Sidelined Love has Ryder Cup decisions to make

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2016, 5:44 pm

Davis Love III was just a few hours removed from hip surgery that will sideline him for the rest of the 2015-16 season and yet his mind was already racing, focused on another player’s rehab and recovery from injury.

“We’ve got to keep an eye on Brooks [Koepka] and see where he’s at in the next few weeks,” said Love on July 6, following surgery in Birmingham, Ala.

Koepka didn’t play last week’s Open because of an ankle injury and his spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list (he’s seventh) is just one of dozens of details that Love can now focus on.

Captain America has a team dinner to plan the week of the Deutsche Bank Championship, scouting trips to make to Hazeltine, site of this year’s matches, and a fluid team that is still weeks from taking shape.

Not that long ago Love’s deadline to make his picks and start strategizing potential pairings would loom large, with next week’s PGA Championship the traditional cut off for earning a spot on the team and making the wildcard selections.

But thanks to last year’s Ryder Cup task force, Love has nearly two months before the ink settles on this year’s team. The eight automatic qualifiers will be set on Aug. 29, after The Barclays; and the captain will make three of his four picks on Sept. 12, followed by his final selection on Sept. 25 after the final round of the Tour Championship.

So instead of preparing for the FedEx Cup playoffs or his title defense at the Wyndham Championship, Love will spend the next few weeks dealing with details, like what to do with Koepka if he slips outside the top eight automatic qualifiers.

“It’s kind of a blessing I don’t have anything to do for two or three weeks. I can get caught up. I won’t have any real distractions until the team gets finalized,” Love said. “I’m going to miss being able to play with the guys, but I’m already working on things to make sure I’m in contact with the entire team.”

One decision he won’t have to make is whether to make Phil Mickelson a captain’s pick thanks to Lefty’s runner-up showing last week at The Open.

Although Mickelson, who hasn’t missed a Ryder Cup since his first start in 1995, would appear to be a no-brainer pick following his solid play in recent weeks, he’d fallen to 31st in the world ranking to begin this season and some questioned why Love didn’t name the left-hander a vice captain earlier this year, along with Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

“[Mickelson] totally believed that he's going to make the team, and he is now with this, I would imagine,” Stricker said of Mickelson on Sunday at Royal Troon. “He showed last year how important he is to these teams. When he was a captain's pick last year for the Presidents Cup, he came over and did some great things in the team room and played great.”

Mickelson’s play, which has vaulted him to third on the points list and assured him a spot at Hazeltine, will allow Love to be a little more creative with his picks when the time comes.

Along with Zach Johnson, No. 4 on the list, and even Jordan Spieth, who will be playing in just his second Ryder Cup but is largely viewed as an emerging leader on the U.S. team, Mickelson will provide veteran leadership at Hazeltine. Dustin Johnson, who leads the U.S. in Ryder Cup points, and J.B. Holmes (No. 5) are also assured spots on the American team.

That essentially leaves a major, which is worth double the points, and The Barclays for the remaining three automatic qualifying spots – which are currently held by Bubba Watson (No. 6), Koepka and Brandt Snedeker (No. 8). There are also three regular Tour events, in between.

Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Scott Piercy currently round out Nos. 9 through 12, respectively; who, with the exception of Piercy, all have Ryder Cup experience.

Love has said repeatedly that the most difficult part of being a team captain is making the wildcard picks, and while Mickelson’s play last week in Scotland may have helped that process there are still plenty of tough choices to be made.

There’s never a good time to have surgery, particularly for Love who will miss arguably the two most important events of his year at the PGA and Wyndham, but fortunately the U.S. captain has plenty of work to keep him busy.

“There’s still so much to do, so many little things I can focus on,” Love said following surgery.

Luckily for Love, he has plenty of free time.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

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

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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.

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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.”