Exciting Presidents Cup over, focus now on Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardOctober 12, 2015, 4:03 pm

INCHEON, South Korea – In the frenzied moments following the U.S. team’s one-point victory on Sunday at the Presidents Cup the metaphorical page turned. Davis Love III could feel it.

“I was thinking to myself that this is going to be weird because I’m up,” Love said. “I’m up.”

At the risk of exiting the moment far too early, it was perfectly understandable that Love’s mind would drift to next year’s Ryder Cup, where he will take his second turn as the American captain.

In Love’s defense it was the players who made it impossible not to peek ahead to next year’s matches, where the U.S. team will attempt to end a victory drought that dates back to 2008.

One by one the players, from Zach Johnson to Bill Haas, descended on Love with an eye toward Hazeltine National.

“And, of course, Phil [Mickelson], he came up and said, ‘Don’t forget about me next year,’” Love smiled. “Even [caddie Jim Mackay] told me, ‘My man can still play.’”

But then Mickelson’s inspired play in South Korea was just a single data point for Love from a week that he was only beginning to digest.

Officials and players bristle at the notion that the Presidents Cup was some sort of dress rehearsal for next year’s Ryder Cup, but the reality is after last year’s loss at Gleneagles everyone involved with the Ryder Cup has focused a critical eye on improvement, and what better place to look for answers than the biennial bout with the rest of the world.

It’s why the PGA of America created the Ryder Cup task force and, ultimately, chose Love to take his second turn as captain. So it was hardly a surprise that Love carefully watched how Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas, as well as assistant Fred Couples, ran things.

What may be a surprise to some, however, is who else was dissecting the proceedings.

“We saw some things that we want to be part of the plan next year,” Love said. “If you don’t think the task force is working, Tiger Woods is interested in what’s happening this week to apply it to the Ryder Cup.”

Woods called Love and Steve Stricker, who along with Love was an assistant last week and a potential future Ryder Cup captain, on Friday to talk about the matches and things he thought could help the U.S. team next year. Woods also told Love, according to Golf Digest, that he wants to be involved next year, even if that means being an assistant captain.

While the players don’t consider the Presidents Cup a tune-up for the main event next fall, there was plenty to be gleaned from last week’s matches for those who will be moving the chess pieces at Hazeltine National.

Pairings like Mickelson and Zach Johnson, who went 2-0-1 as a team in Korea, and Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, 2-1-0, became part of Love’s general game plan moving forward.

“Zach and Phil made a great pairing. It was interesting how Dustin and Jordan paired. You have the guy who bombs it and just hits it and then the most organized, structured, game-plan guy we’ve got [Spieth]. They wanted to be together,” Love said. “That was really interesting.”

Even the process of selecting each day’s pairings, which unlike the Ryder Cup is a head-to-head draw between the two captains, was a learning experience.

Each day the captains would gather for the draw with a telling hierarchy on the American side of the table.

“We [Love, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk] sat down on the end and gave our ideas and thoughts and guessed what was going to happen,” said Furyk, who was a last-minute withdrawal from the matches with a wrist injury. “Ultimately, it was just a learning experience from the other guys that have done it so many times.”

For Furyk it was a particularly educational week. Although the veteran is still focused on playing the annual team events he is viewed in many corners as a consensus future captain.

Under the legacy philosophy established by the task force, where future captains are groomed as assistants, last week’s experience was very much a crash course for the nine-time Ryder Cup player.

“Jay and Fred have done it so much. Davis has experience. I think that's what Stricker and I are trying to draw from,” Furyk said.

For Love, who was also an assistant to Couples in 2013 at Muirfield Village, the challenge now is applying the lessons from last week, which has proven to be more difficult than one would expect.

It’s less an apples-to-apples comparison between the two events, considering the U.S. is 9-1-1 in the Presidents Cup but 3-8-0 during that same snapshot against the Continent.

If the Presidents Cup held all of the answers for the embattled American Ryder Cup team then the fix would be to name Couples the captain and use FedEx Cup points to select the teams, but the reality is more nuanced than that.

 “Why is it so much more relaxed? Why is it so much easier? Less pressure?” Love wondered. “[Mickelson] made a good point when he said we know there’s more pressure in the Ryder Cup. You can’t try to just turn it off. You know it’s going to be there.”

Maybe the only difference this time around is that the players and primary characters are focused on the Ryder Cup some 12 months before the first tee shot is hit.

It was a telling moment for Love on Sunday in South Korea when Spieth turned to him during the winner’s news conference to ask about the Ryder Cup. Love playfully informed the world No. 1, “You still have to qualify [for the team].”

Many have dismissed the task force as reactionary, a public relations answer to the awkward moments that followed the U.S. loss at Gleneagles. But for those charged with plotting America’s course it’s become a reason to be engaged.

“We’re all talking about it now. That’s the difference,” said Love as he wandered toward the U.S. team room with a single thought – I’m up.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”