Internationals need more than rallies to defeat U.S.

By Rex HoggardOctober 4, 2013, 12:48 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – As moral victories go, this one carries some street cred.

Before Mother Nature intervened and dumped nearly an inch of rain on muddy Muirfield Village, the Internationals were dug into a hole that threatened to make the next three days of the Presidents Cup as enticing as an intrasquad soccer match.

Down in all six matches shortly before the weather-warning horn sent players and patrons scrambling for cover, Nick Price’s crew clawed its way back into relevancy and escaped what was shaping up to be another black Thursday.

Presidents Cup: Articles, videos and photos

With apologies to the International faithful, we don’t play for participation ribbons and it’s best to leave the moral victories to high school football teams and debate teams.

The Internationals need more than a good showing if they are going to end two decades of hopelessness, and Thursday’s opening fourball session needed to be better than 3 ½ to 2 ½.

The U.S. hadn’t won a fourball session at the biennial match since 2003. It’s why Price – along with Greg Norman and Ernie Els – pleaded with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to change the opening-day format to best ball instead of alternate shot.

It could have been worse, but it needed to be better.

“Nick just told us to stay patient,” said Graham DeLaet, who along with Jason Day rallied from a three-hole deficit through six holes to stun Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker, 1 up. “We were playing well, they were playing really well, but we knew we just needed to play our game.”

Unfortunately for DeLaet, the Internationals’ “game” hasn’t been up to the task in this bout.

While Price’s seven rookies bask in the glow of their Thursday fortunes, the captain and his veterans know what awaits in Friday’s six foursome matches.

The name may change, but not the competitive essentials.

To explain the International team’s struggles at the Presidents Cup, look no further than the American side’s struggles in the Ryder Cup.

The U.S holds a commanding 7-1-1 lead in the Presidents Cup. Over roughly that same period of time, with roughly the same team, America is 2-7-0 in the Ryder Cup, and for roughly the same reasons. Foursomes play and poor putting are the primary Achilles’ heels for both perennial punching bags.

The Internationals have not won a foursomes session since Day 1 in 2003, and last time around at Royal Melbourne in 2011, the U.S. won by four points and outplayed the home team 8-3 in foursomes play.

Similarly, just once in the last five matches (2012) has the U.S. team won the foursome portion of the competition at the Ryder Cup and is 1-4 in that span.

The week’s red, white and blue squad also enjoys the game’s most red-hot putters at the moment, the other side of the team competition coin.

America’s top six putters according to the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic are better than the International side’s best, Day who ranks 29th and trails Steve Stricker (second), Brandt Snedeker (fourth), Phil Mickelson (sixth), Tiger Woods (22nd), Matt Kuchar (25th) and Hunter Mahan (27th).

If that sounds familiar, consider that at last year’s Ryder Cup Luke Donald (No. 3) and Sergio Garcia (No. 26) were statistically among the top seven putters at Medinah.

Whether it is the Americans in even-numbered years, or the Internationals in odd years, neither the reason nor the outcome is a mystery. And it may be too much to expect a Rest of the World brainstorming session late Thursday to reach an epiphany. The answer to the International woes can be found in the clichéd Tour fallback position – play, and putt, better.

“It’s no secret, is there? It's just about playing some good golf,” said Adam Scott, who halved his match against Bill Haas and Webb Simpson playing with Hideki Matsuyama. “I think everyone's feeling pretty confident after this afternoon the way they played the last 10, 12 holes, whatever we had left out there. Take some of that confidence into tomorrow.”

Thursday’s comeback was nice, but it wasn’t the cure. Price & Co. are still running uphill and when the captains named virtually the same teams for Friday’s foursome play – U.S. captain Fred Couples switched two of his teams while Price went with the status quo – the subtext was clear.

Couples may play the role of disengaged leader, but his motives were transparent – if the Internationals are going to end the U.S. reign they will have to do so only by cutting into the core of America’s dominance and win a foursome session.

Momentum can be a powerful platform particularly in these team gatherings (see Ryder Cup, 2012), but the anxiety was clear in Price’s voice when asked how he intended to break the U.S. stranglehold in the foursome frame.

“It has been very hard for us in foursomes, it’s the hardest format,” the captain said. “But individuals have got to get together and spur each other on. You can only do so much. I am not going to lose faith in those teams.”

The Internationals positioned Day 1’s rally as a moral victory, but if they are going to score their first proper triumph since 1998 they will need more than that.

Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”