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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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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."