Shift in Momentum

By John HawkinsOctober 3, 2010, 1:58 am

Ryder CupMomentum has done a 180, leaving Europe with all the positive vibes and the United States with a very tenuous 6-4 lead at the conclusion of Ryder Cup Saturday. If you didn’t know better, it looked like the Yanks felt guilty for stealing the final point of the second session – Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar basically won the last three holes to beat Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, 1 up.

The Euros lead in all six suspended matches, four of them by advantages of 2 up or more, though none have reached the back nine. Darkness did not arrive soon enough for the Americans, who seemed worn down from the outset of the “makeup session” that features a pair of foursomes games in addition to four better-balls. For all the hand-wringing to be done in the U.S. team room Saturday evening, the mission when play resumes should be rather clear.

Salvage at least two points Sunday morning. Anything more would amount to a huge bonus – and allow the Yanks to retain the lead heading into singles – but this is no time to get greedy. With Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker 4 down and Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan trailing by three on the eighth tee, both alternate-shot tilts appear to be lost causes. Phil Mickelson remains winless and has failed to get anything going with Rickie Fowler after a failed partnership with Dustin Johnson.

At this point, it would be silly to expect anything from Philly Mick – he lost 3 down in his first two matches with Johnson and is 2 down now. That infamous, ill-fated pairing with Tiger Woods in 2004 continues to haunt Mickelson, who has won just one of 14 matches since. As good as he has been at the Presidents Cup, Lefty has been just as awful against the Euros, and if you’re U.S. captain Corey Pavin, you’re looking for a place to hide Mickelson in the singles, most likely the middle of the lineup.

Despite superb performances from unlikely sources such as Jeff Overton and Stewart Cink, plus a pair of wins from Woods-Stricker, the U.S. doesn’t find itself in a position of strength heading into Sunday. If there’s one thing to be learned from watching Ryder Cup over the years, it’s that momentum is a moody old cuss, capable of switching its allegiance at any moment, often without an obvious reason. Although the Yanks were headed in the wrong direction when play was called Friday, they came out Saturday morning and won the opening session, then turned their one-point lead into two in the afternoon.

Twenty-four hours later, with the action in the third session halted at virtually the same point as was the first, the U.S. has to deal with the ramifications of tricky reality. There is a ton of golf to be played, the outcome of 16 matches still to be resolved, but now, it’s all about damage control. The tide has shifted, and as the Euros dig into the deficit, Celtic Manor’s galleries will become an even greater factor. Two points Sunday morning means a tie ballgame heading into the finale. As little as that may sound, it could be a lot to ask for.

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CIMB champ Leishman hopes to improve on CJ runner-up

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

Marc Leishman is back in Korea with momentum on his side, hoping to fare just a little better than a year ago.

Leishman nearly took home the trophy in the inaugural CJ Cup, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Justin Thomas. But the Aussie put his approach in to the water on the second extra hole, allowing Thomas to wrap up the win a few minutes later.

"Excited to be back in Korea. I have a lot of good memories here at this golf course," Leishman told reporters. "Hopefully I can play well again and go one better than last year."

Leishman's playoff loss kick-started a strong opening stretch to his wraparound season, but he closed it without a victory. That drought ended in emphatic fashion last week, as he cruised to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia for his fourth career PGA Tour win and his third since March 2017.

Leishman told reporters last week in Malaysia that before the week started, his driving was so crooked that he feared his equipment reps might need to add a few golf balls to his locker. Instead, he found his groove en route to shooting 26 under par at TPC Kuala Lumpur and leaving the field in his wake.

"Golf's a funny game. It can change very quickly from bad to good or from good to bad," Leishman said. "It was certainly a goal of mine to win this season, and to win my first event of the season is great. Also to be going back to Maui puts me in a different frame of mind for the whole year. For a lot of reasons, I'm really happy with what last week brought."

Leishman played on the Korean PGA Tour in 2006 while getting his pro career off the ground, but even with that experience he expects a learning curve while going from the steamy conditions of Malaysia to the cool and wet climate that has greeted players this week on Jeju Island.

"It's a big adjustment going from so hot and humid last week to fairly cold and hopefully not wet, but it was wet this morning," Leishman said. "The ball goes different distances, your body's not quite as loose as what it is when it's hot. Just little things like that that you have to adjust to."

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Bowditch eyes same fusion surgery as Tiger

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:03 pm

After struggling through a couple lean years on the course, Steven Bowditch is ready to go under the knife.

Bowditch has won twice on the PGA Tour, and the Aussie was a member of the International Team at the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea. But his game fell apart shortly thereafter, as Bowditch has made just two cuts in his last 40 starts dating back to July 2016 while putting up some eye-popping scores.

Bowditch's exemption for his win at the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson expired in August 2017, and he spent last season without full-time status on Tour for the first time since 2010. He made eight starts, notably finding a caddie via Twitter search before missing the cut at the John Deere Classic in July.

