Twitter helps pave McGinley's way to Ryder Cup captaincy

By Jason SobelJanuary 15, 2013, 7:01 pm

As every fan of the United States team has understood for the past couple decades, the Ryder Cup isn’t played on paper. If it was, the stars and stripes would likely have a few more wins, its roster biennially displaying better talent top-to-bottom than its European counterpart until just recently.

Then again, in today’s digital age, no games are played on paper anymore. An entire generation will forever believe that crossword puzzles were invented on an iPad. Instead, games are now played in cyberspace, with social media serving as the arena in which every person either competes or spectates.

What it means is that even the old joke about games being played on paper is not only still untrue, but equally untimely. Such competitions will now be played on Twitter, along with just about everything else in the world.

OK, so maybe not the swings and putts and jangling of coins gamesmanship, but at least part of Samuel Ryder’s vision from long ago is being played out on computer screens and phones around the world.

Don’t believe it? Then you clearly haven’t checked your timeline lately.

After all, Twitter could serve to explain just why the European Tour’s Tournament Committee named Paul McGinley on Tuesday as its next captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup – and just as importantly, why it didn’t choose anybody else.

In the 48 hours prior to the announcement, three members of Europe’s team – the three most vital members of the team, it could be argued – publicly voiced their support for McGinley through social media.

First it was Rory McIlroy, who without naming names clearly disapproved of Colin Montgomerie getting a second turn in the skipper’s seat:

“RC captaincy should be a 1 time thing... Everybody deserving gets their chance and moves on... Would love to play under Paul McGinley in '14”

Luke Donald then followed by throwing his weight in the same direction:

“I hope Paul McGinley gets his chance, he's been an amazing Vice Captain and deserves an opportunity #2014RyderCup

And in response to that tweet, Ian Poulter sounded off:

“Darren has taken his name out of the running for Ryder cup captaincy. It would be fantastic to have Paul Mcginley as the 2014 captain.”

Individually, none of these three players – not the No. 1 player in the world, nor the No. 3, nor the one who was the unanimous man of the match at last year’s edition of the event – wields enough power to persuade the committee to choose his man over all other contenders. Even collectively, they must understand that while their opinions may help rock the vote, they only comprise a small state in this Electoral College.

So how did they get their way? Why did their words even matter?

Whether it was a calculated maneuver to sway the resolution or an innocent statement of opinion, it should be noted that McIlroy, Donald and Poulter chose not to make their feelings known behind closed doors – well, at least not only behind closed doors – but instead went public with them in the most obvious way. These weren’t words sought by media or uttered during a practice round. They were carefully typed out and distributed worldwide, public messages to those meeting privately about the next captain.

Sure, others have voiced support for McGinley, as well – Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose, to name a few – but answering a question is different than going out of your way to make intentions known to the entire world, especially in the waning moments before such a decision is being made.

Of course, it wasn’t so much what they said as what they didn’t say that really mattered.

By supporting McGinley, all three were in effect voting against Monty, who by all accounts was the next closest competitor in the race for the position. For a team with such strong ties, one which has prided itself in teamwork and camaraderie over the years, beginning the two-year journey to retain the title in controversial style wouldn’t have been conducive to achieving the end result.

Going against the wishes of three players could serve as potentially combustible, possibly causing a rift when each is being asked endlessly about playing for a man he didn’t want in the position in the first place. Meanwhile, the second guessing wouldn’t cease until after Europe retained the hardware – and if the team didn’t, then it probably never would.

That’s not to suggest that McGinley was the “safe” pick, but there were certainly fewer pratfalls than opting for a man who wasn’t wanted by important members of the team.

Even McGinley acknowledged that social media may have played a pivotal role in his appointment.

Upon being named to the position, he admitted: 'One thing I have learned from this is the power of Twitter.'

The next Ryder Cup – just like each before it – won’t be played on paper. It may not be contested in the grand expanse of cyberspace necessarily, either, but there’s little doubt it played some factor in the selection of one captain. With just a few keystrokes, McIlroy, Donald and Poulter may have ensured that they got their wish for 2014, whether that was part of their plan or not.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”