Cut Line: Ryder Cup talk dominates in Boston

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2016, 10:55 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Our cup is firmly half full this week, with the Ryder Cup comings and goings dominating the first part of the week followed by a return to the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Made Cut

Team USA. Davis Love III stayed on point this week, explaining how this Ryder Cup will be different and that it’s the team, not the captain, who will change America’s fortunes in the matches.

“Now it’s time for this top 8 [the automatic qualifiers] to take ownership of this team," Love said Monday. "These eight guys need to pick four more. From No. 1 to No. 8 they need to take ownership of this team."

The new selection system, which will save the final captain’s pick until after the Tour Championship, was designed to give Love the best chance to win, and the U.S. players who have already qualified seemed genuinely inspired by the prospect of ending the side’s swoon.

Soon the picks and pairings will be made and the outcome will rest entirely with the players, but until then the U.S. team is at least saying all the right things.

Case-y in point. It’s been seven years since Paul Casey won a PGA Tour event, a reality that despite the Englishman’s easygoing nature is not always easy to hide.

On Friday at TPC Boston following a first-round 66 that propelled him into a share of third place, Casey was asked if he was hungry for a win.

Casey’s response was not verbal, but perfectly clear as he smiled and nodded his head.

“I've been working hard with [caddie Johnny McLaren] on things like distance control and working on some different shots and on the putting, but it's very much time to try and make that hard work pay off if we can,” he said.

There’s always a fine line between patiently wanting something and applying too much internal pressure. To Casey’s credit, he seems perfectly positioned.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Team Europe. It’s always best to keep the second-guessing to a minimum until after the matches, but Darren Clarke’s captain’s picks this week have left some room for early criticism.

Clarke went heavy on veteran leadership with his first two choices of Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, which is understandable considering the Europeans already have five rookies on the team, but his third choice, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, drew a few raised eyebrows.

Pieters certainly earned consideration considering his victory last week in Denmark and a runner-up showing a week before at the Czech Masters, but the decision left Scotland’s Russell Knox off the team and could end up haunting the captain.

Knox has had a breakout season this year on Tour, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions last fall and the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.

Captain’s picks are always a judgment call, but the choice to bypass Knox is curious, particularly if the Europeans don’t win next month.

Some things are better Left unsaid. The Ryder Cup team assembled this week at Gillette Stadium for a team bonding dinner, but the event had an interesting undertone.

Officials held a closest-to-the-pin contest from 78 yards on the field at Gillette Stadium, an event which was reportedly won by Phil Mickelson . . . using right-handed clubs.

“Honestly, it's just not that hard to play golf right-handed,” Mickelson jokingly told “I think the real challenge and enjoyment I get is from trying to play the game left-handed.”

Mickelson, who is a notorious trash-talker, appeared to leave out a few details.

“Phil hit more balls than anyone else, so that’s why,” Brandt Snedeker smiled.

There is also some debate over who really won the contest, with Jimmy Walker telling reporters on Friday, “Davis [Love] hit it closest.”

Lefty’s competitive nature, and the occasional needle, is what makes him so special, but maybe he should save some of his barbs for the Europeans next month for the sake of team chemistry.

Missed Cut

Playing to the crowd. News surfaced this week that the Tour will not renew the top 125 money list exemption, which in itself is not entirely surprising or overly newsworthy, but word also circulated this week that the circuit has floated the idea of reducing the total number of members.

This week the player advisory council debated whether the circuit should consider reducing the number of exemptions from the FedEx Cup points list - the top 125 are currently exempt heading into the following season - and from the Tour’s Finals Series.

The move, which according to various sources was widely dismissed by the PAC, is an attempt to assure those who do get their Tour cards that they have plenty of playing opportunities.

Although the pressure to give every member a chance to play has been mounting in recent years, taking away playing opportunities seems counterintuitive.

Woe is Rory. It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Rory McIlroy and things haven’t gotten much better in the playoffs.

McIlroy switched to a new putting coach last week at The Barclays, Englishman Phil Kenyon, and explained this week that the makeover isn’t a complete overhaul, but it’s close.

On Friday at TPC Boston, the conversation took another poor turn when the Northern Irishman played his first three holes in 4 over par – which included a three-putt at his second hole – and McIlroy’s plan to have his putting game back on track in time for next year’s Masters likely doesn’t bode well for Europe’s Ryder Cup chances.

