A little levity to cure Ryder Cup 'Saturday Night' fever

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2014, 5:30 pm

NEW YORK – In honor of today’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks announcement from the home of “Saturday Night Live” at 30 Rock we go to Studio 8H for an open audition, SNL style.

Cue the late Don Pardo:  “It’s ‘Saturday Night Live,’ with Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson, Brendon Todd, Harris English. And featuring U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.”


Keegan Bradley (Bill Hader as James Carville): “Do I think about the other potential picks? I think plenty about them and I laugh. I laugh. I laugh. We don’t always get the job we look right for. If we did Bill Haas would be the king of the snakes.”

The U.S. side’s answer to Ian Poulter went undefeated in team play paired with Phil Mickelson in 2012 and his tie for 16th at TPC Boston was his fourth top-20 finish in his last six starts. He may be more than two years removed from his last PGA Tour victory, but the U.S. side will need the fire Bradley brings to the table in Scotland.

Hunter Mahan (Justin Timberlake as the Dancing Mascot): “(Singing) All I do is win, win, win no matter. Got ball-striking on your mind, you can never get enough. And every time I step onto the course your GIR goes up … Bring it on down to Hunter-ville.”

Mahan’s victory at The Barclays to begin the playoffs was exactly the kind of late surge Paul Azinger envisioned with he lobbied the PGA of America to change the U.S. selection process in 2008. He also has plenty of Ryder Cup experience and his 3-2-3 record in the matches is impressive relative to the U.S team’s pedestrian play the last few years.

Bill Haas (Kevin Nealon as Mr. Subliminal): “I don’t know who Watson should select, pick me. I’ve never played in a Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup twice, and have never really felt that pressure, FedEx Cup champ. I guess you would want to find someone who has been consistent, haven’t missed a cut all year, and can gel with the team, my dad’s Jay.”

He capped an amazingly consistent year, a perfect 26-for-26 in cuts made, with a solid week at the Deutsche Bank Championship (T-9) and added a runner-up finish at the Wyndham Championship that will likely sway Watson in Haas’ direction. He’s also one of the Tour’s most popular members and would likely get the support of the players who are already on the team.

Chris Kirk (Jimmy Fallon): “Enjoy your stay, they all do ... ”

While Kirk played along with the “Tonight Show” lampoon following the PGA Championship – for the record, he’s taken a new head shot for next year’s Tour media guide – he didn’t give Watson anything to laugh about with his victory on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship where he outplayed Rory McIlroy, the European team’s anchor, in a key Sunday pairing.

Unfortunately it was the would-be Ryder Cup rookie’s first top-10 since May and he will likely have to go with Plan B. “I’m planning on going to see Georgia play Tennessee that weekend. We’ll see what happens,” he smiled at TPC Boston.

Christopher Walken

Brandt Snedeker (Christopher Walken as super producer Bruce Dickinson, pictured above): “Easy guys. I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Except that once I get my pants on I putt like gold. You’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more Snedeker. Don’t fear the reaper.”

This will likely test the theory that the extra time to make the captain’s picks allows a skipper to pick the players who are in form. Before the playoffs began Snedeker was among the short list of contenders to land a pick, but he missed the cut at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship and, perhaps more concerning, has struggled with the putter in recent weeks. Watson has likely spent more time with Snedeker then any other potential pick, but that may not be enough to land him a start in Scotland.

Brendon Todd (played by Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers): “You can’t pick a rookie to play in the Ryder Cup, it’s too overwhelming ... said every losing U.S. Ryder Cup captain the last two decades.”

History suggests Watson may steer clear of picking any rookies for this year’s team. This is, after all, the same captain who made Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins his picks in 1993 when the veterans were 22nd and 32nd, respectively, on the U.S. point list. But Todd, who was the hottest U.S. player for a month and half this summer, can make a compelling argument that he deserves a pick and he ranks sixth on Tour in strokes gained-putting, always a key statistic when it comes to the Ryder Cup.

Bubba Watson (Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby): “I don’t know how you can leave me off this team. I’m just a great big American winning machine and ... I’m sorry what? Already on the team. Don’t need a pick, just a partner. Wow, OK, well this is embarrassing. Go USA.”

Webb Simpson (Jason Sudeikis as coach Ted Lasso): “I miss the United Kingdom dearly and my philosophy is ‘Keep calm and get fired up.’”

Simpson’s finish on Monday at TPC Boston (T-9) was encouraging after missing the cut in two of his last four starts, but it will be his history with Bubba Watson that may land him one of the coveted picks.

Bubba Watson – who along with Patrick Reed presents a pairing challenge in the team format – is 5-2-0 when he was paired with Simpson at the 2012 Ryder Cup and 2013 Presidents Cup. In 2008, Azinger let his players decide who deserves a pick and that worked out pretty well. When it comes to Simpson, Watson – Bubba, not Tom – may be the overwhelming force.

Pan to Tom Watson (himself) sitting next to Lorne Michaels in the audience: “Live from New York, it’s the Ryder Cup captain’s picks ...”

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.