Decisions Decisions

By Mercer BaggsAugust 26, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupPaul Azinger has what Nick Faldo wants. Nick Faldo has what Paul Azinger wants. And both men have a major dilemma.
 
Azinger, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, has four wildcard picks at his disposal and no one who really warrants a selection. Faldo has plenty of players worthy of being on his European team, but only two picks to make.
 
Faldo, who will announce his selections Sunday after the Johnnie Walker Championship, will likely have to cut down a potential list of five to two. Those five include: Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie.
 
Poulter made Faldos decision a bit tougher by deciding to skip the Johnnie Walker and compete in the PGA TOURs Deutsche Bank Championship this week, thus assuring himself of not qualifying for the team based on the European points list.
 
Had Poulter qualified via the points list, he would have likely knocked out either Soren Hansen or Oliver Wilson. And given the likelihood that Faldo would have bypassed either of those two men, it would have opened up another spot on his team for someone more experienced.
 
The European press has been railing on Poulter over his decision, which he said was based on playing in 15 TOUR events to keep his status (this will be his 15th event of the season). At 89th on the FedExCup playoff standings, had he not played in Boston he would not have had a chance to qualify for the final two Playoffs events (the top 70 make it to next weeks BMW Championship).
 
He still might not make it to St. Louis, but he wont have to play in any Fall Series events either, which was his goal. And apparently that goal superseded guaranteeing him a spot on this years European Ryder Cup team.
 
Or maybe he already knows something we dont. Maybe Faldo has already made his two picks and hes just not letting the public in on it yet.
 
Thats the case for Azinger. He told GOLF CHANNELs Tim Rosaforte Monday that he has already determined who will occupy two of his four open slots. He wouldnt reveal the names, but he did say that you had to look well outside the second 10 on the final U.S. Ryder Cup points list to find their names.
 
Such a statement is an indication as to how poorly those comprising the 10-20 spots on the final standings have played recently.
 
Only one name stands out looking outside the top 20: No. 34, Scott Verplank.
 
Verplank competed in the 2002 and 2006 Ryder Cup Matches and has a career 4-1-0 record.
 
When Azinger announced that he would get four picks instead of two, and would be making the selections two weeks from the Cup instead of right after the PGA Championship, he said it was to assure him of having the hottest players on his team.
 
Unfortunately, everyone who failed to qualify is currently lukewarm at best ' and some are down right frigid. Because of that, Azinger has opted for what every captain before him has: experience.
 
This is the final week for players to impress the captains. One would assume that Casey and Poulter have the best chance of making it on the European side, with Clarke having an outside chance, McGinley having a further outside chance, and Monty having no chance in Hades.
 
On the U.S. side, its wide open ' at least for two of the four spots. Steve Stricker, Sean OHair, Rocco Mediate and J.B. Holmes are possible picks; though none have Ryder Cup experience.
 
If Azinger only had two picks, his decision would be made; if Faldo had four picks, his would be made much easier.
 
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    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

    Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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    Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

    By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

    In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

    Made Cut

    Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

    “I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

    Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

    A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

    The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

    The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

    Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

    “The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

    It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


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    A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

    “It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

    Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

    For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

    Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

    Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

    It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


    Missed Cut

    By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

    Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

    While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

    Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

    Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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    S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

    By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

    SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

    Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

    Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

    ''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

    Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.


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    ''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

    She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

    Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

    Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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    'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

    By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

    JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

    At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

    With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

    Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

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    The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

    Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

    Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

    ''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

    ''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

    Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

    ''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

    ''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

    Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.