More on the Line Than a Major

By Rex HoggardAugust 15, 2010, 6:04 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Dr. Morris Pickens knows Ryder Cup pressure.

He’s had clients use the intensity of the biennial grudge match to reach new heights, and others who buckled under the smothering pressure of making the team. The diminutive southerner knows better than most the game’s most intense exhibition can be cathartic or crushing, which is why he stood behind Whistling Straits’ first tee late Saturday at the PGA Championship eyeing Nick Watney intently.

“I’m really interested to see what he does today,” Pickens said.

Watney, at 16th on the points list and something of a long-shot for a captain’s pick considering an empty cup resume, answered Pickens’ curiosity in waves, pacing a threesome that included one player who had been there before (Jim Furyk) and another who is easily headed there (Matt Kuchar).

Nick Watney
Nick Watney is searching for his first major championship victory. (Getty Images)

Watney birdied five of his first seven holes, one-putted seven of his first 11 holes and is three shots clear of the field after a warm, windy day.

Don’t want to say Watney scorched the faux links layout, but when he finally signed for his third-round 66 it was easy to imagine that somewhere Pete Dye was architecting more bunkers, more fescue, more everything for the lakeside gem.

A win will earn Watney a spot on Corey Pavin’s Ryder Cup squad when the deadline to qualify strikes midnight on Sunday. Another solid round should all but guarantee him a captain’s pick.

And why shouldn’t it?

The way things are shaping up for “Pavin’s project” a man nicknamed “Rube” because of his resemblance to the salt-of-the-earth “Major Leagues” character would be a perfect fit.

Watney has been here before. When the Presidents Cup came to Harding Park last year, the closest thing to a home game for the Sacramento native, he faded following an early-season victory at Torrey Pines, finished 14th on the points list and never got the call from captain Fred Couples.

It’s the type of baggage that makes Watney’s plight this week a study in compartmentalization, if not competitive blinders. But if Watney was feeling the Ryder Cup pressure it would have taken a Sodium Pentothal chaser to drag it out of him.

We spotted the affable northern Californian before his practice round on Tuesday and the conversation focused exclusively on his beloved San Francisco Giants.

“I think we peaked too early,” he smiled at the time.

Not that Watney is indifferent to the gnawing thoughts that people like Pickens get paid healthy sums to make go away.

“In a situation like this you have four options,” Pickens said. “You can play your emotion at the time, you can play the leaderboard, you can play the event and you can play for another day, like the Ryder Cup or rankings.

“(Watney) smiled at me when I told him that (and said), ‘I played all four of those last Sunday.”

Good stuff, particularly from a 29-year-old slow starter who attended a small college (Fresno State) and need two full years on Tour before he found his way and his first title (2007 Zurich Classic).

But then his “Rube” moniker doesn’t dovetail with the lengths to which Watney has gone this year to improve.

At AT&T National he picked up veteran caddie Chad Reynolds, who made his bones on Vijay Singh’s bag. He added Pickens to the team at the U.S. Open and has been trending in the right direction ever since with back-to-back ties for seventh at AT&T and the Open Championship.

“I have played pretty nice from (AT&T National) on. I didn't finish too well at the U.S. Open,” Watney said. “I felt like I was playing well, just making a few mistakes here and there and this week thus far I've kept it pretty tidy.”

For Pickens Watney’s PGA plight reminds him of another client who sweated out a last-minute spot on an American team. At the 2006 PGA Championship Zach Johnson began the week on the Ryder Cup bubble (10th), missed the cut but still made the team and used a solid week at the K Club to catapult himself to a Masters title.

First, however, Watney has to make the team, and deal with all the voices that brings.

“They know, intellectually, what they have to do, but it’s just hard to do what you’re supposed to do,” Pickens said.

This week Pavin said he would make his picks “from the gut” not based on points. Or maybe he meant he wanted gutsy picks. If that’s the case, Rube is your man.

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Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One behind overnight leader Scott Piercy to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under. Cabrera Bello will round out the final tee time with Koepka and Poulter.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.

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Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.