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The road from Gleneagles 2014 to Paris 2018

By Rex HoggardOctober 2, 2017, 10:00 pm

JERSETY CITY, N.J. – When Phil Mickelson took the microphone on that cold night in 2014 at the Ryder Cup in Scotland, some felt his comments had crossed a line and he’d unfairly called out then-U.S. captain Tom Watson.

Late Sunday at Liberty National, Mickelson sat at another post-match interview table, and although he declined to connect the dots, it was impossible not to watch the U.S. team’s domination of the International side and not see a byproduct of that stand Lefty took three years ago.

“You don't get a performance like we had this week without that little something extra, that little special something, and these guys brought it out in each other,” Mickelson said.

The U.S. has dominated the Presidents Cup for nearly two decades, but the 12th edition was something altogether different. The home team came within one match of closing out the Internationals on Saturday, previously unfathomable, and needed just a single point on Sunday to win the cup.

The outcome wasn’t nearly as close as the final margin of victory, 19-11, suggested.

The U.S. team bonded off the course, fit together seamlessly during the team sessions and responded to every move that captain Steve Stricker made. There’s no ignoring the level of young talent that has emerged on the American side or the natural friendships that some thought had been missing, but hidden behind the playful jabs and confident swagger is a comfort that can, at least in part, be traced back to that figurative pulpit Mickelson ascended to at Gleneagles.


Video: Can U.S. take dominating team to Paris in 2018?

Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos


The U.S. team, at both the Ryder and Presidents cup, has become more unified, more organized and more focused thanks to the continuity that was born from Mickelson’s moment and the actions of the Ryder Cup task force.

The players were given a voice in who and how to lead and from that has emerged a better U.S. team.

 “You can look at Tiger [Woods] and Davis [Love III] and Freddie [Couples] and I, Jay Haas fit in there great, Tom Lehman fit in last year. You’re looking for guys who have a lot of experience, who buy into what we are trying to accomplish and we’re trying to get a lot of symmetry for the guys on the golf course,” said Jim Furyk, one of Stricker’s four assistant captains. “You’ll see a lot of the same guys next year when we announce the assistants for Paris.”

As the U.S. team headed back to Manhattan and what promised to be a raucous victory celebration, Furyk’s mind understandably drifted to next year’s Ryder Cup, where he will lead an American team in search of its first win on European soil since 1993.

Among the changes ushered in by the Ryder Cup task force was a legacy concept for captains. Future captains, like Furyk last year at Hazeltine National, are now brought into the process early as assistants to learn the nuances of modern leadership; and former captains, like Lehman in ’16, are added to provide historical context.

However inadvertently or organically, this concept has crossed over into the Presidents Cup.

“I’m interested in seeing who is going to be the next Presidents Cup captain. If he’s not in this group we might want to look to include him and make sure he’s part of it to make sure that symmetry lasts from year to year,” Furyk said.

For years, observers would whisper about the European playbook for the Ryder Cup, a notion that took on a life of its own when Paul McGinley led the Continent to victory in ’14. Although Furyk fended off the idea the U.S. now has a similar “blueprint,” there’s no doubt that U.S. captains for both the Presidents and Ryder cup have embraced a general outline – from grouping players in pods based on potential pairings and personalities to how captain’s picks are vetted.


Video: Mickelson's critical comments at 2014 Ryder Cup


There was a time when the U.S. side looked at the Presidents Cup as a liability, a biennial distraction that somehow took away from the intensity of the Ryder Cup and led to competitive complacency. Now, however, it’s a chance to foster continuity and give players – particularly five of the American team’s six rookies at Liberty National – a taste of team intensity.

In practical terms for Furyk, that meant evaluating established players and partnerships as well as sizing up potential newcomers on next year’s team.

“It was good getting to know a lot of the players that I didn’t know,” he said. “Matchups, pairings, personalities. We had five guys on this team that had never played on one and I thought they all played great and we learned a lot about their strengths and what they’re good at.”

Liberty National was Furyk’s third turn as an American assistant and, under a loosely defined legacy program, it won’t be his last. It’s all part of the foundation of passing experiences and lessons from captain to captain.

What he learned last week was that the U.S. side appears to have entered a new golden age of team relevance. From Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who improved their combined Ryder and Presidents cup record together to 8-1-3, to Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, who paired perfectly in their first match together, the American dominance sent a very clear transatlantic message.

“I'd love to have these 12 on our team next year,” Furyk said. “I really would like them to enjoy what they did this week, soak it all in, have fun with it. A month from now we'll get to work and we'll start getting ready for Paris.”

Furyk knows as well as anyone that Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace aren’t Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, and Liberty National wasn’t Le Golf National, site of next year’s matches in France.

The U.S. team may have made it look easy, but the odds and history will still be stacked against them in Paris. It’s why the continuity that was born from Mickelson’s monologue three years ago in Scotland is more important now than ever.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''


Full-field scores from the Sanford International


Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”