A Captains Dilemma

By Rex HoggardAugust 8, 2010, 3:12 am

PGA of AmericaAKRON, Ohio – There are three basic tenets to a successful Ryder Cup captaincy – avoid really bad pairings (Hal Sutton in 2004), really bad shirts (Ben Crenshaw in 1999) and really bad circumstances (Tom Lehman in 2006).

That is, of course, unless you’re Corey Pavin and you find yourself being backed into a really bad corner.

If Freddie Couples’ 2009 Presidents Cup stint was characterized by a “captain cool” atmosphere, Pavin’s early calling card may be something along the lines of “captain come on.”

No? Consider Pavin’s options as the matches close in on the scrappy captain with an American star in Tiger Woods who appears either unable or unwilling to make this year’s squad.

Forget Saturday’s 75 from Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, his worst round ever at Firestone. It is, by and large, the status quo for a season that has many more valleys than peaks.

Captain Corey plans to huddle with Woods next week at Whistling Straits for a meeting that promises to be largely one-sided. At ninth on the U.S. points list, the best player of his generation, perhaps of all time, certainly has the resume to justify a captain’s pick.

That is, of course, if he even needs a freebie. His record at the PGA Championship (four victories and eight top 10s) is impossible to ignore and we’ve watched him do more with less before (see Open, 2008 U.S.). Woods and Pavin also have time on their side. The captain’s picks are not made until Sept. 7 and a lot can change in four weeks.

Whether the world No. 1 has any interest in making the hop to Wales for a week full of pomp and team play is the more important question.

On Wednesday Woods was asked whether he would want to be a captain’s pick if it came to that: “I'm planning on playing my way into the team,” Woods said sternly.

Asked a second time and the response was even more chilly, “I'm planning on playing my way into the team.”

Tough to read between so few lines, but as early as June’s Memorial tournament, Woods and Steve Stricker, who paired together so successfully last year at Harding Park, talked about this year’s matches.

“For sure he can help the team and I hope I’m his partner again,” Stricker said. “He’s as tough a competitor as anyone and I can’t imagine him sitting at home.”

Stricker would know, he teamed with Woods last year to secure four points for the American side and was paired with him more in 2009 than any other player. But that was a different time, a different Tiger.

The man who is currently placed third from last among a field of 80 players in Ohio seems to be missing some of the cache or confidence that lifted him to 14 Grand Slam tilts.

For Pavin, however, his hands are tied. To not make Woods a captain’s pick, even a Woods who is firing on six of eight cylinders, would ignite immediate second guessing from the media. Woods, a true competitor despite his current form, could provide Pavin with political cover by publically declining a spot, although Stricker can’t imagine that scenario.

“If he’s outside the top 8 (automatic qualifying) and (Pavin) asked him to be a pick I imagine he would do it,” Stricker said. “He’s trying to rebuild an image and I don’t think that would be a good way to start.”

Besides, among the players currently on the outside looking to be one of four picks (Nos. 10 Hunter Mahan, 11 Ricky Barnes and 12 Ben Crane) it’s hard to make an argument that Woods is not deserving.

So it is with both player and captain backed into a corner the odds of Woods not being on the Air American charter bound for Wales later this year seems about as slim as his title chances at Firestone.

Still, that does little to help Pavin.

Given Woods’ current status on the FedEx Cup points list, 111th and fading, it is not a stretch to imagine a first-round Playoff exit, which would create a three-week competitive void before the matches and likely only exacerbate his playing problems.

And deepen the corner Pavin now finds his back against.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."