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Presidents Cup needs a boost - badly

By Rex HoggardSeptember 27, 2017, 10:02 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J.– The views will be breathtaking and the crowds, if even the most conservative estimates are reached, will be rowdy and ready when the Presidents Cup begins on Thursday at Liberty National.

If there’s one constant in this neck of the tri-state area, success depends on three elements – location, location, location.

It’s why the PGA Tour enthusiastically embraced the concept of a “City Cup.” Liberty National may not have been the most popular course among Tour types, but it is unquestionably prime real estate with sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline awaiting around every dogleg.

Unfortunately, idyllic views and raucous fans are only a single element of a successful competition, no matter the sport. The play on the field will ultimately dictate the success or failure of the 12th Presidents Cup. It’s why you play, and why Nick Price, the loquacious three-time International captain, talks like this is his side’s final stand.

“I’d like to think that Korea was a turning point. It was like a Wednesday, a hump day, in the Presidents Cup,” said Price, referencing, as he has regularly, the one-point loss his team endured two years ago in South Korea. “We’ve struggled, struggled, struggled, and now all of a sudden is it going to take off? That’s what we’re all hoping for. Is it going to be the competition we all want to play in and compete for?”

This is not a death notice. There will be a Presidents Cup in 2019 and ’21 and ’23. The Tour is far too invested in the biennial matches to let them go quietly, but it seems the matches have reached a tipping point and not just for Price and the International side.

On some level, the Presidents Cup suffers by comparison; always shoved into the shadow of the Ryder Cup, which itself was transformed from a one-sided affair by the American victory last year at Hazeltine National.

Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos

The Ryder Cup is the benchmark for all other team competitions, with each edition bigger and more compelling than the last. The U.S. loss in 2012 at Medinah set record attendance records, which were summarily broken by the mass of humanity that ringed the course last year in Minnesota.

Players spend two years thinking about the Ryder Cup, answering questions about the Ryder Cup, fixating on the Ryder Cup. Just last week at the Tour Championship, England’s Paul Casey, who isn’t even eligible to play next year’s event, was asked about the 2018 matches in Paris.

Even those involved in this week’s matches concede, the Presidents Cup is a victim of association and the unrealistic expectations that the Ryder Cup creates.

 “This doesn't have the same sense of hostility as the Ryder Cup and I think some people think outside of Europe and America, that because of that, it's less important,” International assistant captain Tony Johnstone said. “You can't fast-track tradition and heritage and I think the Presidents Cup is getting there, and it's just going to grow and grow and grow.”

Perhaps this week’s event, energized by the venue, is bound for bigger and better finishes. But the only way that happens is if the Internationals can do what few outside the blue and gold team room think is possible – win.

International futility has now reached 1-9-1 in the matches and other than the ’15 bout, five of the last six U.S. victories have been by three or more points, which is a statistical blowout in these kinds of team events.

All one needs to see to get a feel for the International team’s road ahead are Thursday’s foursome matches. In the day’s second match, Adam Scott, who didn’t advance past the second playoff event this year, and Jhonattan Vegas, a rookie, will play Dustin Johnson, a four-time winner this year on Tour, and Matt Kuchar, who is playing his eighth U.S. team event this week.

Match 3 doesn’t look any better for the away team, with rookies Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo set to play Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who proved unstoppable at last year’s Ryder Cup.

Every two years, the European Ryder Cup team receives an unexpected boost from a player most U.S. fans couldn’t pick out of a line up (see Pieters, Thomas 2016 Ryder Cup). It’s hard to look down Price’s scorecard and see a surprising savior this week.

On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson – who has played in every Presidents Cup – was asked if, for the good of the event, it may be better if the International team were to win this week’s matches. The competitive DNA of Lefty would never allow that kind of altruistic thinking, but there was a telling pause before he answered.

“I don't think so, no,” Mickelson said. “We're not there yet, no. We feel it. We know once the door opens how good the players are on the International team that could lead to more losses, so we've got to continue to be ready, play sharp, and play our best because if you look at the talent on the International team, it is strong and it is deep, and if we open the door and give them an opportunity, it will bite us.”

That would be the answer one would expect. Although technically an exhibition, players at this level have no interest in participation medals. But the question remains valid, if not now then when?

Price and his eclectic dozen need a win, the event needs a win, and not even the most picturesque panorama can change that competitive reality.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.