Watson faces tough decisions as Ryder Cup looms

By Jason SobelJuly 2, 2014, 8:30 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – My fellow Americans: I know how you feel right now. Your red, white and blue is a little red, white and bruised.

In the wake of a crushing World Cup defeat for the United States, though, there is hope right around the corner in the form of another team pursuit at which the stars and stripes haven’t fared much better in recent years.

That’s right. We’re just 12 weeks away from the Ryder Cup.

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Tom Watson.

“It's been a pretty dire road for the American team for the last nine Ryder Cups,” the captain said from The Greenbrier Classic on Wednesday. “We've only won two and it's time to turn that around.”

That type of coach-speak sounds foolproof, but it doesn’t underscore the fact that three months ahead of the biennial event, there are still so many questions left unanswered.

The biggest one might revolve around the player in 69th place on the current points standings, right in between a pair of guys named Justin Hicks and Luke Guthrie. That would be Tiger Woods, about whom the captain reiterated his own company line.

“If he's playing well and he's healthy,” Watson said, “he's on the team.”

That’s all well and good, but looking at it from a more logistical standpoint, he won’t be able to play well if he’s not playing at all.

Complete U.S. Ryder Cup standings

Woods is currently ranked 208th on the FedEx Cup standings. Considering his usual schedule, he’ll have three tournaments – the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship – to crack the top-125. If not, that would possibly mean six weeks off prior to the Ryder Cup.

Watson addressed that potential scenario by concluding, “He'll be considered less of a pick then, if he didn't have a track record going into the Ryder Cup, of course.”

Joining Woods outside the current top nine – though only one spot outside – is fellow Ryder Cup stalwart Phil Mickelson. Again, the captain hardly overplayed his hand by admitting that the nine-time team member will receive a strong look as a captain’s pick, if need be.

“Well, Phil has had some struggles with his putting; I know that, as I watched,” he said. “Knowing Phil, he'll probably have some way to have it fixed and make enough points to be on the team. If not, certainly he'll be a serious consideration, obviously. He's played on Ryder Cup teams, and last time he played well at Medinah.”

Another yet-to-be-answered question is how the U.S. team will react to Gleneagles. As Watson understands – and mentioned multiple times during Wednesday’s news conference – none of the potential contenders to make his roster have ever played the course in a competitive environment.

He sees that as an obvious advantage to the European side.

“Some of these players, the European players, have played that golf course in competition, played it four, five, six times, maybe 12 times,” Watson surmised. “That's just the way the Europeans pick their Ryder Cup sites. It's usually a site where they've held the European Tour tournament, so their players are more familiar with the golf course for the Ryder Cup.”

Watson knows he can’t replicate playing the course in tournament conditions, but he’s put together a little fact-finding mission next weekend. He invited “about 20” potential team members to join him there next weekend in an effort to acclimate them to the site.

So far, “about four or five” have accepted the invitation.

“I thought that was a good thing to do, and it gives them a chance to get used to the time change going over to the Open Championship,” he explained. “You get to see the course at least once before they get there or potentially get there. Not all of these players are in the top six or top five right now.”

Not long after his news conference had ended, Watson was still ruminating on this very subject. He was still discussing the European advantage on home soil and how playing the host course and knowing the potential conditions there would benefit the opposing side.

Then he smiled. Right on the spot, the captain figured the perfect analogy to trying to win on enemy turf.

“It’s kind of like going into the casino,” he said. “They’ve got the advantage. You just have to play better or get lucky, but you can beat them. You can win at the casino; you can win at the Ryder Cup.”

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Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:40 pm

A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.

Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.

Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.

"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...

"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.

As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.

"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."

For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.

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Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below: