What We Learned: Kuchar is major ready

By Will GrayJune 3, 2013, 1:26 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on whether Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major, Karrie Webb's remarkable record of sustained excellence and the debate that still lingers over the format of the NCAAChampionship.

Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major. Long thought of as a player who is solid in many aspects but great in none, Kuchar has now demonstrated an ability to win consistently against upper-echelon fields. If you need proof, just consider the settings for each of his last three PGA Tour victories: The Players Championship a year ago, where annually one of the strongest fields in golf assembles; a resounding march through the bracket at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season and Sunday’s triumph at Muirfield Village.

With his most recent win, Kuchar will likely supplant Justin Rose as the highest-ranked player without a major title to his credit when the new rankings are published Monday. In his post-round news conference, Kuchar noted a perception before the year began that two pieces were missing from his resume: a major victory and a multiple-win season. Now that the former has been achieved, the latter is all that remains in order to include Kuchar’s name when discussing the truly elite players in today’s game. – Will Gray

In the prognostication game, timing is everything. Anyone can pick a winnerp; it's picking the right winner on the right week that keeps those big buildings in Las Vegas in business. On Friday afternoon, with Matt Kuchar in the mix on a crowded Memorial Tournament leaderboard, I tweeted the following: 'How well has Matt Kuchar been playing? If I had to make a U.S. Open pick right this minute – and trust me, I don't – he's my guy.' Well, a little over 48 hours later, he tested my theory about timing, as the remarkably consistent Kuchar played some remarkably consistent golf to claim the Memorial title. It left me wondering: Did the victory actually hurt Kuchar's chances of winning at Merion? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that he wouldn't take the W and take his chances, but the numbers tell us how difficult it is to win back-to-back starts. In fact, before Kuchar's victory, only one other player –  Tiger Woods, of course –  had even been able to back up a win this season with another one. We'll find out if Kuchar can disprove this theory soon enough by prevailing on a course that should be tailor-made to his game. Or else we'll learn once again that, yes, timing is everything in the prognostication game. – Jason Sobel

Five years into its match-play experiment, the NCAA Championship still has an identity crisis. Officials want drama, and the current format provides plenty of that. (Just ask Cal.) Officials also want the national championship to identify the top team in the country, and four times in the past five years the No. 1-ranked team has left NCAAs without the trophy. Match play will be used for a few more years, even if many think a 72-hole stroke-play tournament is what’s best for college golf. Fortunately, second-ranked Alabama’s win Sunday quieted this debate. But, rest assured, only for a few months. – Ryan Lavner

Karrie Webb’s longevity as a winner is something to marvel over.

It’s not so much her age. She’s only 38. That’s four years younger than Phil Mickelson, just a year older than Tiger Woods. It’s more the nature of the way she has been able to continue to fan the embers of her ambition after fashioning a Hall of Fame career that surpassed even her wildest dreams. That’s no easy trick in the women’s game, where youth rules so much more than in the men’s game, and where the pressures of being the top women’s player have taken such a toll. Annika Sorenstam retired at 37, Lorena Ochoa at 28. At her best, Webb was just as dominant as they were. 

For someone who has already secured her place in history, it must be exhausting fending off challengers who just keep getting younger. It must be difficult to keep pushing to do the work it takes to win on an ultra-young tour. Lydia Ko won at 15 last year, Lexi Thompson at 16 the year before. Yani Tseng was 22 when she rose to No. 1. Inbee Park holds the top spot now at 24.

Webb’s Shoprite victory Sunday was her 39th LPGA title. She has victories somewhere in the world in 18 of the last 19 years. The drive to keep beating these baby-faced challengers is something to marvel over. – Randall Mell

Matt Kuchar may have inherited the title “best player without a major” thanks to his performance at the Memorial. His two-stroke victory is his second of the season, and the sixth of his career, and makes him an easy pick heading into Merion and the U.S. Open in a fortnight. Kuchar has five top-10 finishes in his last 12 Grand Slam starts and after Muirfield Village he appears ready to take that next step. – Rex Hoggard

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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.