Punch Shot: Must-see Presidents Cup pairings

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 5, 2013, 12:49 pm

The U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams have been finalized. Now comes the fun part – pondering the pairings. The GolfChannel.com writers lists three pairings they most want to see at next month's matches.


By RANDALL MELL

Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. There isn’t a more potentially electric pairing in these matches, not one that’s realistic, anyway (Woods and Phil Mickelson would blow circuits in TV sets if they ever agreed to play together). In Woods and Spieth, there’s appeal seeing the game’s biggest star playing alongside a rising young star.

Phil Mickelson-Jordan Spieth. If the kid’s going to play, baptize him properly. Match him up with Woods and then Mickelson and see what kind of sparks fly.

Keegan Bradley and Jordan Spieth. Now there’s a team that could be together a long time, in a lot of Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups. 


By RYAN LAVNER

Fred Couples has already ventured out of his comfort zone once, picking 20-year-old Jordan Spieth over old warrior Jim Furyk. Now he has a chance to do it again with three pairings that could prove to be dynamite at Muirfield Village.

Tiger Woods-Brandt Snedeker. Break up Tiger and Stricker? No way! Why it would work: Sneds is a compatible partner, can rack up birdies in bunches, gets revved up for team competitions, and is – statistically, at least – a better putter than Stricker. In a team setting, that could be an unbeatable combo with Tiger’s ball-striking.

Phil Mickelson-Jordan Spieth. Break up Phil and Keegan? No way! Why it would work: Spieth provides Lefty the same jolt of youthful energy as Keegan, and Phil, the veteran, can coach the 20-year-old through his first pro team competition. Another thing: Right now, Spieth is playing better than Keegan.

Keegan Bradley-Jason Dufner. These dudes would just have a four-hour chuckle-fest! Why it would work: They’re both fierce competitors who would be more teammates than partners, and they wouldn’t want to let the other down. In an event that lacks any distinguishable characteristic, this duo could shine. 


By JASON SOBEL

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. The old veteran and the young rookie made for a formidable duo at last year’s Ryder Cup – and there’s no reason to think they won’t again next month. Mickelson wants to play with Bradley, Bradley wants to play with Mickelson, and Fred Couples is the kind of captain who likes to keep his players happy. Don’t be surprised to see ‘em together for three or four matches.

Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. I’m not holding my breath for this one. Everyone knows Tiger will likely team with Steve Stricker – at least to start the competition. That doesn’t mean I won’t wish for it to happen. It would be fun to see Woods partnered with the game’s most exciting young player. Being exposed to a jolt of youthful exuberance would get him smiling more. And he plays better when he’s smiling.

Adam Scott and Jason Day. Conventional wisdom says captain Nick Price should keep his two best players far away from each other, partnering each with a player of lesser talent. But here’s another way of looking at it: Put the two friends together in the first match of each session and he could go for an early win and some trickle-down momentum throughout the rest of the team. Anchormen don’t always have to run the anchor leg.


By WILL GRAY

• Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth: All eyes will be on Spieth next month at Muirfield Village, and captain Fred Couples may not be in a rush to break up the pairing of Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who shined together at last year’s Ryder Cup. Still, the notion of pairing the aggressive phenom with the reigning Open champion holds a significant amount of appeal, especially given the match-play format of the competition.

• Adam Scott and Jason Day: Australian golfers have, by any account, had a successful 2013 campaign, headlined by these two players. After winning the Masters this spring, Scott has not shied away from placing great importance on an International win this time around, and there would be no better way for him to put his stamp on these matches on foreign soil than alongside his fellow countryman Day, who has been in contention on seemingly every big-time stage this season.

• Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama: The “present” of the International team meets the “future.” Remarkably, Matsuyama was just two years old when Els captured his first U.S. Open title at Oakmont in 1994, yet the two find themselves bridging generational gaps while playing together on captain Nick Price’s squad. The young Japanese sensation has shown the ability to contend time and again this year on the PGA Tour, and who better to usher him onto the world’s stage (anyone remember Nicolas Colsaerts’ breakthrough last year at Medinah?) than the elder statesman of the International team.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”