing the fairway at the par-4 10th, Couples subsequently missed the green and made bogey.
The seesaw battle continued as Calcavecchia moved one clear with a birdie at 12, only to bogey 13. Couples then made a 12-footer for birdie at the par-4 14th to tie for the lead, but, for the first time Sunday, not with Calcavecchia.
Kuehne birdied 15, 16 and 17 to get to 18-under par, and was alone at the top prior to Couples birdie at 14.
The 1998 U.S. Amateur champion decided to hit driver on the par-4 finishing hole, but pulled it into the left water hazard. He managed to make bogey ' his only dropped shot of the day ' and then sat on the sidelines to await his fate.
'I just hit a bad shot,' Kuehne said of his tee ball at 18.
Appleby, whose last tour win came in this event in 1999, replaced Kuehne at 18-under by birdieing 11, 12, 14 and 15 ' and like those before him found difficulty in keeping up with Couples pace. He bogeyed 16 and made a pair of pars to finish.
''Calc went crazy, then Kuehne went nuts, then Appleby,'' Couples said. ''It was a lot of fun to be a part of it.''
Couples made a 10-foot birdie at the par-5 15th to get to 19-under. He then nearly holed a 6-iron from 176 yards at the par-4 16th. The tap-in moved him to 20-under, and gave him a comfortable cushion coming home.
'The shot of the day,' he called his approach.
Calcavecchia birdied 15 to remain two back, but bogeyed 17 after he decided to roll up his pants and enter the lake ' with shoes still on. He maintained his balance long enough to pitch his ball ' which was in the grass portion of the hazard ' to 15 feet, but narrowly missed the par save as the ball painfully died on the lip.
''That's the best I've ever seen Fred play,'' said Calcavecchia, whose winless drought dates back to the 2001 Phoenix Open. ''I will take out of this week that I know I am going to win again, eventually.''
Leading by three, Couples added to the margin of victory by making a 10-footer at the last.
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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-

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    Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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    Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

    He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

    The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

    He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

    “I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

    It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

    For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

    Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

    Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

    In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

    Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

    For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

    “You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

    But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

    “At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

    In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

    His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

    As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

    “We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

    “Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

    It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

    Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

    “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

    If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

    Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

    Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.