Inside Ryder Cup task force: Who deserves credit?

By Rex HoggardNovember 15, 2016, 9:23 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – When books are written about the 41st Ryder Cup and the U.S. side’s drought-busting victory the stories will begin with some assessment of the American task force.

But if revisiting the task force is a historical inevitability it still prompts a quiet sigh from Jim Furyk, a member of both the U.S. side as an assistant captain and the task force. He celebrated the outcome just as much as the next guy, just don’t expect him to use the “T.F.” words.

“I viewed all of it, I hate to even say task force, but a group of individuals that got together,” Furyk said Tuesday at the RSM Classic. “It was the folks from the PGA of America saying, ‘Hey, this obviously isn’t going the way we want it to. Let’s get together and talk about the reasons why and how we make it better.’”

Whatever the designation, the American victory is the sum of that group’s parts.

Born from the U.S. loss at Gleneagles in 2014, the American team’s sixth defeat in the last seven editions, the task force included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Davis Love III, Raymond Floyd, Tom Lehman and Steve Stricker.

On Dec. 9, 2014, the task force held its first meeting at PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. For Furyk, it was a turning point for the U.S. team that was followed by countless conference calls and group text messages.

“That one was important, for me. The phone calls were great, but to be in the room, and I think Phil [Mickelson] probably felt the same way, and visually see everyone and talk and give your opinion,” Furyk said. “To be able to physically see it on the walls was important.”

Mickelson flew to Florida from California, “on his own dime,” Furyk said, and players made the event important, which is not always easy when dealing with Tour players.

Paul Levy, the newly appointed president of the PGA, recently offered some insight into the process that helped lift Love’s team to a 17-11 victory last month in Minnesota.

The 11-man task force led to the Ryder Cup committee, the standing group that will decide future captains and other match policies. Levy told a group of club professionals last week in New York at the PGA’s annual meeting the initial thought was for the committee to include three PGA of America officials – the CEO, president and vice president – and two PGA Tour members.

“Jim Furyk said, ‘How about three [PGA officials] and three [Tour members],” Levy said.

On Tuesday at Sea Island Resort, Furyk didn’t recall making the request, but acknowledged that the players on the task force asked about an even split on the committee. It wasn’t a demand, it wasn’t a negotiation, just a suggestion, like everything else that was born from the group.

“I never felt like there was a power struggle. I think we just threw it out there, three and three, so we’d have an even number of ideas,” Furyk said. “I don’t even want to call it sides because we’re on the same team, we’re on the same side. Just an even number of opinions coming from the PGA Tour players and the PGA of America.”

It’s a testament to the PGA’s desire to continue the momentum born from the task force that the idea of equal representation was embraced by the association, with Woods, Mickelson and Love named to the new committee.

Details of those meetings will continue to shed light on a process that gave the players, the most important part of the Ryder Cup, ownership of the matches. If not a proprietary interest, then at the least the task force gave players a voice in an event that had long ago outgrown the simplicity of just “showing up and playing golf.”

“You had folks coming in from all over the place to try to help,” Furyk said. “I viewed it as, look how important this is to everyone. Look how involved Tiger is to the process, and here’s a guy who was viewed from the outside as not caring that much and he put a lot of heart and soul into it.”

The players gave in time and energy and insight, the PGA gave by ceding a measure of control in what is the association’s most lucrative product. Neither effort should be dismissed.

In a quiet moment a few weeks before this year’s matches Love asked your scribe, “Who will get credit for the task force?”

The easy initial answer was Mickelson, whose comments in the wake of the U.S. loss in 2014 may have left some hurt feelings but ultimately paved the way for the task force.

But in retrospect, credit should be spread around, to the Tour members on the task force who took a genuine interest, and to the PGA for letting them.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.