Furyk perfect fit to continue Ryder Cup success

By Rex HoggardJanuary 11, 2017, 6:15 pm

HONOLULU – Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain on Wednesday.

Those who savor the contentious side of life will point to Furyk’s record in the biennial matches – a 10-20-4 card that, like most statistics, doesn’t really tell the entire tale – and a largely losing history when it comes to Samuel Ryder’s chalice.

Furyk, who will be 48 when the U.S. team takes the field next year outside of Paris, was there when the American team dropped a four-point advantage in 2012 at Medinah and again in ’14 when they were boat-raced by the Europeans in Scotland.

To some, the affable and thoughtful Furyk, along with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, is the face of American futility in the matches. It’s guilt by association, and it’s blatantly misplaced.

From a practical perspective, the Ryder Cup committee, which was born from 2014’s task force and includes a mix of players and PGA of America executives, would be challenged to find a suitable candidate to captain the next few teams who has a winning record, the byproduct of six losses in the last eight bouts for the United States.

From a more personal standpoint, Furyk represents all that is endearing about the U.S. Ryder Cup effort. He’s been classy in defeat, pivotal in victory (2008) and was a key member of Davis Love III’s staff last year when the Americans finally broke the Continent’s hold on the Ryder Cup.



He’s thoughtful, engaging and always accommodating with the media, which in this age of mass appeal is a crucial component of being a captain, and he had played on every team since 1997 before last year’s matches.

But most importantly, he is a player and he will be a player’s captain.

“He has as much knowledge as anyone, the only person I would say with similar knowledge would be Phil [Mickelson],” Jordan Spieth said on Monday at Waialae Country Club. “Those guys have seen everything. They’ve seen success, they’ve seen the scar tissue in the Ryder Cup.”

Although he may have embraced his role as vice captain last year at Hazeltine National reluctantly after missing much of the year with an injury that likely cost him a spot in Love’s lineup, he assumed a position of leadership long before being given the keys to his own team golf cart.

Spieth recalled that when he first arrived on Tour he was intimidated by Furyk’s intensity, but that quickly changed.

“He’s become probably the most approachable person since I’ve been on the PGA Tour,” Spieth said. “He’s been an extremely good role model for me in the way he practices and the way he comes off away from the course.”

At the 2014 matches at Gleneagles, Spieth was a member of Furyk’s “pod,” which included Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. It wasn’t an accident that the then-Ryder Cup rookie was grouped with Furyk, whose calm demeanor and experience were crucial.

“He’s a guy that can step into that captain’s role and listen to what everyone has to say and make you think that there are bits and pieces he likes and bit pieces where he’s thinking differently,” Spieth said. “He’s an easy guy to talk to and to believe when he tells you what he’s thinking.”

After Mickelson, who assumed something of a playing vice captain role last year and is likely slated to captain the ’24 team at Bethpage in New York, Furyk is the most obvious choice to continue the work that began with last year’s victory (and make no mistake, those involved view the ’16 matches as only the beginning).

“Phil and Amy [Mickelson] are big time leaders and Jim and [wife Tabitha] are big time leaders as well,” Spieth said. “That really is important in a Ryder Cup team room, having both sides, having leadership together as a couple.”

But most importantly, Furyk’s selection makes sense to those who have played alongside him at the game’s most intense gathering because of his proven commitment and passion.

“He’s so well respected and has a really good understanding of the match play portion, the teammate stuff,” said Stewart Cink, who played with Furyk on five Ryder Cup teams. “He’s been playing for a long time and still plays and is around the players. That and a competitive fire that is matched by a very few is what it takes to be a Ryder Cup captain.”

There’ll be those who will consider Furyk’s appointment a step backward for the U.S. Ryder Cup system after last year’s emotional triumph, but to those who have played with him, who will play for him in France, he’s the perfect choice.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.