But the 35-year-old revealed Tuesday that his on-course struggles have been tied to some health concerns that have been difficult to pinpoint. Having finally received the appropriate diagnosis, he is preparing for a spinal fusion surgery next month between the L5 and S1 vertebrae - the same two that Tiger Woods successfully fused last year:

Bowditch's estimate of a "late 2019" return likely means he'll miss the entire 2018-19 season. When he returns he would do so with past champion status based on his wins, which also included the 2014 Valero Texas Open.

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Thomas, Koepka grouped as both vie for No. 1 in Korea

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 1:44 pm

The PGA Tour remains in Asia this week, where another star-studded field is gathered for a no-cut event. Here's a look at some of the marquee, early-round groupings at the CJ Cup in South Korea, where Justin Thomas will look to retain his title as the tournament's lone champion with the action getting started Wednesday night for American viewers (all times ET):

7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im

Thomas won the inaugural edition of this event last year in a playoff, and he returns to defend his title with hopes of supplanting idle Dustin Johnson as world No. 1. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Koepka, who is making his first start since being named PGA Tour Player of the Year and, like Thomas, could move to world No. 1. Rounding out the group is Im, a Korean native who went wire-to-wire leading the Web.com Tour money list in 2018 and nearly won his first event as a PGA Tour member in Napa.


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8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els

Leishman lost to Thomas in overtime at this event last year, but he returns to Jeju Island with plenty of momentum after dusting the field last week en route to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. Joining him will be Kim, who won the 2017 Players Championship and will have plenty of support from the Korean fans, and Els, playing this week on a sponsor invite as he continues to keep an eye on potential stars for the Presidents Cup team he will captain next year.


8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

They're two Aussies who teamed on plenty of Presidents Cup squads and have both reached the top of the world rankings, and now they'll play together for the first two rounds in Korea. Day is making his first start since East Lake, while Scott made a rare appearance at the Japan Open last week where he tied for 50th. Rounding out the trio will be Matsuyama, another Presidents Cup fixture who tied for fourth at the Tour Championship to end last season.


8:35 p.m. Wednesday, 7:25 p.m. Thursday: Kevin Tway, Austin Cook, Xander Schauffele

Tway finished T-27 last week in Malaysia in his first start as a PGA Tour winner, having taken the trophy two weeks ago in Napa. He'll be joined in Korea by Cook, who contended throughout last week en route to a T-13 finish, and Schauffele, the former Rookie of the Year who shot 65-68 over the weekend in Kuala Lumpur.

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Stock Watch: It's still Miller time

By Ryan LavnerOctober 16, 2018, 12:58 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Johnny (+10%): A polarizing figure to the end, Miller was the rare candid and uncompromising voice in the chummy world of pro golf. Paul Azinger (the reported successor) has a big seat to fill in the booth.  

Marc Leishman (+8%): Few can light up a board like Leish, who went 26 under at the CIMB without breaking a sweat. With that beautiful, high fade and his streaky putter, he will continue to be a major breakthrough candidate for 2019.

Eddie Pepperell (+6%): Is there a more fun cat in all of golf? He won ugly on a nasty day at the British Masters, delivered some more money quotes afterward, and now has two Euro Tour titles (and two runners-up!) this season and a ’19 Masters invite upcoming.

Bernhard Langer (+5%): A “quiet” season is still two wins, but at age 61 he’s started to fall off the pace to catch Hale Irwin’s record 45 wins. (He’s seven back.) This is an important playoff run for Langer.

Jordan Spieth (+3%): He got that strength-of-schedule requirement out of the way early by adding the Vegas event to his calendar – the first time he’s teed it up domestically in the fall. This has been such a bizarre year, it wouldn’t surprise at all if he comes out and grabs a slump-busting W.


FALLING

Shubhankar Sharma (-1%): Just 22, he still needs to learn how to win – and he will. The Sunday 74 in Mexico and closing 72 in Malaysia will be critical learning experiences for the rising star from India.

Tour tracks (-2%): What a contrast, seeing PGA Tour types tearing up a nondescript course in Malaysia (with a dozen players 19 under or better) while Justin Rose and Co. battled a firm and bouncy Walton Heath that surrendered only two 72-hole scores lower than 5 under. Hmmm. 

Green-reading materials (-5%): Good luck enforcing the new rule that limits images to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards, and allows only handwritten notes from a player or caddie. The books still grind pace of play to a halt and reduce the skill involved in reading a green, so why not ban them altogether?

Tiger vs. Phil (-7%): There have been wrong turns at seemingly every corner: No fans or local kids on-site; no undercard matches; not on network TV; not under the lights; not for their own cash; no charitable aspect; not played 15 years earlier. What a missed opportunity. All of it.