All But Over
Saturday, the U.S. squad won four of five Four-Ball matches to extend their lead over the Internationals to 14-6 in the 4th biennial Presidents Cup at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Va.
The defending champions weren't able to conjure up the better-ball magic they used to get back into the match Friday morning. A day prior, the Internationals defeated the Americans 4-1 in the Four-Ball format to climb within two points of the home team. But the U.S. was able to win four of five Friday Foursomes, and then repeated the performance Saturday afternoon.
None of the four separate match-play sessions have been close. In addition to the three consecutive 4-1 final results, the Americans shut out the Internationals 5-0 in the opening Foursome matches on Thursday.
There are 12 singles matches to be played on Sunday; the International team must win at least 10 of them to retain the Cup.
Sutton/Furyk vs. Norman/Campbell
After sitting out Friday afternoon, Greg Norman was anxious to contribute on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Internationals, Norman and his partner, Michael Campbell, walked right into a 1-2 American combination.
Hal Sutton birdied the first three holes of the match, while Jim Furyk birdied the final four holes en route to a 6-and-5 American victory.
The U.S. duo carded nine birdies in just 13 holes. This was a stark contrast to Friday's Four-Ball match for Furyk. Paired with David Duval, Furyk found himself on the other end of a 6-and-5 spanking.
'I played poorly yesterday,' said Furyk, who is now 2-8 in team play at both the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. 'My partner came out and made birdies early, so I was able to get comfortable and get my feet under me.'
Duval/Love III vs. Els/Price
Duval and Davis Love teamed together to defeat Nick Price and Carlos Franco in Thursday's Foursome match. However, without Love as a partner, Duval lost both matches he contested in on Friday by 6-and-5 and 6-and-4 scores.
In fact, in both of Friday's matches, Duval was competing against - and losing to - Price. Saturday, Duval was once again paired with Love, while Price joined forced with a winless Ernie Els.
All Square through eight holes, Love birdied the par-3 9th to give the Americans a lead they would never relinquish. Love added another birdie at the 11th to go 2-up, a lead that Duval was able to maintain by matching an Els birdie at the 13th.
The U.S. was conceded a birdie at the 14th to go 3-up, and once again matched an International birdie at the 15th to go dormie-3.
Duval had a chance to end the match on the 16th, but couldn't convert a seven-foot birdie putt. In turn, Price had a chance to extend the match at 16 by sinking a birdie of his own. But this time it was Duval who got the better of Price, as the Zimbabwean lipped out from four feet.
'We both didn't have it at the same time,' said Love, 'but we partnered well together. When he birdied, I didn't. When I birdied, he didn't. But that's what being a good team is all about. We are very comfortable (playing) together.'
The Americans won the match 3-and-2, and, in the process, dropped Els' overall 2000 Presidents Cup record to a startling 0-4. His first three losses came paired with Vijay Singh.
Lehman/Mickelson vs. Weir/Elkington
The International team of Mike Weir and Steve Elkington played near-flawless golf on Saturday, but so too did the American tandem of Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson.
The U.S. team took a 4-up lead through 10 holes, before the Internationals came alive. Both teams birdied the 11th, and then matched eagles at the par-5 12th. Elkington finally made a dent in the American lead by being the only one of the foursome to record a birdie at the 13th. That birdie, combined with a U.S. bogey at the 15th cut the International's deficit to 2-down with three holes to play.
After halving the 16th to go dormie-2, Mickelson closed the match by drilling his approach shot on the par-4 17th to inside three feet.
Despite playing their final seven holes in 6-under-par, Weir and Elkington fell to Lehman and Mickelson 2-and-1.
Woods/Begay III vs. Goosen/Singh
Perhaps Singh just needed a change in partners. After going 0-3 with Els by his side, the Fijian finally earned his first point of the 2000 Presidents Cup with another South African, Retief Goosen.
All Square through nine holes, the International team took a 1-up lead with a Goosen birdie at the short par-4 10th. They then extended that lead to 2-up with another birdie at the 13th.
Enter Tiger Woods.
