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Time is now for International team to win

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2017, 7:12 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Nick Price played in the third match back in 1994 when the PGA Tour’s experiment with a match-play team event was launched.

Price lost that first fourball Presidents Cup match to Davis Love III and Fred Couples. Twenty-three years later he’s still facing Boom-Boom and DL3, both assistants for the U.S., with painfully similar results.

For Price, who turned in his scorecard for a captain’s golf cart in 2013 at the biennial bout between the U.S. and International teams, it’s been a definition of insanity deal ever since.

To put Price’s history with the Presidents Cup in context, the last time his International side won the event he was ranked No. 6 in the world, and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were 5 years old.

Although there will be non-stop chatter about how evenly matched the teams are and how competitive this edition will be, on this the Presidents Cup is what its record says it is – a 1-9-1 International rout.

It’s not as though Price isn’t aware of the competitive swoon his side faces, it’s just that his options are limited.

Even before Price’s first turn as captain at the ’13 matches he’d made his plea to anyone who would listen at the Tour that change was needed if the Presidents Cup was going to be competitive.


Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos


For Price and the other members of the International side, there was nothing wrong with the Presidents Cup that some new math couldn’t fix. Specifically, he wanted the matches to follow the same format as the Ryder Cup, which features just 28 points up for grabs compared with 34 at the ’13 Presidents Cup.

The Tour balked, the Internationals lost by three points.

Two years later, Price made another run at the Tour to adjust the points to mirror the format used at the Ryder Cup, which is the undisputed pinnacle of team golf.

Price and others contend that reducing the points would allow the International team, which is not as deep as the U.S. squad, to be more competitive, and prior to the ’15 matches the Tour agreed, to a point, and reduced the number of available points to 30.

The result was the closest match in a decade, with the cup decided on the final green by the final match when Bill Haas defeated Sangmoon Bae to secure a 15 1/2 to 14/ 1/2 U.S. victory.

On Tuesday at Liberty National, Price was asked if he made another run at the Tour and new commissioner Jay Monahan to further reduce the amount of points to 28.

“No, I didn’t. It would be very hard to go and push after what happened in South Korea,” Price said. “If you were commissioner and I came to you and said I want to reduce another two points, you’d say what was wrong with South Korea. I wouldn’t have had a strong leg to stand on with that argument, so I didn’t touch it.”

Perhaps this is the new normal. Maybe the matches are entering a long-awaited era of parity like that enjoyed at the Ryder Cup, which has been decided in recent years by the slimmest of margins. On paper, however, Price should ready himself for more of the same.

The average world ranking of the U.S. team is 15th and captain Steve Stricker’s crew won a combined 17 events this season on Tour, including three of the four major championships. That modern day Murder’s Row will face an International team with an average world ranking of 32nd and just eight combined victories this year on Tour.

These events aren’t won on paper, but you can’t hide talent. Or, more to the point, Price can’t hide mediocrity.

In ’15 in South Korea, Price had the benefit of a breakout performance from Branden Grace, who went 5-0 teamed with Louis Oosthuizen. Asked on Tuesday who this week’s “Grace” would be, he rattled off a list of potential leaders that included Anirban Lahiri.

Lahiri is one of the game’s most thoughtful and endearing players, but he has just two top-10 finishes this year on Tour and he failed to earn even a half point two years ago in South Korea. Perhaps it’s simply optimism, be it hopeless or otherwise, but under the current points structure it’s Price’s only option if his team is going to win the event for the first time since 1998.

“The next few we’ll see,” Price reasoned. “Maybe this is the optimum, maybe 30 is the right number. I don’t know. It’s just that the Ryder Cup has been proven over the last 30, 40 years, so maybe this is the better way to go. Time will tell.”

Perhaps, but how much time does the event have until it loses any semblance of competitive relevance?

In 2015, Price talked about the need to simply have a close match, a competitive match, something his players could see as progress; but the time for moral victories is over.

Anything short of an absolute sea change for the International side and it will be time for Price and Co. to make another plea for a points change, and time for the Tour to finally take action.

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Phil on pairing with Tiger: 'I think we'd both welcome it'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 2:46 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Fourteen years later, Phil Mickelson said that he’d be open to teaming again with Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup.

“I think we would both welcome it,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “I think we would both welcome it.”

Asked whether he thinks it’ll actually happen, Mickelson smiled. “I do have an idea of what Captain (Jim) Furyk is thinking, yeah.”

It’d be a remarkable pairing – again – for America’s two most popular players.

Captain Hal Sutton infamously put the pair together in 2004 at Oakland Hills, when they were Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and nowhere near as friendly as they are now. They failed spectacularly, going 0-2 en route to a blowout loss by the Americans.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


Earlier this year, during an interview on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” Furyk shot down any prospect of a Tiger-Phil pairing. “I hope they’re both watching, because they just fell off the couch laughing,” he said. “I wouldn’t guess that would be a good idea as a captain, I’m just saying.”

The two stars’ relationship has improved dramatically over the past few years, beginning with the decision to put both on the Ryder Cup task force. During that time together, Mickelson said, “we realized that we both have a lot more in common than we thought, and I think we both have really come to appreciate working together to achieve things.”

They’ve worked together so well, and so often now, that Woods and Mickelson will now play in a pay-per-view, 18-hole match during Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.

Though Furyk said that the practice-round groups Tuesday were focused more on putting players who hadn’t seen Le Golf National with at least one who has, there were some obvious partnerships who went out together.

Woods was grouped with Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. Rounding out the foursome? Mickelson.

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Tiger Tracker: 42nd Ryder Cup

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 25, 2018, 1:15 pm

Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods is competing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. We're tracking him.


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Euros wearing yellow ribbons to honor slain golfer

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:51 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – European Ryder Cup team members will wear yellow ribbons this week to honor Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was murdered last week while playing golf.

Arozamena went to school at Iowa State, but she was a native of Spain and won the European Amateur Championship in July. She was attacked and killed Sept. 17 while playing a round by herself at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa.

European captain Thomas Bjorn wore one of the ribbons while addressing media Tuesday at Le Golf National, and he explained that the decision to honor Arozamena came out of a discussion between Ryder Cup Europe and her mother.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“The golfing family extends beyond what we are trying to do this week,” Bjorn said. “It’s nothing about us, but it’s just more about that the golfing family gets touched by these things all over the world. It’s terrible when things like this happen.”

Arozamena considered Ryder Cup stalwart and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia one of her idols growing up, and the two met when she was a child. Garcia sent condolences out via social media last week, saying he was “heartbroken” over her death.

“Such a great prospect for the game of golf she was, but also a wonderful person,” Bjorn said. “When you speak to Sergio and [Spaniard] Jon [Rahm] about it, they couldn’t talk highly enough about her. We felt like that was appropriate for the week.”

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Spieth, Reed in different groups during Tuesday practice

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 12:38 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tuesday’s U.S. groupings at the Ryder Cup may give a glimpse into what potential pairings we will see this week at Le Golf National.

In the day’s first foursome, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed played together. The second group included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; and the anchor group was Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Whether those groups will make up captain Jim Furyk’s version of the team’s pods, however, remains to be seen. Given that half of his team has never played Le Golf National, Furyk said he tried to match players on Tuesday with those who had some experience on the course.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


“Today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots,” Furyk said. “There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have.”

Given the success of previous pairings and some relatively obvious choices, it seems there are some likely options for the U.S. Woods and DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners and at the Tour Championship they experimented with the other player’s golf balls on Tuesday.

It also seems likely that Spieth-Thomas and Fowler-Johnson will be paired in some form this week.