McIlroy – who did rebound on Friday to shoot an even-par 71 – also has the added pressure of trying to play his way into the Tour Championship. He’s currently 38th in FedEx Cup points. He will figure out his putting woes eventually, he always does, but it’s clear this will take some time.

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Ryu thriving again after simple advice from Inbee Park

By Randall MellJune 21, 2018, 7:07 pm

So Yeon Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last year.

She reigned as world No. 1 for almost five months.

So when she couldn’t keep her momentum going at year’s start, she got frustrated. She wasn’t happy with two top 10s in her first 11 starts.

“I lost a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year,” Ryu said Thursday as she prepared to lead a strong field as the defending champion in Friday’s start of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. “My expectation level was way too high.”

So she sought the counsel of her pal, world No. 1 Inbee Park, who gave her some plain-spoken advice.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

“Get over it,” Park told her. “You know what to do. You’ve done it, so it’s not really a big deal. Don’t worry about it. You were No. 1. You’ve achieved a lot of things as a professional golfer. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Ryu got over it winning the Meijer LPGA Classic last week, the sixth LPGA title of her career, her third in 15 months. She’s feeling good again leading a stellar field this week at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., a strong tune up before next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the year’s third major championship.

World No. 1 Park, No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson are among the top nine players in the world scheduled to compete this week. Twenty-four of the top 30 are in the field.

“When you come to defend your title, you obviously have a lot of pressure, but after I won last week, now I sort of think, maybe I have a chance to defend my title,” Ryu said. “So I've got total confidence, by last week.”

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Watch: Spieth, JT hole bunker shots in back-to-back groups

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 6:57 pm

Jordan Spieth has a thing for holing bunker shots at the Travelers Championship, where he made one in a playoff to win last year.

He did it again in Round 1 at TPC River Highlands, knocking in this shot for eagle at the par-5 sixth to reach 4 under par for the tournament

In the next group, Justin Thomas did the same thing to reach 1 under. Keep an eye out for the best part of this highlight, when Thomas' caddie Jimmy Johnson tries to hand him his putter.

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River Highlands a 'breather' for Zach Johnson (63)

By Will GrayJune 21, 2018, 6:43 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – After enduring the pressure-cooker of the U.S. Open, Zach Johnson was more than happy to drift north to the friendly confines of TPC River Highlands.

Birdies were rare last week at Shinnecock Hills, but they’ll be plentiful all week long at the Travelers Championship. Browned-out and crispy conditions transitioned to lush and verdant, and players can attack flags without fear of turning a possible par into a struggle to avoid triple.

Johnson did just that in the opening round, carding eight birdies against a single bogey to take the early lead with a 7-under 63.

“It’s a different kind of breathing. It’s a different kind of exhaling, if you will, but they’re both good,” Johnson said. “You can put some red on the board here. We know that. We’ve seen it. You can go the other way in a hurry if you press it; it can keep going in the other way. So you kind of have to let it happen. This is one of those courses where you have to let it happen.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Like many in this week’s field, Johnson took it easy after a grueling major championship, staying away from the course Monday and easing into his prep over the next two days. Those decisions paid off quickly as he rattled off six straight birdies on Nos. 11-16 to take sole possession of the lead.

While Johnson tied for 12th last week at Shinnecock Hills, that was just his second top-15 finish since the Sony Open in January. But the veteran is no stranger to fast starts at TPC River Highlands, having now opened with 65 or better four times in his last eight appearances dating back to 2011.

It’s a course where he continues to have success, even if his past consistency hasn’t lived up to expectations.

“I feel like every time I get here it feels like I should shoot nothing, and it bites me,” Johnson said. “The last couple years I’m like, ‘All right, you can’t have any expectations in that regard. You’ve just got to go out and execute, you know, put the ball in the fairway and you will have opportunities.’” 

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First photos from Norman's 'Body' shoot

By Grill Room TeamJune 21, 2018, 6:35 pm

It was revealed earlier this week that Greg Norman would be one of the athletes showcased in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features the models stategically posed in the nude.

Well, the first photos are out from Norman's shoot and ... here they are, if you want them.