Woods answered a Singh eagle at the par-5 14th to stay within two of the International team with four holes remaining. At the par-4 15th, Tiger stuck his approach shot to six feet, and then converted the birdie to cut the American deficit to 1-down.
Woods appeared as if he was going to single-handedly win the match for the U.S. team when he nearly aced the par-3 16th. Still, Woods had to make a six-foot birdie putt to square the match. And, for the first time in recent memory, the world's No. 1 player was unable to make a critical putt. Tiger's birdie effort lacked the steam it needed to fall into the cup. The Internationals escaped with a halve, and then birdied the par-4 17th to win the match 2-and-1.
'Retief really played well down the stretch and I made a couple of putts to help,' said Singh. 'This was important to me. I hadn't won a point all week, so this was worthwhile to me.'
Triplett/Cink vs. Allenby/Franco
Kirk Triplett and Stewart Cink continued their surprising play in their first Presidents Cup by defeating the team of Robert Allenby and Carlos Franco.
The match was All Square through 12 holes, before Triplett sank a 25-foot birdie putt at the 13th to give his team a 1-up lead. From there it was a series of halved holes. The two teams equaled each other over the final six holes to give the Americans a 1-up victory.
'Today was a little less fun like it had been,' said Cink. 'We played less well than we had, but we played well enough to win and that's what counts.' Cink and Triplett are the only two players with perfect records entering Sunday's singles matches. The two first-timers have teamed together on three occasions this week, winning all three.
The International team will have to pull-off a comeback of epic proportions to retain the Cup. At last year's Ryder Cup, the victorious United States team was four points down to the European team entering the 12 singles matches. This year, the Internationals are eight points back.
Sunday Singles Matches
Paul Azinger vs. Robert Allenby
David Duval vs. Nick Price
Loren Roberts vs. Stuart Appleby
Phil Mickelson vs. Mike Weir
Davis Love III vs. Ernie Els
Tom Lehman vs. Steve Elkington
Tiger Woods vs. Vijay Singh
Stewart Cink vs. Greg Norman
Carlos Franco vs. Hal Sutton
Jim Furyk vs. Shigeki Maruyama
Kirk Triplett vs. Michael Campbell
Notah Begay III vs. Retief Goosen
Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'
Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.
And now, Greg Norman.
Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.
He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.
DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open
With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.
Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.
Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy
16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas
20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman
50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton
60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick
80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry
100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker
Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open
Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy
Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.
“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”
“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”
The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.
(All Times Local)
Monday, June 18 Austin, Texas (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 19 Houston (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 20 Jacksonville, Fla. (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)
Monday, June 25 Orlando, Fla. (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 4 Washington D.C. (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)
Monday, July 9 Edison, N.J. (Topgolf, Time TBA)
Wednesday, July 11 Lake Tahoe, Nev. American Century Championship (On Course)
Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.
NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.
USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.
The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.
How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.
Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.
So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.
Apparently the Blue Bloods of the @USGA do. I refuse to watch it because I know what the outcome will be. Mike Davis and his crew could ruin Christmas. #amateurhacks #giveusourgameback https://t.co/n3GgOJl02C— William McGirt (@WilliamMcGirt) June 16, 2018
After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.
“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”
Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.
Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.
The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.
At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.
“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”
Thanks guys did Bozo set the course up or are the @USGA going to accept responsibility or just say “IF WE HAD A MULLIGAN” I would have liked about 6 mulligans today. But they are not allowed at this level. “Apparently” pic.twitter.com/O08vOpNlTx— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) June 17, 2018
By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.
“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”
That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.
It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.
“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”
As a player and a golf fan myself, it’s sad to see how one of our biggest tournaments @usopengolf gets ripped apart because the @USGA can’t figure out the right set up for the great golf courses we play!!— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) June 17, 2018
But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.
The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.
“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”
It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.
So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.
“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”
I wish the @USGA would realize that this course really is special. But it was never designed to have greens at 15 on the stemp. You look like you’re trying to embarrass the best players in the world!— Colt Knost (@ColtKnost) June 17, 2018
But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.
After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.
“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”
Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.
Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.