Let the Cup Be Close

By Kraig KannSeptember 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesThe 36th Ryder Cup begins on Friday. And given what happened two years ago at Oakland Hills outside Detroit, Mich., lets hope its not over before Saturday play begins.
Do you remember? It was 6 1/2 - 1 1/2 after Day 1 play. The only points for the United States came from a half earned by Chris Riley and Stewart Cink in the morning fourballs and a full point earned by Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas in the afternoon foursomes.
For the record, it was 11-5 after two days, and then Europe continued to whip the Americans, 7 1/2 - 4 1/2 in singles.
Regardless of what happens, and tossing aside the fact that Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups and seven of the last 10, I hope this years event is truly an event.
Heres what Id like to see above all else:
1. A Ryder Cup that goes down to the final singles match on Sunday. Who wouldnt want that!?!
2. American rookies make an impact. Vaughn Taylor can putt the lights out. J.J. Henry is a terrific ball-striker. Zach Johnson is a mild-mannered, steady player who can make putts. Brett Wetterich is the guy whos the yellow light to me. He hits it a mile and can overpower a golf course, but do the nerves cause long drives to go wayward? Any use of the rookies that adds up to six points would be huge.
3. Tiger Woods to play like Colin Montgomerie. Tigers the greatest player and the most talented. Hes done all the right things leading into this years Ryder Cup. Can he put his frustration over tabloid articles linking his wife to pornography in its proper place? Tiger hardly needs motivation.
4. Darren Clarke to have a week of good fortune. He deserves it. Clarke has more friends in golf than most. This week he arrives without his wife, Heather, who passed away recently after a bout with cancer. If Europes to win, then Clarke as the hero is certainly a story worth rooting for.
5. More heroics from Monty. Like him or not, hes one of the greatest to ever play the Ryder Cup. Cmon ' even if the United States wins, you have to hope they beat a European team whos on its best form. Monty without his best is hardly fun to watch in this event.
6. Entertaining press conferences. Remember Ben Crenshaws Saturday night presser at Brookline in 1999? We need great quotes and great characters to emerge and keep the energy going.
7. Great weather. So far, the rains been the biggest story. Wind on Thursday night nearly turned the grandstands into a grand mess. A Ryder Cup using lift, clean and place is no Ryder Cup in my opinion. Cool weather works ' but a little sun instead of rain is nice.
8. An American hero. In 2004, Sergio Garcia said, I think that this whole team and also myself, we just live for this. When youre winning its easy to say that. Garcias been a hero of sorts ever since he played as a rookie. He's 10-3-2 overall in three Ryder Cups. DiMarco proved a worthy hero at the Presidents Cup. If America wins, let somebody be the undisputed star.
9. Let it be the big story. This time of year is about the NFL, college football and a baseball pennant race or two, among other things. The Ryder Cup can put golf on the front page ' if its good. I go back to the Let it Be Close headline. Golf needs a boost at this time of the year. Lets hope we all get it.
Im sure Im forgetting something. So go ahead and finish my list. Ill be glued to the set and waiting for good things to happen.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”